A Service Oriented Approach to Localizing Web content

May 30, 2007

A Service Oriented Approach to Localizing Web content

Organizations are finding that the use of multiple languages and translations can be a competitive differentiator, particularly with websites designed for online transactions such as shopping, finance, or travel. A number of trailblazing companies have created multiple country-and-language-specific websites, and leveraged them to provide a consistent brand image across all markets. They sell products and services globally but market them locally.  In the online world where the customer cannot physically touch the product and is rarely able to speak one-on-one with a salesperson, the words and images on the web site that describe the product or service are important to the sales process. Selecting the “right words” becomes critically important and translating those words into the local language accurately drives revenue by opening up new markets and creating customer loyalty.

From this perspective, many organizations are missing opportunities and losing revenues in the process of managing web content on a global basis. Organizations without an effective global content management process risk having their branding and sales messages lost in translation.

So what is an effective global content management process? It is not simply a matter of hiring a good translation service. The translations of web content can be prohibitively expensive, especially when the work is decentralized, and companies cannot reuse translated content across the enterprise. Translations can take too long because they are not incorporated into the enterprise marketing process at the outset and the quality may be inconsistent, variations occurring in different regional locations. The simple truth is that organizations need a cost-effective, consistent, and repeatable approach to global content management in order to communicate effectively with a global audience.

In reality, web content is just one of many different types of enterprise assets that may need to be translated into multiple languages.  Other assets include service documentation and bulletins, sales and promotional material, operations, documents, compliance information, product labels and user documentation.  In many organizations today, the localization and translation of all of these various assets are managed by different business entities and within separate countries. Everything is fragmented.  The decentralized uncoordinated approach to localizing and translating web content is not much different to the process followed for the translation of many of these other assets as well.

Translation is typically seen as a cost.  It’s done in the local country with limited coordination back to corporate marketing executives.  Placing the responsibility for the translation in the hands of the local office may help to ensure that messages are adjusted to incorporate cultural nuances, but it plays havoc with an organization’s ability to maintain a consistent message. 

Most companies look to reinforce their brand by using consistent messaging in every country in which they operate—and in the local languages of those countries. This is something that has traditionally been labor intensive as each new block of text developed must be translated by humans. Yet most companies base their brand image around a common vocabulary and writing style, meaning that much of the content produced is similar in tone and content. In many cases, the same, or largely similar, text is translated over and over again.  This cost that is often invisible from an enterprise-wide view.  Translation is often thought of as an extension to the editing process with plans for translation made after the testing and fine-tuning of the marketing messages are complete.  Because the localization processes are so fragmented, many companies are not aware of the inefficiencies inherent in their current process. Companies need a way to increase productivity and reduce cost through the reuse of the content they create. They need to avoid going through the full translation cycle for each new product or promotion introduced on the website.

Consider a service oriented approach to translation as a means of creating standardized, reusable, and quality content that can be shared across the global enterprise.

For example, in order to promote the brand, the corporate marketing team of a global hotel chain creates the marketing themes and messages that will be featured on its website. By placing distinct chunks of this tested and qualified content in a content repository, the organization can share access to it across different regions and enable its reuse. Particular components of marketing or service content can be translated once and then reused ensuring consistency and accuracy. By centralizing the translations within the repository, the hotel marketing team can take advantage of automated translation services to control costs and provide quality translations as needed.

At times a company will want to vary some of the content across its multiple sites. For example, individual hotel managers need the flexibility to have their country’s website deviate from the master in order to promote local events or announce the opening of a new facility. An organization needs to find the right balance or the right granularity for describing content that can be accessed in a repeatable way as a service as compared to the type of content that should always vary across countries.

This type of service oriented approach to translation is employed by UK-based SDL.  The company offers what it terms “Global Information Management (GIM)” technology and services—effectively software and services for managing translations into all languages so that companies can more efficiently deliver a consistent brand message throughout the world.  Its products include the SDL Translation Management System (SDL TMS) for managing the processes and tasks associated with localization projects – from creation, content reuse and automated quality assurance tasks through to publishing. SDL TMS integrates the extended localization supply chain by allowing external translation agencies to download packages into SDL Trados Synergy. SDL claim that around 80% of the world’s professional translators use its Trados software.

This management system is built on a backbone of backend technology products, including language and business rules databases, dictionaries, terminology databases and translation memory repositories so that new projects can be checked against finished, approved projects and previously translated copy can be reused. SDL software is designed to automatically recognize important terms and phrases to ensure that commonly used phrases are only translated once. This improves the quality and consistency of automated translations and speeds the completion time for each new project. As well as technology, SDL offers a wide range of translation services to back up its automation capabilities.

Most recently, SDL has added to its capabilities with the acquisition of another European player—Tridion of the Netherlands, which offers web content management technologies. This provides companies with added capabilities in the creation and maintenance of a global web and multi-channel presence through capabilities such as Tridion’s Blueprinting technology, which enables more efficient reuse of content and its Building Blocks, based on the use of web services for more efficient management capabilities. With this acquisition, SDL increases its value proposition considerably for companies by closing the link between back-end translation processes and front-end publishing processes, even in the most dynamically changing environments.

The service oriented approach to localizing web content allows organizations to drive global revenues by leveraging a multi-lingual content repository to enable more consistent, accurate, and more timely translations. When you can plan and act globally and yet provide local content in the local language, the world is your oyster.

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About Marcia Kaufman

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