Yet, contrary to popular belief, localization is not just about translating content and then rushing to market immediately. It's a process you should approach systematically to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Naturally, successful localization requires a solid strategy and a clear roadmap. Every stage of your localization workflow needs to be integrated and backed up by constant team communication.
If you’re not sure how to approach localization to achieve a steady workflow, we got you covered. In this guide, I'll walk you through the 8 essential steps in the localization process.
- What is Localization Process?
- Essential Steps of the Localization Workflow
- ~Determine your localization strategy
- ~Put together a strong localization team
- ~Choose the right localization tools
- ~Extract and manage content for localization
- ~Translate content
- ~Perform quality control and make revisions
- ~Prepare the localized content for publication
- ~Launch the localized product
What is Localization Process?
Localization is a process of modifying, restructuring, and adapting your content for your target audience in a different language. Translation is only part of the process — you'll also need to render the original meaning, intention, and vision to align with your brand, as well as the local values.
That’s why localization professionals often relate it to the idea of transcreation — changing the meaning of the original content to make it culturally appropriate and relevant for the target language.
The localization process covers all aspects of this content transformation. And if you want it done right, establishing a localization workflow is crucial.
Essential Steps in the Localization Workflow
Now let’s take a closer look at the 8 key steps you need to take to ensure your localization process covers all your business expansion goals.
1. Determine your localization strategy
Start by asking the right questions and your work will be half complete.
First things first, a strong localization strategy is a must. Otherwise, your localization efforts would be unfocused and you might launch a campaign that completely misses the target.
A common problem many businesses face is treating the localization process as a one-fits-all type of thing. They choose to pursue a general localization strategy hoping that it will fall into place and suit their project goals.
Our advice — don’t leave it to chance! Develop a localization strategy specific to your brand, project, business niche, and target market.
When working out a localization strategy, you’ll want to have answers to such questions as:
- What is your primary localization KPIs? Define the goals and progress metrics to measure the success of your localization campaign;
- How does this localization project fit into your brand development and growth?
- What is your target market like? Study your target market to see how your localized product or service will be received by the local customers;
- What services, platforms, and tools are you going to use for the localization workflow?
Cover all these questions with your team and you’ll have a much clearer picture of how to carry on with your localization process.
2. Put together a strong localization team
When it comes to stabilizing your workflow, nothing is more important than having a reliable team of professionals.
Once your localization strategy is mapped out, you will know what people you need to hire and collaborate with in order to cover all the work tasks.
Naturally, you will want to find a dream team to form the core of your localization efforts. You'll usually need to hire for the following roles.
First, there are the professionals who will carry out the localization “fieldwork”, which is to extract, translate, adjust, and integrate content for the target market.
- Developers. These people are the “tech heart” of your project. If you're localizing your software for an international audience, developers play a key role in managing and updating the translated messages so that they can be displayed correctly in-app.
- Translators. These days, it's not difficult to hire translators online. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is to find quality translators for localization. They are not merely translating words from one language to another — they are responsible for conveying your brand message to the world.
- Designers. Your content may come in a variety of file formats. That's where designers come in to help keep your design code intact across different languages. The bad news is that design changes in the localization process are a major source of hidden costs, as reported by over one third of localization professionals. The good news is that you can use certain tools to simplify the design process for localized materials, but I'll take more about this later.
- Marketers. Marketers will ace your brand promotion effort with the specifics of the local market in mind.
On top of that, every localization project requires strong leadership. That is, the people who guide your workflow, coordinate all ongoing efforts, and track their progress. They are:
- Project managers.
- Localization managers.
Last but not least, you might occasionally turn to the services of these professionals who help improve the life cycle of your localization product.
- Product or service testers. With their help, you can check whether your localized messages meets the standards and tastes of the locale.
- Consultants. These could be local market consultants, legal consultants — you name it. The choice of experts will depend on your ongoing needs and localization challenges. Generally, they provide advice and answers, such as the legal and cultural implications of every decision you're considering (or have not considered).
- Linguists. As experts in the structure and social effects of languages, linguists can assess your translators’ work. Just like consultants, they can provide useful insights during the content localization process so your messages are precise, appropriate, and relatable.
Once you've assembled a super localization team, the next step is to choose the right tools to bring everyone on a project together. Ideally, these tools will create a collaboration process that is swift and seamless. Choosing the right ones is important because you will likely have collaborators based in different locations, usually cross-border.
3. Choose the right localization tools
In this final preparatory step, you should choose the right digital environment so that your localization process runs on a reliable system.
Most localization teams use a translation management system (TMS) to optimize their workflow. It's a type of software you can use to automate and streamline your tasks from content creation to publication.
What should you be able to do with a TMS? Generally speaking, you can use it to:
- collect all your translatable content in one centralized digital storage;
- communicate quickly with your colleagues and external vendors to share any concerns or updates;
- speed up your translator's work by utilizing computer-assisted translation tools like Machine Translation;
- speed up your content circulation process by automating the process of reproducing your translated documents;
- save your approved translations in a database so you can reuse them in relevant projects.
With the right TMS, you can simplify most of the essential (and tedious) localization processes. As a results, you'd be able to optimize how you use the resources that keep your business running - effort and money.
