6 Key Steps to Building a Scalable Localization Process
Functions within a company are like cogs in a machine—each one needs to work efficiently for the machine to run smoothly. In large enterprises, the need for scalability means that the machine should be capable of handling ever-increasing loads without breaking down.
Localization is one such function. A high-performance, low-maintenance localization process is essential for companies looking to not just operate globally, but also thrive in the age of global customer experience and personalization.
This guide will outline 6 key steps necessary to avoid the main productivity killers—manual workflows, inefficiencies, duplicated efforts, and bloated project management—and build a scalable localization process that stands the test of time.
Preparing assets for localization
The first step is to decide which assets need to be localized, so the relevant teams can make them available and suitable for translation. This step involves two major aspects: internationalization, to ensure that your assets can be adapted to multiple languages, and organization, to create the resource files that the localization team will use.
Internationalization is the process of designing your digital product in a way that allows it to support different languages.
You start by identifying all the language-specific elements in your product, such as text strings, date formats, currencies, etc. Once you know what needs to be translated, you can modify your code to make these elements dynamic and replace them with variables.
This way, when it comes time to localize your product, all you'll need to do is update the values of these variables for each locale.
The next step is to make sure that your assets are well organized and ready to be localized.
First, your developers can start extracting from the code all the textual content (translatable text) into resource files. This will allow them to keep the codebase clean and uncluttered, and import the translated text back into the code without needing to modify the code itself.
Then, they will also name and store each file in a content repository in a way that makes it easy to locate, update, and track. The file structure should be consistent and follow a predictable pattern so that both developers and translators can find the files they need quickly and easily without wasting time searching through folders.
Creating the localization environment
This task generally falls on the shoulders of the localization manager, who will be responsible for setting up the systems and tools needed to get the localization process up and running.
The first step is to choose a translation management system (TMS) that can handle the scale and complexity of your localization project. Once the localization manager selects the TMS—sometimes developers also have a hand in this decision—they will need to create different projects for each language pair and asset type. After that, they can invite translators and reviewers to collaborate on the projects.
It's also important to create or import a glossary of terms for each project, and to add other supporting documentation, such as style guides, to help ensure that the translation is consistent with the company's brand voice.
Localizing the content
With the project environment set up and ready to go, it's now time to start the actual linguistic work of localizing the content.
This is where the translators come in. They will take the source content and adapt it to the target locale, taking into account things like cultural differences, regional preferences, and linguistic nuances. The goal is that target-market users experience the same level of quality, regardless of the language they use.
Having a robust TMS in place during this step not only makes the work of translators easier, but is also key to setting up an effective translation process. They can access all the files they need in one place, track their progress, get additional content—like automatically generated screenshots of the user interface—and collaborate with other team members in real-time.
Reviewing the content
Upon completion of the translation, it's important to have someone review the work to check for errors, omissions, and mistranslations. The localization manager will push the localized content to the review stage, where one or more reviewers will go through it and provide feedback.
This feedback will be used to make the necessary corrections and improvements before the content is pushed to the next stage. Designers might also review the localized content at this stage to ensure that it fits well with the overall design of the product. These checks during localization testing are crucial for identifying and eliminating localization mistakes that could potentially harm your brand.
Finalized content is then ready for deployment. This is a task that usually falls on the developers, who will pull the translated resource files from the TMS and integrate them into the codebase.
Depending on the project, deployment could mean simply pushing the content live, distributing to a sales force, or making it available in the content management system (CMS) for use by the marketing team.
QA and monitoring
Once the content is deployed, it's important to keep an eye on it and make sure that it stays up to date. By measuring things like site visits, time on site, sales, or qualitative metrics like user feedback, you can get a sense of how well the localization is working and whether there are any areas that need improvement.
This data can also be used to improve the process for future projects. For example, if you notice that a particular language pair is giving you trouble, you might want to consider conducting audits or adding more reviewers for that language combination.
Rinse and repeat
Localization is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. As your company grows and expands into new markets, you'll need to refine your localization process to keep up with the demand.
By following the steps outlined above, this gets considerably easier. You'll have all the tools and resources you need to build a strong foundation for your localization process, and you'll be able to scale it up as needed.
To get insight into how world-class localization teams put these into practice, get The Definitive Localization Manager Playbook by Phrase.