Website Localization and the Rise of HTML5

Write Once, Deploy Everywhere by Ronan Kavanagh

523184357If your organization has multilingual websites and a large number of mobile device users, adopting HTML5 could be an important move for your business. Many companies are already deploying it to better manage their websites. In fact, HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard.

Why HTML5? According to Ian Jacobs, recommendations editor for the World Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, “There are two driving forces behind this evolution. First is the proliferation of diverse devices that, coupled with the variety of browsers, greatly complicate life for developers, who want to ‘write once and deploy everywhere.” He also noted, “…the Web has now embraced the social networking model and when you can tap into that, you can reach many more customers.”

So how does HTML5 fit into this movement? It makes development across multiple platforms more efficient. “Developers of software for the World Wide Web say the new HTML5 standard is revolutionizing the way the Web evolves, works and is used,” noted technology writer Gary Anthes. “It is simplifying the work of programmers, harmonizing access to diverse devices and applications, and giving users amazing new capabilities, they say.

HTML5 also includes new markup features that directly help the website translation process, improving formatting and making multilingual web content easier to understand.

  • HTML5 supports a more semantic style of markup that allows for meaningful tags, and simpler, more understandable coding when dealing with multilingual content. For example, HTML5 users can apply a new attribute – a simple “no” or “yes” code – to direct their translation partner as to which content to work on. This eliminates the previously drawn-out process of annotation or list making.
  • HTML5 makes it easier to handle both left-to-right languages like English, and right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Using other tools, developers often come across formatting problems, particularly when both kinds of languages are featured side by side. HTML5 includes a new ‘bdi’ element to help authors of bi-directional content override the Unicode algorithm that sometimes results in mistakes in punctuation, numbers and bullet points.
  • HTML5 offers an enhanced version of ‘ruby’ annotations commonly used when marking up East Asian languages that use characters. The markup is usually used to help explain pronunciation to readers. The new HTML5 tags are helpful when authoring content and in translation from, or into, non-alphabetical languages.

In truth, HTML5 isn’t the second coming and it isn’t an officially ratified standard — yet. The spec continues to edge closer to completion; however, and when combined with JavaScript and CSS3, HTML5 can do some really incredible things. This is particularly true for mobile devices.

A de facto requirement for any modern mobile operating system is the inclusion of a modern HTML5-compliant web browser. The leading modern mobile platforms — iOS and Android — both use WebKit as their bases. Likewise, BlackBerry and HP/Palm are also using WebKit and Microsoft has released a mobile version from Internet Explorer 9 for Windows Phone 7 and above.

What this means is that out-of-the-box, modern smartphones and tablets support the bells and whistles that make HTML5 so special. It also means that developers can feel free to use those technologies when creating their applications and not have to worry that the device itself won’t support a particular function.

We are already seeing and advising some of our major clients on how to approach the conversion and localization of online content, such as Flash courses to HTML5. With Welocalize’s in-house experience and expertise, we are truly plugged-in to key, emerging technologies that help develop and localize truly brilliant global websites.


Based in Dublin, Ronan Kavanagh is Software Lead Engineer at Welocalize. He has a degree in multimedia and web mastering and has over 10 years experience in the localization industry.