Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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The Quality Principles Handbook says:


This section examines the seventh quality principle, that «A quality Website must be aware of the importance of multi-linguality by providing a minimum level of access in more than one language». It:

  • examines how to interpret the multi-linguality principle
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website is multi-lingual
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to be used to ensure multi-linguality
  • describes a number of tests which can be taken in order to verify that the Website is multi-lingual.


Websites are a means for the public to access online cultural heritage. As discussed in the accessibility principle, above, access should be universal. The greater the audience that can be reached and served by a Website, the greater the value of the site.

Language can be an important barrier to access. This is particularly true for European cultural Websites – there is an enormous amount of high-quality content, but there are also many different European languages. A cultural Website must aim to go beyond its national and linguistic boundaries and to serve the widest possible number of European citizens. Typically, cultural Websites present the cultural resources of a particular member state or a group of its citizens. This focus may be even tighter, and present only the material held by a region, an institution, a group of citizens or a particular collection. Thus, it is natural that the site be created in a relevant language and be aimed primarily at serving the needs of a key target audience.

The audience for the cultural material goes beyond linguistic and national boundaries. A high-quality Website will aim to provide at least a basic service to those who do not speak the ‘mother tongue’ of the Website. Ideally, the site will provide a service in all EU Member State languages.

Support for sign languages may also be considered.

If this is not feasible, the Website owner should focus on providing as much as possible of the Website in as many (and as popular) languages as possible. Even a partially-multi-lingual Website is to be preferred to a monolingual one. At a basic level, this should include an outline of the content and purpose of the Website in at least one other official language of the EU. The languages of sizeable immigrant communities may also be supported.

Multi-linguality should be planned at the earliest stage of Website design. The need for user interface elements in more than one language means that the technical design of these user elements should take this into account. The efficient use of resource files and the separation of the overall user interface from the text strings presented within it should be considered. This makes supporting multiple languages and adding new languages a good deal easier than ‘bolting on’ new languages after the site is complete. This principle should also be adopted in the development of embedded objects, such as Flash movies, 3D and virtual reality applications. It may help to have multi-lingual aspects of the site published and endorsed as a formal multi-linguality policy. Such a policy could then be used to validate elements of the site as they appear, in order to verify that multi-linguality was being provided.


The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered multi-lingual. The degree of multi-linguality reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% multi-lingual’ if not all the criteria are met.

Some of the criteria overlap across the quality principles. Multi-linguality also impacts on the transparency of the site, on its accessibility and on its user-centricity, for example.

  • Some site content should be available in more than one language
  • Sign language may be supported
  • Non-EU languages spoken by immigrant communities supported
  • Site identity and profile information should be available in as many languages as possible
  • The core functionality of the site (searching, navigation) should be available in multiple languages
  • Ideally, static content (images and descriptions, monographs, other cultural content) should also be available in multiple languages
  • Switching between languages should be easy
  • The site structure and layout should not vary with language - site design and user interface language should be logically separate.
  • Multi-linguality should be driven by a formal multi-linguality policy
  • Site elements should be reviewed in terms of the multi-linguality policy.
  • Steps should be taken if site elements are not as multi-lingual as they should be.


This section presents a number of points against which a site can be checked.

Some site content available in more than one language      

Some site content available in sign language


Some site content available in non-EU immigrant languages


Site identity and profile available in more than one language


Site core functionality available in more than one language


Static content available in more than one language


Simple switching between languages


Site structure and user interface independent of language


Multi-linguality policy exists and drives multi-lingual aspects


Multi-linguality reviews take place on site


Practical tests

This section suggests some simple, pragmatic tests and questions to be asked in order to assess how completely your Website meets the transparency principle

  1. Does the site have any multi-lingual content?
  2. Does the site identity and profile material appear in more than one language?
  3. Is there any material presented in sign language?
  4. Is there any material presented in non-EU languages which are used by immigrant populations?
  5. Is the site’s non-static information available in multiple languages?
  6. Is the static (cultural) information available in more than one language?
  7. Is the site structure logically separate from the language in use?
  8. Was multi-linguality planned into the site from the very start?
  9. Does the site have a stated multi-linguality policy? Is the site reviewed against such a policy?

© Minerva Project 2005-03, last revision 2006-03-30, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/verificaqualita/principi/multilingue_e.html