How to approach localization

A guide to making your business feel local

1 Overview

The challenge

Once you have reached your audience, you'll need to connect with them. To do this, make sure the translation services you use are sensitive to the technical and cultural nuances of the language used by your export markets. That way, you'll engage with your audience in the way you intended.

Your aim

To identify and manage vendors who will deliver tailored translation services for your website. This will help ensure you speak to your customers in their language and harmonize your brand worldwide.

How to go about it

The guidelines below show a systematic approach to the vendor onboarding and management process.

Before you select a vendor, ask your team what is needed by considering these questions:

Languages

What are your target languages? Do you expect this language list to grow?

Volume

What’s your initial word count? How often will you submit new content?

Services

Which services do you need to match your content types, for example:

  • Non-visible e.g. SEO metadata requiring light post-editing or less experienced resources

  • Specialized e.g. legal, technical, or medical requiring resources with industry expertise

  • Highly visible, creative e.g. homepage images requiring creative resources, transcreation, and offline processing

  • Standard requiring standard resources and potentially a review

Timeline

What is your timeline according to the service you need and your volume of content?

Platform

What system will you use to create and house content, e.g. Wordpress?

2 Select your team and classify content

These steps move from basic QA foundations towards more advanced, fully-developed program strategies.

Step 1: Bolster your team of translators

Whether you have an in-house team or work through a third party vendor to source translators, use the following as benchmarks to ensure you’re setup for quality translations:

Use mother tongue linguists

Source native speakers of each language you localize.

Look for specialists when needed

If your content has specialized terminology e.g. related to products that are business to business, technical, or industry-specific, look for linguists who have experience translating this content.

Give your translators the right resources

Make sure they have product and locale-specific glossaries and style guides that are updated to relate to local-specific insights.

Step 2: Identify different types of content and their localization priority

It’s unlikely that your QA process will review every single localized word. So, audit your localized content to identify its type and how you’d like to prioritize it in your review process.

Content Type Definition Examples Review Priority
Branding/Marketing Content that supports customer outreach and sales. Website, sales collateral, marketing campaigns, taglines, call to actions High

This is typically your most visible content. It also targets potential and new customers who may have not yet built brand loyalty.
Legal Content that notifies customers of legal requirements, contains legal agreements, or is required for compliance reasons Privacy agreements, contracts, forms, and other legal notices High

Mistranslation could cause legal issues for the company.

Tip: Ideally reviewed, by translators with legal background and reviewed by legal team.
User interface/mobile app User interface (UI) or application built by your company for clients Proprietary dashboard or other UI, standalone mobile app Varies

Check traffic and usage metrics. The more visible your content is, the higher you should prioritize it for review.
Support Content that helps customers troubleshoot issues on their own Manuals, user guides, help centers Varies

Check the percentage of customers who use this content in each language and prioritize accordingly.

Tip

If you have an app, make sure to localize 5 key elements:

  • Name and description in the Google Play Store listing
  • In-App Purchase (IAP) product names and descriptions
  • Universal App Campaign text (UAC)
  • Images, video and audio
  • Server-based content

3 Overview - quality

The challenge

The quality of your business’s offering should be consistent across all markets. This should filter through to the language you use to communicate your message. Once you have selected suitable third party vendors or in-house staff to provide translation services, how do you benchmark, streamline, and maintain this quality?

Your aim

To make sure that the quality of translation is benchmarked, streamlined, and maintained to ensure people receive a consistent service and your brand is consistent worldwide.

How to go about it

The guidelines below show a systematic approach to quality assurance (QA) throughout your localization program.

First consider the scale of your localization program. Start by considering these questions:

  • What translation resources and tools do we have?
  • How will we source experienced translators and reviewers?
  • Who will lead the localization quality assurance process?

4 Identifying appropriate vendors

By completing the program steps in this guide, you’ll have a broader idea of what kind of vendor is best for you. These steps move from basic vendor sourcing towards more advanced, fully-developed vendor management strategies.

