Tag: Startups


Localization lessons from a software startup

Localization Technology, Multimedia Translation

When I started working in a startup company as a technical writer, little did I know that in a few short years I would be managing software localizers working on three continents. What I learned in that role makes for an interesting tale and might be helpful to someone in a similar situation. If you are currently working in a startup, or hope to do so one day, please let me share a few things that might be useful to you. MultiLingual‘s issue on startups just went live, so you can check that out as well.

A bit about the company

The company was a survivor of the dot-com bust. Its flagship product was a web-based e-procurement product. There were two kinds of customers — individual corporations and e-commerce exchange sites. The large corporations would install the product on their own servers, and allow their suppliers to respond to request for proposals (RFPs) or participate in reverse auctions — auctions where suppliers tried to secure sales by lowering their prices in competition against other suppliers. The e-commerce exchanges would allow their own customers to do the same on systems that they (the exchanges) maintained.

In the early years, all the customers were based in the United States. The development team was aware that internationalizing the product would be a good idea, but this was certainly not a priority. In the first months of the company’s existence it, after all, was easy to understand why. The technology was new, not widely understood and the payoff from a significant investment was uncertain.

That all changed, of course, once one customer — an e-commerce exchange for mining and oil companies — was eager to pay for user interfaces in Portuguese and Spanish. Internationalization and translation were suddenly spoken of in almost reverent tones by everyone. Around this time, I became involved in the effort, probably because the online help was by far the largest chunk of text requiring translation.

Internationalization issues

While the initial internationalization proceeded smoothly, this simple coding requirement became the source of problems as the product evolved and the code base grew. Sometimes junior engineers or contract employees would forget to externalize strings in this or that module. Errors like these usually led to a reprimand and to reminders that all functionality would eventually be translated.

While these minor mishaps were perhaps excusable in less experienced coders working to meet tight deadlines, that was not the case for other offenses. The most grievous sin against internationalization, for example, was committed by a senior consultant. An audit revealed that he had left over 2,000 error messages embedded in the code. This caused significant delays in translating and testing the product.

No text in image files

One of the mistakes that we made early on was to use literally hundreds of PNG files in the product. At that time, the web was so new that the idea of graphics inserted between text or overlaying text seemed like a great idea. While this strategy made for some attractive web pages, it became a huge burden once we began translating the product.

Fortunately, after one or two rounds of translation, the illustrator found a way to automate the creation of the localized images. Later on, the development team worked to remove text entirely from images and enter it in resource files. While exceptions to this rule were sometimes made in response to a customer request, it was largely respected and helped reduced translation costs.

Customer-specific translations

Even when every string was properly externalized, translated and delivered, it sometimes happened that a customer would want to change previously approved translations for one reason or another. Originally, this was seen as a software problem. A bug report was filed by a field engineer and processed accordingly, eventually getting assigned to localization. Then the original translation was replaced with the requested one.

Since some terms employed in the localized UIs were neologisms, it is not surprising that customers would want to change them as the technology was adopted and the language describing it matured. For some customers, however, opening a ticket and waiting for a patch release was too time-consuming a process to change a text string. They wanted to change translations on their own whenever they saw the need, or in response to criticisms from their suppliers.

In response to this demand, and in response to the growing number of bug reports that were simply language issues, the development team created a tool that allowed authorized users to change localized text interactively. By clicking a text string on the served browser page, an authorized user could enter a new string and save it directly to the localized RESX file. While not every customer decided to use this tool, it did considerably reduce the number of language bugs that were submitted.

localization software exampleIn addition to providing this tool, we adopted a more customer focused approach to translation. This was especially important since in several of the target languages — particularly Slovenian, Turkish and Russian — there were at that time no standard, agreed-upon translation for certain e-procurement terms. In the case of Slovenian, for example, the translator discovered that he was first to introduce several terms into the language by working directly with the customer who had demanded this language.

Updating resource files

As noted above, many of the customers were large corporations and drove development of customer-specific functionality. This led to custom resource files in addition to standard resource files. Their demands often led to features that were incorporated into the main product.

