Best Practices

Framing Your Product Localization Process Before Translation Begins

A large part of your organization will have a hand in localization in some way, and this involvement should start as early as practical. Everyone who has a part in the process can contribute to its problem-free implementation.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min

A successful product localization process is built from the ground up. Everyone who handles your content at any level should be aware of localization and actively thinking about it from the beginning—starting with the coding. Developers and others on the product team need to anticipate the requirements translators and localizers will face and the inherent flexibility needed for a localized UI. If you’re unsure of what we’re talking about, now is the time to dig into the details so you’ll have the foresight to plan for effective localization.

The Product Localization Process from the Ground Up

A large part of your organization will have a hand in localization in some way, and this involvement should start as early as practical. Everyone who has a part in the process can contribute to its problem-free implementation, usually by keeping a few best practices in mind.

The Development Team

Consistent and intuitive practices at the most basic levels will pay off with more time- and cost-efficient localization and with a better development process. Coordinate your programming language to avoid, for example, using two different flavors of the same coding language in a single resource file. Localization parsing engines rely on consistent syntax within a single string file to ensure proper locking of non-translatable elements.

Resource files should have intuitively named key IDs so translators will are better able to decode the context for each string. Code should be kept in one place—GitHub or bitbucket, for example, but not both, as setting up integrations for multiple code repositories compounds localization costs and ongoing management effort. These habits can help save time and avoid confusion within the development team as well.Keep in mind that there will also be localization needs that are less intuitive. You may have to tell your developers about potential problem spots that are not obvious to an English speaker.

Things as simple as counting can be radically different in other languages. Arabic has three grammatical numbers: singular, dual, and plural, while Russian has a paucal counting system. Many languages change the form of adjectives to agree with noun morphology. And that’s far from all the possible complexities that your developers cannot be expected to anticipate. To accommodate this range of variation, ask them not to concatenate if it can be avoided. An alternative strategy is to write things out, followed by a colon and the variable. This simple best practice can go a long way to supporting translators down the pipeline.

The UX Team

It’s a good idea to also help the UX team anticipate the issues that will come up in localization. A good example is screen real estate, which can complicate UI in languages like German, famous for its long words. It’s much better to develop creative, flexible solutions from the start, rather than to be faced with fixing real estate issues after translation makes your UI unworkable.

Responsive design is extra important for the UI, because the team may receive feedback on the same points more than once, even after the product has reached the market.Other aspects of UI localization are stylistic and may require some interpretation. A sans serif font may strike the English-speaking user as modern and stylish, but that may not be true in every language. Distinct, heavy serifs are quite contemporary looking in Cyrillic. And the content itself is even more subject to local norms. It should not be so full of puns and clever innuendo that it’s impossible to translate faithfully or that its substance or tone is culturally inappropriate for markets you’re targeting.

The Documentation Team

Your documentation team needs to understand the importance of saying the same thing exactly the same way every time. There is a natural tendency toward variation when you’re writing, but resisting this temptation will save a lot of money and hassle. It’s critical to align product, documentation, and marketing localization to ensure consistency and efficiency. But product localization must happen first because documentation and marketing will depend on the localized product vocabulary. This foresight can help you develop a practical timeline and launch date, and it can help prevent delays related to poor planning.

Quality Management

Quality management is a crucial part of localization. It should be integrated into the process all along the way. This means that translators are prepared with adequate resources and direction from the start. Editors and in-country reviewers are committed to polishing the content for the market audience. And your ecosystem is built on a platform that allows for complete tracking.

That way, you have the power to drill into the data at any point in the product localization process to assess progress and identify issues before they become problems. The best localization process is transparent, holding all collaborators accountable for their own part and for supporting everyone else involved.

Of course, you also need to anticipate the feedback you’ll receive from your markets following the product release. You’re likely to encounter reviews in the media, comments by influencers, and criticism from users as your product gains a reputation around the world.

Plan now for how you will respond when the time comes. Who will be responsible for vetting this diverse feedback? How will you collect feedback through your language service provider (LSP) in the first place? Is your LSP willing to be transparent enough to acknowledge and respond to constructive market feedback with you?

Approach Product Localization as a Long-Term Process

Localization is an ongoing process. As long as you have updates to your product, you will need localization to keep your product current in your various markets. As soon as you get started, you are committing for the long term. The good news is that you have the latest localization technology at your disposal to make it happen.Thanks to agile development, localization cycles can be very fast—if you have an efficient workflow in place.

Automation, in particular, can save you time with integrations and reliable routing of content to translators and your internal stakeholders alike. You can stay in control without having to really manage the day-to-day product localization process.With the right platform technology, you’ll also benefit from robust asset management.

But you’ll need to be invested in keeping those assets up to date for the best results. You’ll need to maintain the integrity of your translation memories (TMs) and make sure that everyone involved understands their part. You need to have a process of updating the TMs along with the translation and review process and with any other changes that occur to your content. If you don’t keep your TMs up to date, you’re likely to be retranslating unnecessarily or to end up with costly errors.

Learn to Cooperate Before You Begin Translating

You have to think strategically and holistically about your product localization process before you set up collaboration among teams. The interests of the whole organization have to be considered. This means taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Sometimes, companies ask their language service provider to make all the decisions, but this move is irresponsible. Not all LSPs are capable of making those decisions and, without close cooperation between you and the LSP, it is impossible. Building relationships within your organization and with your LSP as you create your product localization process will ensure its success.

Bureau Works partners with organizations to provide translation and localization services tailored for your product. Our staff of experts can help guide you in creating sustainable workflows on an automated centralized platform for maximum transparency and efficiency.Contact our team today to find out more.

Gabriel Fairman
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