Step 1: Research vendors

Do a Google search for translation services. Check out each vendor’s website, and consider the following:

  • What services do they offer? Do they promote any services over others?
  • Who are their clients? Are they mostly large, small, or both?
  • What experience do they have working with similar companies to yours?
  • What languages does the vendor provide?
  • Where is the company headquartered? Do they have anyone in your timezone?
  • When was the company founded?
  • Who founded the company? Do they have expertise in a certain market?
  • Do they share any pricing information?

Step 2: Identify vendor services and types of vendors

Standard translation vendors usually offer translation, desktop publishing, quality verification, and project management. These vendors come in two main types:

Single-language vendors (SLVs)

These offer services in a small subset of languages, typically one to a few regional languages. SLVs often cost less than multi-language vendors and are a good option if you want to localize content into only one to three regional languages.

Multi-language vendors (MLVs)

These offer global coverage and provide a one-stop shop for all localization needs. MLVs can handle multiple projects across regions at the same time. They usually use a combination of SLVs, freelancers, and full-time linguists to provide their services.

Step 3: Identify the type of vendor(s) you need

Consider the following to determine the type of vendor you need. Keep in mind that you may need multiple SLVs or even multiple MLVs to complete your localization work.

Regional expertise

An SLV may be more skilled at translations in certain regions

Service specialisation

Some vendors offer expertise in specialisations e.g. creative marketing, transcreations, health content, legal etc.

Services offered

Certain vendors specialize in review services, content creation, testing, etc.

Quality control

If you want your content quality controlled, you may want to hire a second “review vendor”. Think of quality control like having an editor review a writer’s work.

Scalability and risk mitigation

If you have a large volume with tight timelines, consider working with multiple vendors

Step 4: Create a request for input (RFI)

  • Briefly introduce your needs (content, services, volumes, and languages) to a few vendors
  • Collect information about their linguistic capabilities, such as:
    • Services and languages – a list of linguistic services, including speciality or expert areas
    • References – a list of two to three professional references, including contact information
    • Cost estimate – estimated cost per language and content type. Pricing is typically per word for translation, and per word or hourly for review

Step 5: Shortlist vendors

Determine which vendors best suit your localization needs. Consider if they offer the services and languages your team requires. Also think about how interested they seem in working with you, for example how responsive they were during your initial scoping.

Step 6: Create a request for proposal (RFP)

Create a request for proposal (RFP) and send it to your shortlisted vendors. Your RFP should:

  • Introduce your project – give an overview of your company, content, and audiences
  • Share your needs – your services, target languages, volume, expertise, timeline, etc
  • Outline the information you need – what exactly are you expecting from your shortlisted vendors in their response?

Information you need from shortlisted vendors

Vendor overview

This could include:

  • Languages
  • Sample clients
  • Areas of expertise
  • Location(s)
  • Number of employees

Quality processes

This could include information about the vendor’s methodology, and the remediation process in case of issues.

Timelines

This could include information about turnaround time needs, and the process in case of timeline slippage missed deadlines.

Resources

This could include:

  • Typical linguists’ background
  • Number of linguists employed or contracted by the vendor
  • Location of linguists
  • Training provided
  • Performance management
  • How they assign their supplier costs

Organisation support

This could include information about your points of contact, including if you’ll have a dedicated project manager and what timezone they are in.

Systems

This could include:

  • What platforms they use
  • File types supported
  • If they provide support for integrating with your platforms
  • If you’ll need to dedicate resources on your end
  • If they charge for integration

Cost estimate

You could:

  • Ask for the cost per word / language / content type
  • Check if they provide discounts for using Translation Memory software
  • Ask if there are any additional costs e.g. in project management, post-processing, review, etc

Tip

Request the vendor gives a sample. Provide sample content and request that a linguist representative of who’ll work on your projects perform the translation. Ensure you have two or more people on your team who can validate the results.