In the early days, when there was just one customer that wanted the user interface translated into Spanish and Portuguese, updating the standard and custom resource files was a relatively easy task. Over time, as the number of supported languages grew, and as the number of customers grew maintaining and updating the resource files became a full-time task.

It was necessary to create a tool that would compare the English resource files — both base and custom ones — with the localized resource files in order to extract the strings requiring translation. Once those strings were translated, the tool would need to re-integrate them into the existing localized resource files.

We looked for an off-the-shelf software package that could do this, but at the time there were none that met our needs. Happily enough, an engineer volunteered to create a Java-based utility that performed all these tasks remarkably well. Since the number of resources eventually swelled to over 12,000, you can imagine that this utility was essential.

Figure 2 shows the translation update workflow. As shown below, the tool performed two separate comparisons in order to generate a delta or diff file containing the strings to be translated. It compared the current English resource file to the previously translated resource file to capture the resource strings that had been added. Then it compared the strings in the current English resource file to the strings in the previously translated file to see if any of the strings had changed. Then it compared the English files against each of the localized resource files in order to determine which strings needed to be added, deleted or modified for each language.

The diff files containing the new and modified strings were sent out for translation. The agency translators used translation memory from previous assignments to translate the strings. After delivery, the translation tool integrated the newly translated diffs into the existing translated resource files.

localization software

Lowering translation costs

While this tool worked well from a technical perspective, the turnaround for agency translations was often slow, or at least too slow for some of our customers. Each translation job required a quote, and each quote required approval. The lag between initial quote request and delivered translations could sometimes exceed eight business days, even for a relatively small translation job.

Delays such as this and the relatively high cost of agency translations did not escape the attention of upper management. One of the conditions of profit maximization is cost minimization and the CFOs of startup companies are acutely aware of this. The end result for localization was constant pressure to lower translation costs.

One of the more interesting attempts at doing this involved the creation of a localization group based in India. The startup, which had by then become profitable, bought a small Indian company that had useful industry data. The CEO of this company had on occasion hired locally based translators for short-term assignments. He suggested that we do the same.

I hesitated at first, knowing from experience how complicated it was to translate the user interface and online help. At the insistence of upper management, however, I slowly assembled a team of translators. This team consisted mostly of expatriates who were living in India for various reasons.

Since these recruits were largely new to professional translation, we organized training for them both on our software products and on the various tools that we used in-house. While few had had previous exposure to software development, most were able to learn enough to adapt to the demands of the job.

After the initial ramp up, we were able to lower translation costs and speed up translation turnaround. This was possible because the translation memories built up from earlier rounds of translation enabled the team to leverage existing translations when formulating new ones. This strategy worked especially well when the remote translators worked on software updates.

The takeaway

If you should find yourself responsible for localization in a startup company, there are four things that you are likely to encounter:

  • A lack of knowledge of internationalization
  • Coding lapses on the part of the development team
  • Customer concerns such as complaints about translated strings
  • A persistent demand to lower translation costs

To deal with these issues, it would be best to employ the following strategies:

  • Explain whatever needs explaining to whomever
  • Remind development managers to enforce internationalization coding standards
  • Remember that the customer is king
  • Defend the need for quality translation but be open to new approaches, whether technological or labor-related
  • Have fun — so many people would relish the chance to do what you do

Kevin Donovan has worked in localization for over 15 years. He has managed translation teams working on healthcare and business (B2B) software. He has also written articles for the Wall Street Journal and Computer Graphics World.


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Haven’t an Iota About Fintech Localization? Try Cryptocurrencies

Localization, Localization Technology

Money, Money, Money Meets Its Waterloo

Apologies to ABBA fans about the cheesy introduction. But, mamma mia we need to talk about cryptocurrencies!

