A new multi-language User Interface

Released on July, 29, this version introduces multi-language support.
The programs starts in the language set in Windows regional settings if translation is available, or English otherwise. User can switch UI language at run-time; language choice will be remembered the following times.

Visual SEO Studio with an Italian user interface
Visual SEO Studio with an Italian user interface

Other than English, the first language to be available is Italian (being I a native Italian speaker, that has been a natural choice).
Now that all the necessary plumbing is in place, other languages will follow soon.

Visual SEO Studio language switcher
Visual SEO Studio language switcher

Country flags shouldn't be used for languages – that's why English is represented by an half UK and half US flag, and native language names are displayed. I used a top left country flag because it stands out, and if the machine language does not match a language the user speaks, he/she can recognize the flag at first glance and understand how to quickly locate the control and switch it.

Custom Filters feature, now a first class citizen

With the previous release, I released a very powerful and useful feature I'm proud of: an SEO oriented query engine to dig result set within crawled pages. I also released a user interface to set the filters criteria, based on an editable grid with in-place selection of SEO-oriented operators and operand.

While the engine was already stable and well tested, the editable control was not. I knew it and released it as an experimental feature – I wrote a note in good evidence in the UI – because I wanted people to enjoy it. I didn't realize how broken the UI control was: not only sometimes it prevented editing the criteria after launching the query, but after visualizing any grid, the editable grid stopped working altogether, even if created anew. It's a clear sign I hacked too much the original grid control at low level in order to obtain the inline editing with cascading dropdowns. I can only blame myself. I hate bad quality in software, my software especially. So I set myself a deadline: fix in-line editing before a certain date, or change it altogether so something different. Sorry guys, inline editing was cool, intuitive and easy to use, but I couldn't fix it in time, and complied to my self-imposed diktat. Now editing is not inline anymore, but the UI is stable enough to promote the feature.

Visual SEO Studio Custom Filter editor
Custom Filter editor (English version)

If you are one of those who contacted me and were waiting for a particular improvement or fix and you couldn't find it in the release notes, now you know where I wasted too much time. I'm sorry, I'll hopefully add it in the near future.

I might try again the in-line editor in the future, but at the moment I already wasted too much time on it and been forced to procrastinate other important things, so don't expect it too soon.

In the meanwhile… enjoy the power of Custom Filters!

Other improvements

There actually is something more in the current release.
First of all, I restructuring the menus and simplified the command names. For example, you don't "start a crawl session" any more, you just "crawl a site" – which in Italian I translated as "explore a site"; in English I preferred to keep the word "crawl" to point out I'm trying to emulate a web crawler.
Many other little improvements are related to usability.
Please read the Release Notes for the complete and boring list.

Multi-language, I said… which languages will come next

Visual SEO Studio users base has enlarged in 9 months, and now spans 86 countries, 39 base languages (e.g. "English") and 57 local languages (e.g. "Irish English").
Now, to make my competitors happy, some demographic data about Visual SEO Studio user base (July 2013):

Visual SEO Studio users by Country and by Language (July 2013)

The English UI already covered more than 55% of users' languages (including those from India, where it is often a second language). The Italian language support covers an additional 16% of the user base. The reason why Italian users have increased so much is mainly due to the fact I'm getting known as moderator of a major Italian SEO forum; English is still not so well-known among Italians and I hope now many more of my countrymen will be encouraged to try the product.

Soon, I will address other languages prioritizing based on both the already existing user base percentage, and how spread a language is worldwide. For sure I want to cover very soon both Russian (about 9% of my user base) and Spanish (4%). Not only they are spoken by a good slice of the existing user base: English is still not widely spoken in Russian and Spanish speaking countries, and they are very diffused languages worldwide, so it makes good sense to support them.

I also have been very glad to receive spontaneous offers to translate Visual SEO Studio to German. That's another country I wish the product to expand more. I'm very thankful to the volunteers, satisfied users who already gave me precious advice and help in the past. So expect German to come very soon too.

French is a major language which, while wide spread, is not well represented among my user base. I suspect English is still not very well-known among French people as well. I will probably address it too once there will be a little more critical mass.

I had the fortune in the past to gain experience with multi-languages support, enough to know supporting several languages can be a daunting task:

  • Some languages (e.g. German, Polish…) are much more verbose then English, and text labels can span double length in pixels. That's why from day one Visual SEO Studio sometimes wastes some vertical spaces putting labels generally above text boxes and not aside.
  • As the product evolves, the UI changes as well along with texts; keeping is in sync with all the languages, and the translators time, can be hard. I cannot afford to pay professional translators, I have to resort to the precious time of volunteers and friends, who cannot always be available.
  • Who knows the languages doesn't always know the technical context, and even if he does, inferring the exact context of a message without knowing where and when it will be shown makes translating hard. That's another reason why a spent a lot of time to make sure UI language could be switched at run-time

I'm going to restructure my development infrastructure to ease many pain-points which would slow down the release cycle, so I'll be more ready to the added burden.

Conclusions, and What's Next

The 0.8.8 is a jumpstart to enlarge the existing user base thanks to the multi-language user interface. Usability has further improved as well. For a detailed list of the changes, please refer to the full release notes.

Unless something terribly wrong happen, requiring an urgent fix, no version will be released on August. It's long time I don't take more than a week of vacation and this time I will. So next update is planned for September.

What's coming next?
As usual, several features are queuing for the next releases. I can't promise everything will make it for it, but here is a wish-list:

  • Refine the Custom Filters feature (Load and Save are still disabled)
  • Language localization: Visual SEO Studio will be translated in other languages
  • Usability: introductions of "usage paths", to guide the user in the most common tasks
  • Help system: it's a huge work, and has to be started
  • Ability to crawl a sitemap or a plain URL list, even of URLs from different sites
  • The ability to export XML Sitemap from any table listing a set of pages
  • Reviewing the usability of the Create XML Sitemap feature (it already is appreciated, but can be improved)
  • Basic integration with Yandex Webmaster Tools APIs
  • ...and many other usability improvements and fixes

So, did you try the latest Visual SEO Studio version?
The tool gives increased inspection power to skilled SEOs when auditing sites. I'd love hearing your impressions and feedback!