How to Avoid Suffocation from Web Localization

‘Global web content is like kudzu, the Japanese weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them.’ That’s how Debra Jul describes her frustration in 2008. As web manager of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, she has seen the organization’s website grow from English-only in 1995 to nine languages in 2008. And by 2010 it was suffocating her team.

Figure 1: Deb Lewis would not let global content suffocate her team

She went from publishing web pages in English only to hard-coding single pages for Spanish, French and Simplified Chinese. In 2004 she used an open-source content management system that would allow her to establish regional sites based on defined markets.

When OCLC merged with a European service partner in late 2007, she inherited four more languages. This merger also increased OCLC’s product portfolio, and some offerings were only available in certain markets. In addition to managing language versions of certain web pages, the organization now needed to manage marketing campaigns that were specific to individual countries and regions.

Global web content began to grow around Debra like kudzu. Manual cutting and pasting between translation agency and web CMS began to climb and coil around her fast and steadily. Instead of implementing solutions for better digital marketing, she and her team spent too much time on cutting, pasting and sending content to and from translators — often jeopardizing global and regional campaigns.

Figure 2. Manual cutting and pasting, file transfers, sending of instructions, quoting and billing are the main productivity killers for global web managers.

Manual labor in digital marketing was killing productiveness and creativity in her team. But Debra would not allow global content to take the sunlight out of her day, like kudzu that kills through intense shading. She took action.

Step 1: Automate cut and paste

Debra knew that it would be hard to get budget for a full solution that fit all of her requirements. So she started with a small automation project.

Figure 3. Automation of translation can be done on a budget, immediately relieving the web manager

She used a middleware to get content our of her CMS, upload and download content onto an FTP site, and put translated content right back where it belonged into her CMS. Workload dropped to about 50% within a few days.

Step 2: Connect to a translation management system

This solution would still require the same manual processes in translation. The web team got immediate relief, but the translation vendor still required a project manager to download and upload content from and to the FTP site, manually analyze content, produce quotes, and send translation work to translators.

Figure 4. The right setup will automate translation based on more complex business rules, such as by asset type, language, region or campaign.

To reduce cost for managing products on the vendor side, Debra used the middleware’s existing integrations with a translation management system. The full automation enabled her to re-negotiate vendors rates, and also increased the speed with which she could launch global campaigns.

Step 3: Drive technology adoption

Debra learned early that the best translators are often averse to using latest translation technology, while some a thrilled with the prospect of more efficient processes.

Figure 5. Translation automation helps launch global campaigns faster.

Some vendors push back automation, because it potentially reduces their income. Automation allows for savings by:

  • Re-using previously translated content
  • Shortening review processes
  • Reducing project management time

It required a number of negotiations, training sessions and even adding a more technology savvy vendors before these benefits materialized.

The analogy to kudzu still stands. After destroying or removing the kudzu root crown it may require up to ten years of supervision to make sure the plant does not return. If any portion of a root crown remains after attempted removal, the kudzu plant may grow back.

So does global web content. It needs governance that defines who can update and publish content, and which of this content needs translation. Otherwise, It will climb back.

Debra’s Key Findings when Taking Your Web Global

  • Every additional language will amplify even the smallest flaw in your workflow
  • Getting source content out is easy, putting translated content back is not
  • For every content item you send out, X number of items come back in
  • Quick wins possible with workflow review and automation
  • You can automate easily translation between translation management system and content management system.
  • There are multiple ways to connect the two systems
  • Automation of localization of media requires manual labor
  • Neither CMS or TMS support you fully in managing all aspects of localization
  • You will need an additional tools to manage all aspects of localization
  • If you need to connect multiple systems your best option might be a middleware
  • A web localization consultant is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Work with a consultant to find your best return of investment.
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