Your website is your welcome mat. But is it truly inviting to all your likely customers, or are language barriers keeping you from reaching an entire population? If you eliminated these language barriers, what would the impact be on your business?
Consider for a moment the fact that more than half the world’s Internet users are in Asia, and there are almost twice as many people online in Europe than in North America, according to Internet World Statistics. With website translation and localization, you can cast a much wider net.
Translation and localization is the process of adapting an existing website to the local language and culture of a target market. It means adapting a website into a different linguistic and cultural context. This is much more complex than simply translating text, as it accounts for cultural differences in distinct markets.
This process is no small undertaking, but once you’ve chosen the right vendor, there are a few important things you can do to plan ahead and make the process easier.
Here are some steps to take before, during, and after your translation and localization project.
Before: Define the Scope
Rather than translating your entire website into a new language, you might consider testing the waters first with a microsite. Either way, you’ll need to determine how many pages you need to translate and what other resources are essential, such as a product guide or user manual. Make sure all your content is organized in a format that will be easy for your translator to access. (Using the right technology can streamline this process; more on that later.)
Consider other factors that will impact the scope of your project, such as whether your project will include search engine optimization and be localized to meet the needs of a specific region or culture.
The more you localize, the more it will cost, but you should also consider what it may cost you to not localize certain product components. You could run the risk of missing potential sales or offending target customers by not providing information in their language. Depending on the product, you could also find yourself in violation of legal or regulatory requirements.
Try to nail down answers to these questions early in the process and make sure source documents are as close to their final versions as possible before localization begins. While mid-project changes can be incorporated into the final product, they can increase localization costs and delay delivery.
Before: Establish a Timeline
Certain steps in the localization process are prerequisites to others. For example, a user interface should be finalized before screen captures are taken to incorporate into other documentation, such as user guides or manuals.
Work with your localization vendor to establish a logical workflow for your project and a realistic timeline to see it through. While it’s possible to work on different steps simultaneously, it requires more staff resources and the flexibility to make additional corrections later if something in a source document changes.
During: Use Technology Effectively
Using the right technology can reduce costs, shorten timelines and improve consistency across your website.
Translation memory databases store previous translations and the corresponding source text. These prior translations can then be applied to new source text, reducing the volume of text that needs to be translated manually and ensuring translations are consistent.
Translation management systems incorporate translation memory databases with workflow. In addition, content management systems can store localized content in a single location where different teams or authors can pull it for use in different formats or platforms. This makes it easy to collaborate with translators and track the progress of your project.
During: Communicate Clearly
To avoid unforeseen costs that can creep into your project, make sure you consider what information vendors will need from you and what information you’ll need from them in return. This should be part of the conversation even before you’ve chosen a language services provider.
Once you’ve chosen the right provider, the company will assign a project manager who will serve as your main point of contact. The project manager will coordinate among linguists, software engineers, desktop publishers and quality-assurance specialists, communicating your needs to the localization team and issues they identify back to you. You should designate someone within your organization to be the localization project manager’s point of contact and handle similar tasks on your side.
You know your product better than anyone, so communicate as much information as possible before the project starts. This includes anything that might be helpful for translators to better understand your product, such as existing glossaries, terminology lists or product descriptions.
Also be sure to communicate expected delivery dates, delivery format and media. The localization team should confirm their understanding of your requirements to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Once the project begins, your project managers should share status reports at agreed-upon milestones. The largest vendors may offer a translation management system that allows clients to view the status of their projects 24/7. In addition, they should be accessible and responsive when you have questions or concerns.
After: Plan For Future Growth
Are you prepared to handle the growth your business line will experience after your new website launches? You will almost certainly need to make updates to your website within the first few months, and likely for years to come. Growth in sales may also demand adding new phone interpreters to your customer support staff, create new marketing materials and even introduce new products.
Having an ongoing partnership with a language services provider allows you to address these needs quickly and cost-effectively as they arise. If you can work with the same provider for all your interpretation and translation needs, you’ll have greater efficiency and provide a more consistent customer experience.
Want a more in-depth look at the language translation and localization process to help you prepare for your next project? Check out this comprehensive Guide to Translation and Localization.