October 17, 2010

International Product Descriptions

A big feature that’s been a long time in the making… the internationalization of Scubbly continues with the ability for sellers to describe a product in multiple languages.

Sellers who added or edited products today noticed tabs in the “item detail” interface that weren’t there before:

new translation interface

the new translation interface

Here’s how it works:

To describe your product in English, click the “English” tab, and enter the name and description in the boxes as usual. To add product data in another language, choose it from the select box, and click “Add”. A new tab will appear labeled with that language, and an empty panel will be created for the name and description in that language.

When you add a new product, the product detail interface defaults with a language tab corresponding to the version of Scubbly you are using. When you add a product via www.scubbly.com (English), the edit interface opens with an “English” tab already selected. If you add a new product via fr.scubbly.com, the edit interface will open with a “Francais” tab ready to use.

You can add as many languages as you wish. A decent list of 19 languages are available — but currently Scubbly only exists in English, French, and Spanish. Adding product data in those three languages will show up immediately on www.scubbly.com (English), fr.scubbly.com (French), and es.scubbly.com (Spanish).

If you add product descriptions in other languages, these will be stored… and when more international versions of Scubbly are released, those descriptions will appear on their respective translated versions of Scubbly. That list of 19 languages is Scubbly’s “in progress” list, which we hope to complete in 2012.

How these translated descriptions are shown is complex, so bear with me.

If a buyer is perusing es.scubbly.com (in Spanish), if a Spanish product description exists, then it will be shown. In addition, the language attribute for the description text will be Spanish (HTML geeks will know what that is), matching the language markup for the entire document. When the description text and document are in the same language, then the entire document is deemed to be wholly translated, and the page is marked for inclusion by search engines. Thereby the product will be favourably shown in international search engines, such as Google Spain or Bing Spain.

If a Spanish description does not exist, then Scubbly retrieves the English version, if that exists. If no English version exists, then Scubbly looks for any other language available, and shows that one. So for instance a French product that has its description only in French will show in French on all sites, including es.scubbly.com and www.scubbly.com. A bilingual product with French and English translations will show its French description on fr.scubbly.com, the English one on www.scubbly.com, and the English one also on es.scubbly.com.

As hinted at two paragraphs ago, any page which shows a description whose language does not match the entire document is blocked from indexing by the search engines. The implication is that you will only rank well in Spanish if you provide a Spanish translation of your products. Here at Scubbly, your product will be shown to users browsing in all languages. But out there at Google, your product will only exist in the languages for which you have provided translated product data.

We acknowledge that most sellers are not going to take the trouble to translate all their product descriptions into multiple languages, and that’s OK. The construction of Scubbly’s international versions has been carefully planned with utmost care to optimize search engine indexing in international languages, and to comply with all best practices recommended by the W3C. Pages that ranked well in English prior to this change will be unaffected.

This change does make internationalization better for all sellers of international products, for instance e-books in Spanish, or video documentaries in French. These products can be configured with descriptions only in the relevant language, so they rank well in search engines targeted at native speakers of those languages.

Perhaps it’s time to consider translating your knitting patterns into French?