It’s time for localization experts to stop working in isolation and begin having more thorough and meaningful conversations with their colleagues in international marketing, user experience (UX), and other key fields — that was the key takeaway from a recent discussion between localization professionals Rikkert Engels and Maiju Nurminen.
Engels is the CEO and founder of both Xillio and LocHub, companies specializing in content migration services and localization respectively. This past June, he won the 10th Process Innovation Challenge at LocWorld. He recently sat down with what3words’ localization manager and strategist Nurminen — one of the finalists in the same contest, for the creation of a framework called Impact Localization — to discuss the current state of the localization industry.
MultiLingual had a chance to sit in on the conversation, to help you gain some insight on how modern localization practices can be improved to optimize international business growth and performance.
The two opened up their discussion with a brief conversation about the presentations and work at this year’s LocWorld conference. “Let me start by saying that I found your LocWorld presentation very inspiring,” Engels said to Nurminen about her work on the Impact Localization framework.
Engels said he found the tangible results of applying Nurminen’s framework to be particularly striking — he noted that he was quite impressed with the fact that Nurminen and her team were able to “achieve a double digit increase in [her] company’s app store simply by replacing images.” In her presentation at LocWorld, Nurminen talked about how she and her team suggested more culturally appropriate images to pair with localized texts. “No marketer will ever say no to suggestions on how to boost conversions,” Engels said.
“We worked with other teams to think about how localization can deliver a better user experience for our local users, rather than just providing information,” Nurminen responded. “Every decision we made has been researched and data-led, and the cumulative growth has been amazing to witness.”
Nurminen said her and her team’s Impact Localization framework specifically emphasized the importance of fostering a collaborative environment within an organization — in order to ensure high-quality localization, Nurminen believes it’s important to make sure that localization experts are integrated into the larger conversations happening around a business’ international marketing. “Cross-functional collaboration is the key here, and the Impact Localization approach emphasizes localization as a cross-functional operation as it should be,” she said.
“To move the needle, localization simply must be included in the international marketing planning. It can’t be separated anymore,” Engels said. “We could have turned a blind eye to this in the old monolithic world where everything happened in Adobe. But today, you have continuous publishing cycles in a headless environment. If that’s the case, translation can’t be treated as an afterthought anymore.”
Engels and Nurminen both stressed the importance of open communication between localization and marketing teams, as well as with other key stakeholders — this way, localization can be seen as less of an afterthought.
“It is a pity that localization is often reduced to a solely linguistic operation, and it’s hard to shake this perception,” Nurminen said. “As a result, other elements to complete a user experience get ignored and out of priority, which doesn’t provide the results we need to show creating a perpetual status of a cost-center just providing the internal language service.”
Nurminen and Engels also both agreed strongly on the importance of integrating elements of UX into the localization process — Nurminen said she believes UX is extremely underrated in the field, and that localization experts can learn a lot from the field of UX design.
“UX design is all about the user, empathy, and making well-informed, data-led decisions,” she said. “Alas, we often try to reduce it to a box we tick when we’re preparing for a launch. It’s incredibly valuable that we know where to go to test and map out critical errors before the website gets published.”
Engels added that he views UX as a particularly important aspect of the localization process because problems affecting a user’s overall experience with using a given platform will be much more noticeable than minor translation problems, such as spelling errors or small grammatical issues. He pointed to the underestimated importance of UX in the localization field by noting that there’s a wealth of tools to test language quality but, until recently, there were very few to test language experience. “As a user, I honestly wouldn’t notice a spelling error in German. But I [would] notice, and may be annoyed, if the page is half-English and half-German. And the seriousness of this example is that somebody [could spend] thousands of euros to offer the highest quality translation in German but ended up ruining the overall experience.”
“I think that obsessive focus on language quality and zero focus on the end user experience will get us nowhere,” he added. “Like [Nurminen] mentioned before, we cannot reduce localization to translation or transcreation.”
“Exactly,” Nurminen replied.