Editor’s note: TechWhirl recently sat down with three experts in the fast-evolving industry of content translation and localization: Val Swisher, Founder and CEO of Content Rules; Diana Ballard, Business Development Manager for Logos Group; and Steve Walker, Senior Director of Content Solutions Design at Experis, to gain perspective and get guidance on preparing content for global audiences. Part 1 covers the fundamentals of concepts, strategy, and supply chain. In part 2, which follows, these experts share tips and best practices for content teams embarking on content optimization.
Success Begins with Simple: Processes, Practices and Resources for Global Content Optimization
Technology, the right resources, effective processes, and a well-thought out global content strategy play key roles in helping organizations manage content that achieves their global business objectives. Val Swisher, Steve Walker, and Diana Ballard, coming from varying content perspectives, all agree that simplicity is key to best practices in global content optimization.
Start with a Strategy and a Plan
To Val Swisher, founder of global content services provider Content Rules, making critical content decisions at the outset is crucial to keeping the entire project moving. “At the beginning, decide what content to translate, localize, transcreate, or leave in English.” Val cautions that these decisions should be based on the global content strategy the company must formulate first. “Your global content strategy covers the 50,000 foot view, where you decide how the content will support your business.” Val believes that the global content strategy leaves the cultural assumptions behind to focus on business objectives, and that drives the planning going forward. “You must stop thinking that everyone sees the world as you see it. At 50,000 feet, don’t think I know what your mailbox looks like. I know what one looks like, but they don’t look the same in any other country.”
Steve Walker, Senior Director of Content Solutions Design at Experis, concurs with the need for both the high level strategy and the in-depth plan, noting that companies need “greater focus on authoring processes, and upstream improvements that impact downstream delivery. When companies invest some amount of time upfront, they reduce their translation spend.” He works with clients to understand their current global content supply chain, before looking at ways to enhance it in support of multi-language content initiatives. “Organizations need to start thinking about their content supply chain—how they create, manage, distribute (including moving it and displaying it… the UX/UI elements) and globalize the content that supports their operations.”
Maintain a Global English Style Guide
Diana Ballard, Senior Business Development Manager with translation/localization provider LOGOS Group, finds that in addition to well-thought out planning, simple procedures work best as the content team evolves. “Content is only meaningful because it’s your content. You need to develop and maintain a global English style guide that covers issues around translatability. Start with terminology management–key terms and their definitions, and go as broadly as possible to avoid misuse issues that can create havoc. She provided an example of misuse from a medical device company that developed content around some equipment for treating depression. The procedures referred to the chair the patient would sit in as “equipment” which created significant problems during translation, since the chair was not a part of the treatment device. “These issues are often a question of governance rules–global rules of using English, and organizations need to include governance rules in the global style guide.”
Identify and Evolve Best Practices throughout the Project
From the moment planning begins, Steve says, companies should work on developing best practices throughout the life of the project and across all elements of the content supply chain. “Experis works with clients to implement certain best practices for global writing—guidance on sentence length, minimizing use of metaphors, and standardizing terminology and phraseology, as well as leveraging technology such as a content management system (CMS) to support consistency.” Even if companies are at the beginning of a long-range effort. “We have a client that’s still 1 or 2 years away from implementing their global content activities, and our message was to start working on some of these things now.”
Diana adds that decisions about transcreation versus translation should rely on some best practices, especially understanding the product and marketing goals. “If the product has a different and distinct purpose in the target market, than in source market, you probably need to do transcreation. Anything that is multi-media requiring synch up with words and images, may require some transcreation. We see it as essential for taglines and slogans and brand names, to make sure these work across cultures.”
Leverage Technology and Human Resources Appropriately
Understanding when to leverage technology and when human resources are required becomes a crucial decision point for organizations readying their plans for global content optimization. “I have mixed views on terminology management systems,” Diana says. “Term harvesting can miss the flow of the translation and context can be missed. Usually a hybrid approach (initial list of harvested terms, with process for adding additional terms throughout the project) works best.
On the machine translation side, choices should be fairly straightforward. Val explains, “Machine translation engines don’t understand emotions like ‘friendly,’ whether it’s rules-based, statistical, or a hybrid system. Content that is simple—instructions and sentences that are fairly simple to parse—work best.” She notes that machine translation requires building time into the schedule—to train the system. “Stick with people for complex content or content with emotional nuance. And you never want to distribute content that’s machine translated that hasn’t been post-edited by a human.”