Lattés with your Litecoin? Crypto Café in Dublin, accepts cryptocurrencies and hard cash. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Lattés with your Litecoin? Crypto Café in Dublin, Ireland accepts cryptocurrencies and hard cash. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

The Chips Are Down For Fintech

I enjoyed a must-read Medium article from Graham Rigby of Iota Localisation Services about the challenges of Fintech localization. Graham talks about how Fintech localization is different from ERP financial or vertical banking localization. He also tells us how a changing business environment means localization providers need to be agile, collaborative, and flexible:

“The way financial products are sold, communicated, and presented in the current market mean that linguists who have spent 20 years translating mortgage terms might not be best equipped to deal with the style and nuance of the text in a money transfer app.”

Indeed, the very notion of a “bank” itself has changed: Deutsche Bank in Berlin is now into Kaffee und Kuchen for the hip and happening people of the Hauptstadt.  ImaginBank from Spain is aimed at snombies, sorry, I mean the mobile generation.

And now, cryptocurrency localization is upon us, and that requires linguistic domain expertise too. Ironically, there is even a cryptocurrency called … Iota (designed for use with the Internet of Things [IOT]).

Oh No, It’s ONO!

I’ve changed career in the last few months, now offering digital transformation consultancy to established and startup ventures seeking to design the right digital thing the right way and to be ready to go global. I’ve been diving into the cryptocurrency space and grappling with the new ideas, concepts, and a new strange language that comes with it.

Cryptocurrency word cloud: Has language itself been disrupted by innovation? (Wordle by Ultan Ó Broin)

Cryptocurrency word cloud: Has language itself been disrupted by innovation? (Wordle by Ultan Ó Broin)

This is about much more than the Bitcoin and blockchain buzzwords du jour that people throw about without actually having an iota what these mean or indeed possible uses (blockchain, for example is behind the Chinese social media platform, ONO).

Mental “Block” About Cryptocurrencies?

If you want to explore this decentralised space further, there’s a blog series worth reading from Genson C. Glier on blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency. I also recommend  this podcast from Tim Ferriss that covers all you were afraid to ask about, although some of terms and concepts will make your head spin (cheat list: jump to the “Show Notes” on the podcast). Try understanding these terms: Miner, Smart Contract, Daap, Truffle, Ganache, Hashcash, “Wet” Code, “Dry” Code, ICO, Metamask, and Gas.

Advertisement for eToro cyrptocurrency platform on Dublin public transport. Interest in cryptocurrencies has increased greatly in Ireland.

Advertisement for the eToro cryptocurrency platform on Dublin public transport. Interest in cryptocurrencies has increased greatly in Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Although many people and institutions are rightly cautious about cryptocurrencies, they are a “thing” now and attitudes are shifting from suspicion to curiosity Providing localization of the conversation around cryptocurrencies and non-developer facing terms would be a great starting point to increase familiarity and adoption

Providing localization of the conversation around cryptocurrencies and non-developer facing terms would be a great starting point to increase familiarity and adoption Click To Tweet.

Read the small print. Consumer warning about cryptocurrencies lack regulation and protection on an eToro advertisement in Dublin, Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Read the fine print. Consumer warning about cryptocurrency lack of regulation and protection on an eToro advertisement in Dublin, Ireland. (Image: Ultan Ó Broin)

Cryptocurrency Localization Needed

Generally, cryptocurrencies are for most adopters a form of value storage. However, cryptocurrencies are rapidly becoming a medium of value exchange, too (“digital money”). Bitcoin ATMs are appearing globally, for example. In Ireland, about 120,000 people in Ireland now own a cryptocurrency, a 300 per cent increase in the last four years. And yet, that basic usability heuristic of using plain language to communicate a concept even to experts to enable ease of use and adoption has already gone out the window.

The list of Bitcoin-friendly countries contains some surprises (Estonia is number one), and includes locations where English is very often not a mother tongue (although development tools and coding platforms are in English). We cannot be dismissive of the significant regulatory and security aspects of cryptocurrencies for now. But localization challenges are worth planning for now if cryptocurrencies are to move to the mainstream beyond those Silicon Valley types and their friends.

It’s likely, of course, that we will also see traditional finance, banking, Fintech, and cryptocurrencies all interact with more solidity in the future, adding to the need for more localization creativity.

