15 tips that help you to internationalize your Community?

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

We are from Switzerland and Switzerland is not like most other countries in respect of it’s national language. We do not have 1 national language as most countries, neither 2 but 3 of them. And according to the Swiss government there are 4 national languages including an old “roman” language called “Reteromanisch”. Our national languages are German, French and Italian.

This means that every website, every app and of course most of our communities will be launched in at least 3 languages — from day one.

So if you are planning to expand to Switzerland or if you have some plans to “localize” your community, we collected some insights from our localization projects with swiss and international clients. Most of what is described is based on the Lithium community platform but a lot applies to other platforms as well.

1. Read the Data

You want to go international? So either it is a strategic decision or a data driven or (best case) both. So check your data and see where most of the traffic comes from. This should give you some help to prioritize what language to start with.

2. Involve the Community

Practice “community” and involve your community early in the process. This can be feedback on design and structure but also feedback from mother tongue users. You can even ask users what content should be translated or ask them to translate their own or the content of others!

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

3. Recruit a native Speaker as Community Manager

If you’re not a language multi-talent you should recruit a native speaking community manager BEFORE you start. Make it an explicit role that people have to apply for and promote it internally and externally and even in the community itself. If you’re lucky you get some “word to mouth” buzz. If you recruited a community manager from day one he can also start conversation with potential (Super-) users in his mother tongue and do a lot of the translation work.

4. Activate an internal Translation Workforce

Depending on the size of your community and the amount of languages you plan to launch the community manager and the community users won’t be able to translate everything on their own. So make it an internal challenge, create an internal community that assists you to translate. By making it a challenge and giving some incentive to participate, you will boost engagement and people will love to help you!

5. Decide what to translate (first)

As mentioned in 2. and 4. you can ask internal people and your existing community which content to translate but you should also ask the numbers. Translate popular content and frequently used features first and leave out old and not often read content (at least for now).. And remember: There is a difference between “interface & content” (see. 6.)

6. There is “content” and there is “interface”

A Community is not like a static website. There is the interface and there is the user generated content and they are different. So start to translate the interface (this happens by activating the language pack for most of the communities but there will be parts e.g. custom components that won’t be translated with the language pack) and then the content by involving your users (see 2.). There are tools like Lingothek and the Google Translate plugin to auto-translate content, but often the quality is rather poor and the context is missing.

7. What is your Structure?

When adding a new language, we tend to copy paste the entire structure. Think twice. Are you sure that you need the same structure?Start small and extend the structure. For sure you need a language category and at least one “board”.

8. Automate

Yes, you can activate a language package and everything is translated. Really everything? We developed some workflows and tools to enable the “translation workforce” to translate or review elements and sync them back to the community. And it is not Excel!

9. Badges and Ranks

Don’t forget badges and ranks. The rules of badges and ranks are the same for all languages but you have to be careful when you start to translate them (especially as ID’s on stage and prod are most of the time not the same). Choose badges that do not contain text in the image so they work for all languages.

Photo by Graphic Node on Unsplash

10. E-Mails

Don’t forget the E-Mails. They are included in the language pack but if you customized them you have to double check at least the most common E-Mails twice.

11. Cultural difference

Especially with badges and ranks you have to make sure that text, symbols and pictures are working for every culture or if they could even be offensive to some people.

12. Browsers

With some countries it is worth to check if the “browser” and “device” distribution is the same. Some use older browsers or have a very high mobile usage which means you may invest in some additional responsive/mobile optimizations.

13. Text length

Be cautious when translating to languages with very long words. Here you have to make sure that the translations still fit in buttons, tables and columns. Especially german is a hard one.

14. Launch Silent and in Beta

We have made good experiences by launching silent and in Beta and give first users the chance to provide feedback and spread the word- So you can improve continuously.

15. Let the Community grow :-)

Sometimes it is like starting again from scratch. New (Super-)users, new topics and (most important) a new chance to build relationship with your customers and letting the community grow.

Glowing Blue: “We help companies to build successful communities”