Step 7: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for contract with selected vendor(s)

You’ll need a contract for any vendor you choose to work with. Include services and KPIs in your contract so you can hold your localization team accountable to certain standards. Use the following KPIs as a starting point and identify improvements over time.

Linguistic quality KPIs

  • Compliance – follow style guide requirements and project instructions
  • Grammar – use correct grammar for target language
  • Punctuation / spelling – follow language standards and style guide
  • Meaning – convey meaning intended in the original source content
  • Terminology – use preferred translations in glossary, style guide, and translation memory
  • Understanding – write content that native speakers can easily understand
  • Standards – agree on an “error rate” criteria. Standards should be per project, or per word (such as per 1k words)

Note: Use a separate vendor to measure linguistic quality, if you or the translation vendor do not have resources who can objectively evaluate it.

On-time delivery KPIs

  • Standards: Agree “on-time” criteria. Standards should be either per project (if only one project), or per word (if work will be ongoing).

Step 8: Establish effective communication to maximize vendor support

The way you communicate with localization vendors should match your work scope. Use the following guidance for initial communication through to post-project communication.

Initial

  • Ask the vendor to track and share key details about your project: start date, status, due date, etc.

  • Establish an initial meeting. Use syncs to share updates, and identify and address concerns

  • Manage quality expectations. Discuss your needs and expectations with vendors. Update established standards as needed

  • Create linguistic references. Provide explicit references to convey your linguistic preferences e.g. screenshots, style guides, glossaries, etc

Ongoing

  • Alert vendor to quality issues immediately. Be sure to highlight issues, clarify quality standards, and follow up on resolution

  • Call out updates. Discuss updates to your style guide, glossary, QA process, etc

  • Identify continuous improvement opportunities. Share best practices. Communicate observations and recommendations

  • Respond to vendor questions in time. Provide clear information and share resources and tools as you see fit

Post-project

  • Provide feedback to vendors. Let them know what worked well and where to improve for next time

The above vendor management guidelines can help you select and manage vendors that deliver the quality translations your audience deserves.

5 Quality assurance

Step 3: Build your content QA process

The optimal QA process covers two key checkpoints:

a. Linguistic review

Ensure the translation conveys same key points as the source content. Check that the terminology is consistent and matches your glossary, and that correct fonts are used per style guide, etc.

How you set up your process will depend on the volume of localization projects. For example:

One-time localization

A native speaker reviews the translation, ideally within a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool, so future reviewers benefit from their work.

Low-to-medium volume

The vendor provides both translations and final content review. Translations and review are completed in a CAT tool. This will help future linguists to learn from each project and use previous translations for the same content.

Continuous localization needs

Your vendor uses a CAT tool to coordinate the localization workflow and build a history - or “translation memory” of past projects. Specialized reviewers provide feedback on each localization project, and scores are tracked to identify systematic improvements and grade translators’ performance. From time to time bring linguists on site to better understand your business and content needs.

b. Technical validation

Execute the code for a localized version of your website or app to ensure the copy renders correctly. Check how content looks across screens on desktop and mobile devices. The goal is to catch errors before the localized version of your website or app is pushed to customers.

Step 4: Measure your localization quality against key performance indicators (KPIs)

You can measure and track how your localization program is working. Use the following key performance indicators as a starting point and to identify improvements over time.

For example, if your visitor conversion percentage is low in a market, deep dive into your translation quality for that region and connect with native speakers to gather feedback on content.

Linguistic KPIs • Readability/style/tone
• Compliance
• Meaning
• Grammar
• Punctuation/spelling
• Terminology
Impact KPIs • New customers acquired in markets
• Website traffic (by country and language)
• Visitor conversion percentage
• Market share percentage
• Translation ROI percentage

With the above quality management guidelines in mind, your next step is to choose the staff who will bring your content to life in multiple languages.