What things need to be considered for a Website that contains International strings, for instance Simplified Chinese and English mixed.

UTF8 seems to me a natural choice, including a meta tag. Still, some users may only see white boxes. What is the best solution do deal with this?

Currently I am thinking to provide an alternative image-based rendering, or even make it default. But IMHO this seems a weak solution. Or I could tell the user which OS/Browser combinations are known to work but such a list would probably be endless.

Update: it's a Chinese learning site, most users will not have visited Chinese websites before


The white boxes are not dependent on the OS/browser combination, but rather on the fonts that the end-user has installed on his/her system.

With that in mind, there are several options:

  • If the normal visitors to the site are expected to be able to read the non-English-alphabet texts, then I would not worry too much. You can expect them to have the appropriate fonts installed. For the few who don't, you could add a hint to which languages are used and which additional fonts might be needed.
  • If the non-English text comes from contributions by other users (such as comments or forum messages), there isn't much you can do anyway as it is impractical to support all alphabets supported by Unicode.
  • You could offer a fully translated version of the site.

update: Given the update in the question: For a Chinese-teaching website, I would have a page that allows students to test if they have the correct fonts and directions how to obtain and install any missing fonts.

  • thanks for your answer, I see it depends very much on the use case. It's for a Chinese learning website, so unfortunately many users will see for the first time that they don't have the appropriate fonts :S (also updated the question)
    – Philip
    Feb 23 '13 at 9:33
  • This seems to work out! Although I have uncertainty about the OS and Browser fallback mechanisms. Unfortunately they are not documented well, if at all.
    – Philip
    Feb 24 '13 at 14:02

You can use fonts hosted on your server (or some font CDN) with css:

 @font-face {
    font-family: SomeName;
    src: url(SomeUrl.ttf) format("truetype");

which can then be used like any other font with font-family:'SomeName';.

So you need to find a Chinese font with an acceptable license, and host it on your server. Being careful about the license is important, using unlicensed commercial fonts can be expensive.

  • Great hint, this looks very promising
    – Philip
    Feb 23 '13 at 17:32
  • I just realized those fonts are ~20 MB... (BabelStoneHan it is) I guess now I need to test the options.
    – Philip
    Feb 23 '13 at 18:40
  • If you are going to go this route (which is a good idea), I would recommend considering google.com/webfonts
    – eakkas
    Feb 23 '13 at 18:56

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