Steve adds another technology component to the mix for consideration. “Think about your content creation and management tools,” he suggests. “A CCMS (component content management system) can help manage the creation process, but the right technology for tying in language systems and content translation processes doesn’t really exist. Depending on the size of the company and the effort, we recommend having another authoring tool that manages consistency. And consider an ECMS (enterprise content management system) to manage distribution.”
Gather Internal and External Expertise
For most organizations, content creation still happens in isolation, and Val sees this as one of the biggest challenges to global content optimization.” We’re still so very siloed—so often the people who create content have no interaction with those who put it into other languages. The concerns of the writing groups and the localization team need to be shared. It affects quality accuracy and cost.”
Quite often companies who need translation or transcreation of content do not budget for internal resources to do the work. They turn to translation and localization service providers such as LOGOS to provide the experts. Diana says “It’s not easy to find the right resource, the percentage of translators who can proactively handle all facets of an engagement is quite small.” She notes that such client engagements require the translator behave like a local marketing manager. “They become valuable because they have the additional skills of the linguist. But, translators are quite often in isolation, and bringing them into the team provides the context that produces an overall better result.”
For many US companies, members of the content team are most often single language speakers with a very different perspective than multi-language speakers. Steve says, “The answer is exposure to multiple languages and cultures. While in-country resources have bi- or multi-lingual background, it’s not so true with the US-based content teams. So educating Tier 1 content creators, and post-edit transcreation pros has great value. It’s a ‘re-education’ process that helps them get their head in a different culture.”
Plan for and Measure Quality
What is the quality of globally optimized content worth to a company? Diana works with LOGOS clients to develop “KPIs on cost avoidance and other factors that should be tied to what the gain should be… KPIs have to answer the question of how much is that market worth.”
“Consider the tolerance of the consumer, Steve advises. “If I’m looking on a support forum, I know that I’m not sure what I’m going to get, so the tolerance is much higher than if I’m looking to buy and ready to hit the Submit button.” High tolerance scenarios require less translation, but retail websites and corporate collateral generally see low tolerance for non-localized content.
He recommends that teams develop and follow usability best practices “Simplification and smaller time frames mean that our content needs to be more consumable. It all has to be relevant whether I’m on my smartphone in Geneva, or calling up a user guide on my laptop.”
Summary: Prepare to Prepare Your Content for Global Audiences
True success in global markets depends on much more than relying on shareware translation algorithms. All three of these experts agree that companies who want to enter new markets must approach the entire content lifecycle—from development and optimization to distribution, maintenance, archiving, and disposal— as a major initiative, requiring budget, resources, and extensive preparation. Preparing your content for global audience means developing a global content strategy; mastering all the links in the supply chain; planning for translation and transcreation; focusing on quality; and educating the entire content team. These steps lay the foundation for content pros to do their part to help their companies succeed in the new global marketplace.
Val Swisher recommends several resources to check out when getting started on global content optimization.
- The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market. John R. Kohl. SAS Publishing, 2009.
- Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies. John Yunker, New Riders Press, 2002.
- The Culturally Customized Web Site. Nitish Singh and Arun Pereira. Routledge, 2005.
|As senior business development manager at Logos Group, Diana Ballard has 20 years’ experience in the localization industry. Having previously served as technical publications manager in a fast-paced Japanese manufacturing environment over 6 years, she appreciates the demands of localization from both client and vendor perspectives. Graduating from the University of Liverpool with Joint Honours in languages (English major), Diana spent her early career years in management consulting gaining a vital appreciation of how businesses manage improvements across the enterprise.||Steve Walker, a senior director in the Experis Global Content Solutions practice, draws upon his 20 years’ experience in guiding clients to strategically create, manage, and deliver information worldwide. Technology agnostic, he brings a breadth of knowledge in content and resource management to solving complex business challenges. As a thought leader in the enterprise content management space, Steve has hands-on experience in business strategy, digital marketing, software development, content authoring, content management system implementation, and business and IT consulting. Steve provides a unique business perspective to educating clients on trends in all aspects of the content lifecycle.||Val Swisher is the CEO of Content Rules. She is a well-known expert in global content strategy, content development, and terminology management. Using her 20 years of experience, Val helps companies solve complex content problems by analyzing their content and how it is created.When not helping customers, Val can be found sitting behind her sewing machine working on her latest quilt. She also makes a mean hummus.|