Cryptocurrency Disruption Includes Language

At times, it’s hard to accept that the localization maxim English Is Just Another Language could apply in a cryptocurrency space that seems to have disrupted the notion of the English language itself. James Joyce might be proud of this kind of word invention, and of course it’s all a matter of context. But I remain gobsmacked by some of the terms I come across. It’s clear that lack of localization is a serious barrier to cryptocurrency adoption when even someone who has  worked in digital tech for three decades is struggling.

I need to learn that lingo though, as Dublin seems to be place it’s all happening for those cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions.

Ah, the irony of that word, block, when it comes to getting your head around cryptocurrencies.

More About Cryptocurrencies?


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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

SDL Tados 2021

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Reaching a global audience to maximize your startup’s potential

Globalization, Language in Business, Localization Basics

Globalization maximize startups

The Global Policy Forum reported as far back as the year 2000 that the pace of globalization — the process by which organizations start operating or influencing internationally — was quickening. Technological advances have been key to this change of pace. Globalization is not without its drawbacks, but many leading economists and business analysts believe it is better than the alternative. Indeed, Deloitte reports that after the global financial crisis in 2008, leaders around the world pledged to avoid protectionist measures to boost growth and speed up the global financial recovery.

The global environment we now live in poses both challenges and opportunities for new businesses. Startups today have a wider audience at their fingertips than ever before. A vast international customer base awaits those with the vision and courage to reach out to it. Technology can help with this, and the next issue of MultiLingual, on startups, will cover this when it goes live in a few days.

But the human element is still essential. Let’s look at language as an example of this.

Microsoft has just announced its latest machine translation (MT) success: achieving parity with the quality of human translation for the Chinese-English language pairing on 2,000 sentences in a test environment. However, there is still an incredibly long way to go before MT can rival human translation services. As such, startups that want to promote their products globally are reliant on professional human translators in order to assist them.

Adaptation and localization services are also essential. An image that is perfectly acceptable in one country can cause sufficient offense for arrest warrants to be issued in another. Any business with global aspirations therefore needs to use specialist local knowledge when globalizing its brand. Doing so does take time, but the rewards can be well worth the effort.

Our company, for example, recently launched 11 new websites targeting clients in various new countries as part of its globalization strategy. The French site is targeted to customers in France, Belgium, Canada and other French-speaking countries. Meanwhile, the German site is aimed at German-speaking territories, such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The choice of languages for the new sites was the result of extensive research. Supply and demand were the cornerstones of the research. The demand front covered the number of speakers of the languages being considered, local business activity, size of potential customer base and search engine statistics (anchors, keyword volumes and more). On the supply side, we investigated competition and concurrency in the relevant markets, availability of local translation and localization experts, cost of advertising, cost of pay per click/SEO and similar parameters.

For companies just starting out, global dominance may seem a tall order. However, the right product can have almost boundless appeal. Have you heard of Slack? If you haven’t, you’re behind the curve. Founded less than a decade ago, the business messaging system is now available in more than 100 countries around the world. Meanwhile, TV network Netflix, founded in 1997, is available in all but four countries (China, Crimea, North Korea and Syria).For companies just starting out, global dominance may seem a tall order. However, the right product can have almost boundless appeal. Click To Tweet

Not every startup will want to go global. However, even the smallest of ideas can go a long way in the global environment in which we live. You might dream of simply running a local coffee shop, but that’s how Starbucks started too. The world’s largest coffee company, it now operates in 62 countries.

Whatever your business niche, it’s likely that there’s money to be made by turning globalization to your advantage. A carefully devised strategy, based on appropriate research, is the starting point. Identifying target countries and languages through a measured approach will ensure that time and money are both used efficiently when it comes to international expansion plans.

If you have a great product or service, the world really can be your oyster.

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Louise Taylor manages content for the Tomedes Translators blog. She has worked in the language and translation industry for many years.

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Emerging localization technology for startups

Blogos, Translation Technology

StartupXl8Our Startup localization issue went live today, and in celebration, we’re sharing a guest post on the subject from Blazej Szperlinski of Text United. Read more on the subject here.