Pro-tip: One key feature you should look for in a TMS is simplicity. An intuitive interface is an absolute must if you want to optimize your localization workflow rather than spend time and resources on figuring out how your new platform works. The best TMS is simple, scalable, and accessible to all the localization team members. Learn more about how to choose a translation management system here.
4. Extract and manage content for localization
In this step, you will determine which parts of your product, service, or communications are subject to localization. Since your content may be written in a variety of file formats, such as InDesign, Word, or even HTML, you need to extract the translatable text so your translators can work them.
I've known people who do this manually, as in they would copy-paste the text in their InDesign document into a spreadsheet, which is then emailed to the translator. But with a TMS, you'd be able to breeze through this localization process because the text extraction is automated.
Pro-tip: When choosing a TMS, you should think about the kinds of content you will be translating. Some TMS are good for translating documents like Word or InDesign, while others are more suitable for website or software localization. Take a look at this list of 13 brilliant translation management software. You can filter the results based on your translation needs.
It's simply easier to extract and manage content for localization with a TMS.
5. Translate the content
Translation is the most intensive part of the localization workflow and rightly so. To localize a piece of content successfully, you need focused and expert minds to work on it. Whether you prefer to have an in-house translator or hire freelancers, check and double-check their expertise!
Depending on your business niche and content style (scientific, technical, etc.), find translators who are experts in that particular field. Paying a higher rate to a professional technical translator is a better investment than working with a freelancer and having to correct their mistakes afterward.
Apart from that, do:
- Ensure constant communication with your translators;
- Provide clear briefs for every translation task;
- Be specific and timely with your feedback.
And of course, don’t turn away from machine translation. While many people still believe machine translation is a low-quality tool that’s only good for dealing with short chunks of simple text, it can actually enhance your localization workflow.
Machine translation algorithms are becoming more advanced, and it is a cost-effective technology. While it may not be as accurate as human translation, it still comes in handy as reference in projects with large volumes of text.
Learn more about the best machine translation software for your localization workflow.
6. Perform quality control and make revisions
Once your text is translated, you need to check its quality. Grammar, syntax, style, and tone are not the only things you should check at this stage. You should also assess the cultural appropriateness of your localized content. The whole process might involve these tasks:
- Proofreading and editing. This is where you check the correctness, flow, and voice of the copy.
- Reviewing the final copy for cultural sensitivity. It's always good to double check the translations of your PR or marketing communications, even if you think your translators should know what they're doing. Even big companies like Apple and Electrolux have made pretty embarrassing localization mistakes... if only they had someone in the review room saying "wait a minute, something's off here."
- Revising the content. If you do identify a problem in the translation, make the necessary changes so it can be ready to go!
The final review of your localized content should be thorough. As such, you should allocate sufficient time so proper quality control can be done. Low quality translations turn customers away from your business and lower the credibility of your brand.
7. Prepare the localized content for publication
You've extracted your texts and translated them. Now they're ready to put the translations back to their original format so that they can go live.
An essential part of this reintegration process is ensuring that your content format is consistent with the original (if it's culturally appropriate to do so). When done manually, you’ll face the mundane task of copy-pasting the translation back to where they came from.
For example, you've localized user manual in 5 different languages and the manual was written in Adobe InDesign. It's going to be a big waste of time to copy-paste each translation into a new InDesign file so that the layout and styles stay similar in all 5 languages.
Once again, it's important to have a TMS that supports the file formats that you will be constantly using - be it Microsoft Office, HTML, or InDesign. That's because a TMS has the feature of automatically retaining the format and design of the file you've uploaded. So if you uploaded an InDesign file to your TMS and translated it there, you'd be able to download the same InDesign file that contains your translations once they're done.
8. Launch the localized product
Finally, it’s time to launch!
With a well-established localization workflow, everything would fall right into place. However, you cannot predict everything. Sometimes, unexpected bugs can pop up in your localized app version, or the localized web page may take too long to load. And that’s okay!
Your task is to react and adjust swiftly. To be able to stay on top of the possible challenges — technical or otherwise — make sure to get:
- Localized product/service testing. Running a beta version of your localized product is a way to see how it performs in a real setting and address possible problems or bugs head-on. Besides, by testing your product, you will be able to scale it more efficiently;
- Feedback from focus groups. Running focus groups is a great way to generate useful feedback from the customer’s perspective. Whether you’re localizing a marketing strategy or a brand-new application, invest in focus group testing to make sure your potential buyers will have a positive customer experience.
- Feedback from users and customers. Once your localized product is launched, keep your fingers on the pulse and track customer feedback. Reviews and ratings reflect the customer experience with your localized product or service. So if you see consistent complaints or feature requests from the consumers of your new target market, consider addressing them as quickly as you can.
To achieve an effective localization process, you need to plan ahead - starting with the right people and tools.
No matter what stage of global expansion your business is currently in, always remember to:
- Have a clear business expansion plan for your new target market;
- Hire the best niche professionals;
- Ensure propers quality of localization every step of the way;
- Choose a TMS that will enhance your localization workflow and automate it as much as possible.
If you want to start with a simple translation management system that supports a wide range of documents, that's exactly what Redokun is. We've made sure to keep the interface clear and easy so that anyone can start using the platform immediately. Sign up for a free trial today (no credit card required).
Till next time,