Localizing the Right Software Content With Limited Resources

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant number of software companies slashing their translation budgets. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in this position, and you’re wary of communication with customers and business partners across the world breaking down as a result.

It’s likely that you’re looking for a software localization strategy that’s as cost-effective as possible – and that’s exactly what we’re addressing in our latest blog series. In our introductory article we gave you a rough roadmap for how to proceed when you’re faced with a tighter translation budget. Now we’ll get into the nitty gritty and illustrate which aspects localization managers and other stakeholders at companies should factor in when choosing which translations are indispensable – and which should be shelved for the time being.

Defining the scope of your localization projects

The bigger the company, the more complicated coordination for localization projects tends to be. After all, it’s not uncommon for translations to be commissioned by a wide range of different stakeholders – from regional subsidiaries on different continents, to independently operating departments like HR, Legal, or product teams.

If you want to make the most of your translation budget, then you’ll first need to get a realistic overview of your translation resources. It’s only when you know what you’re working with that you can truly begin to envisage targeted saving measures. In doing so, evaluate the content you want to have translated according to the following criteria:

Compliance

To determine how much leeway your translation budget offers, you must first find out which content you can more or less go without, and which is business-critical. After all, many translations aren’t just a nice cherry on top, but are instead essential in enabling your company to operate on international markets. This is where legal factors come into effect. We’ve put together a few examples from our industry:

  • EU’s Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC): This directive regulates the marketing and distribution of machines within the European Economic Area. Providing complete and correct documentation with the applicable safety information and warnings is paramount to ensuring product safety. As Annex I of the directive stipulates: “All machinery must be accompanied by instructions in the official Community language or languages of the Member State in which it is placed on the market and/or put into service.” As user documentation is considered part of the product, the manufacturer is not just liable for said product, but also for making correct and safe user documentation available in the target market language(s).
  • Global software companies are sometimes required to translate compliance or tender information, especially when the end user of their products will be a state authority.

Quality requirements

A more restrictive budget doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to completely forego certain translations. One alternative worth considering is to have the necessary texts produced more cheaply. This is where machine translation (MT) comes into play.

MT-supported translations usually have fewer stylistic requirements and exhibit a lower degree of textual coherence. That’s why you should primarily use MT for texts that merely need to be understandable and informative, such as:

  • Product documentation, support resources, and user content – necessary technical content that takes up a considerable chunk of your translation budget due to its large volume
  • Content with a short life cycle such as specifications for products that will only be available via online stores for a short period of time

MT offers savings potential of up to 60 percent, making it a particularly attractive option during tough times. While it’s easy to get caught up in the advantages, don’t disregard the risks associated with this innovative solution – implementing machine translation is more complex than it may seem at first glance. Do not under any circumstances use raw machine translation without having it revised first. Think about how potential customers would react if they came across your company’s website – inaccurate and stodgy MT would portray you in a poor light and put them off buying your products and services.

Added value of your translations

Companies don’t always take a strategic and all-encompassing approach when selecting which content they want translated. This is often related to the fact that communication may not flow as smoothly as it should between the many stakeholders in translation projects, as they are sometimes based in several  different countries.

Here is where it makes sense to think about the added value generated by specific translations. “Added value” can be defined in different terms depending on the context, whether it’s increased sales figures, stronger customer loyalty, or greater brand awareness.

You’ll find countless data for analyzing this added value in the relevant marketing dashboards – from Google Analytics, to HubSpot and WordPress, right through to CRM systems and content management tools. Important KPIs for measuring added value include:

  1. Reach: website traffic, number of page views, number of downloads, time spent on the website
  2. Engagement: return rate, number of shares/likes on social media
  3. Sales: revenue generated, number of new leads, conversion rate

Let’s take a look at two examples:

  • Tools like “Site Content” in Google Analytics provide information on which subpages and resources on your website are most (and least) frequently visited.  This is a good starting point for identifying which translations help you to achieve a particularly wide reach.
  • Translating extensive product documentation is costly. You should check whether users actually use your localized documentation, or if they prefer to rely on the original version – ultimately, the costs should shore up the benefits. 

Summary

Without a doubt, there are plenty of ways of evaluating which translations are particularly effective and which are less important. We recommend that you don’t view having content translated as a necessary evil, but as a strategic business opportunity that you should greet with the same enthusiasm as you do any other business initiative. This keen perspective and modern data analysis will undoubtedly help you to successfully convey your brand message to your target markets, even when you’re under financial strain.