How Variations in SharePoint are used to Support Multi Language Requirement

With the advancement of multilingual sites and multilingual target audiences, having this feature as part of a website build is almost a necessity. And the need for multilingual content apart from the static content of the web pages is a must have for any portal or website rich in content.

There are several challenges to this requirement:

  • Sites need to be in sync with the different versions or variations
  • Content creation and updating at one point should be handled properly and propagated across all the versions
  • Accuracy of content is very important – it requires many processes like content export once change is done, workflow trigger, translation using different rules and services and then sync back with the master metadata to make all variations of the web sites or the content as different variations of the same master content
  • Making all these contents available in multiple devices is also a very big challenge with all the language packs and other related supports

SharePoint has a feature called variation that caters to all these requirements.

We can use SharePoint variation to create content for specific locales. In SharePoint Server 2010, we can use variations to create sites for different mobile devices, or that used to create different branding. In SharePoint 2013, variation is used only for multilingual sites. To create sites for different mobile devices, use Device Channels. To create sites that use different branding, use cross-site publishing.

In SharePoint the most important pillars of variation are:

  • Variation root site – this is the root site, which has the main landing page to route users to different variation sites based on locale
  • Hierarchy – this is the complete set of sites with the root site present in the whole set of variation
  • Lists – the lists on which target variation labels are set to receive list items
  • Pages – these are the publishing pages in both root and target variation sites

Another variation pillar is target sites. Target sites deal with different locales/ regional settings / language settings. The locale setting controls how locale-specific information, such as numbers, dates, time, and calendar settings are displayed on the site. The default values for all of the other regional settings are based on the locale that you choose.

When you change the locale setting for a site, all other regional settings are set to the default settings for the new locale. For example – you can have the root variation site in English, so all main contents are added/updated in the root site using English as the language. And you can have target variation sites as French, German, and Arabic etc. targeting the respective language / region.

Finally, one of the most important features of variation is the timer jobs, which is responsible for creation and propagation of sites, pages, contents etc.

The Critical Role of Timer Jobs
Variation creation and subsequent functioning – plus data modification propagation across all the sites – is heavily dependent on timer jobs. All these jobs have a default interval to run. However, they can be modified using settings options. The timer jobs used by variation:

  • Create hierarchy timer job – one of the most important jobs needed to start variation. It creates the complete variation hierarchy by creating sites, pages, lists from the reference source, for the variation site based on the labels. It runs by default hourly.
  • Propagating page job definition – this timer job runs every 15 minutes by default. Whenever a page is created or updated and it is approved or manually submitted in the source variation site, this job takes care of creating, updating the pages in the target variation sites
  • Propagating site and list job definition – while creating variation label and hierarchy we can select the ‘create everywhere’ option. Activating this option creates site and lists and runs by default every 30 minutes.
  • Propagating list item job definition – Creates and updates list items on target variation sites after a list is configured to send items to specific target variation labels. Default: every 15 minutes.

Variation is a very interesting feature in SharePoint which can play an important role along with translation services. It is highly recommended to play around with the configuration of variation options and keep current with the updates.

February 9, 2015