Why don’t more startups have their content translated? It’s easy to think that startups don’t localize due to limited funding or lack of language skills required to follow through with customer service for international clients. Perhaps localization is still waiting for its prime time, lingering in the back of startup founders’ heads to be used when the time is right?

But why would startups hesitate to implement localization tech? The English speaking market is becoming crammed with so many viable choices that breaking through requires tremendous effort. It’s already happening. Try searching for a fitness app on your smartphone and you’ll see what I mean. Instead of fighting the trend, startups will surely embrace localization as a financially viable and logical growth strategy. Either that, or they’ll drown in the sea of business clones.

It’s true that startup products are never ready and go through continuous improvement cycles. Yes, the marketing messages are always being A/B tested for optimal conversion rates. But is that really what’s stopping so many startups from reaching huge, international markets for a fraction of the cost they’ve put in to building their company? Especially since most new startups dive headfirst into scalable, cloud based business models.

Maybe it just doesn’t come to mind. After all, Eric Ries’ magnum opus, The Lean Startup, does not mention localization as a usable business driver. The subject is scarcely touched upon by startup blogs, especially with all the white noise generated by badly executed content marketing initiatives and so-called social media ninjas.

Many startups are waiting for the perfect day with 100% uptime, a predictable revenue stream, a featured article in Tech Crunch and a massive social media following. They plan to localize, but rather do it when every other process is already successfully implemented and they’ve established a strong position within their marketplace.

Perhaps startups hesitate because they’re scared of the sheer volume of work it presumably takes to execute an effective localization plan that allows the business to grow. But does it really?

Localization tediousness is a myth

Localization technology has improved dramatically over the last couple of years. One can recall a time when every bit of text had to be copied into a Word or Excel file, submitted to a translation agency, then pasted back into the content management system and applied to a separate instance of web or product content. The smallest change that would happen during this time would completely disrupt efficiency of multiple people’s work, making it nearly impossible to implement within a fast paced environment. I would argue that this ghost of the past is haunting startup owners, blocking them from taking the leap from English speaking to international markets.

Nowadays it’s simple to extract, parcel and deliver content directly to professional translators. Their work can be returned and automatically implemented within minutes, regardless if we’re talking about websites, documentation, mobile apps, software projects or marketing brochures. Application programming interfaces (APIs) that are, as a standard, bundled with any office software, allow immediate content extraction. This is useful for many reasons, the main one being to send the content directly to other apps and systems.

Every bit of office content is digital. Startups are using cloud drives to store their scrapbooks. Websites are governed by versioning systems that allow many people to work simultaneously without interrupting each other. Blogs are written in collaboration, in the cloud, in order to impact accessibility. Content publishing is a huge part of a marketer’s daily routine, that allows search engines to index and ultimately deliver the message to potential buyers. Legal documents are in a secure folder, and client references stay appended within a customer relationship management system. Marketing automation technology stores every newsletter, email sequence and ad. It’s all just begging to get localized.

Visual content such as dynamic images, videos or static such as PDFs with embedded graphics are slightly more difficult, since they can’t have the linguistic content harvested that easily. This is a minor obstacle, though, since quite a few localization technology companies employ professional project managers who handle these materials manually. They’re somewhere in the middle of the process, so clients don’t even need to think about it.

Adopting localization in startups

Startups have a certain rhythm. They launch fast, collect feedback, reiterate and repeat the process. They’re prone to quick pivots in messaging and value proposition, though they also need to build sustainability. It’s like having ten minutes of play time trying to fit a round block into a space of unknown proportions.

With this in mind, a startup will continuously change its size and form, trying out ideas for communications and product features at the speed of light. They test their markets and business models this way. What if I tell you they double, triple, quadruple this testing effort with localization?

Given the inter-connectivity of programming frameworks, content management systems and localization tech, startups can enjoy the benefits of having their entire business localized and still maintain high velocity iteration cycles. Since a startup’s app is usually solving a single problem, its translation will cost less than hosting a pizza day in the office, and additional updates or consistency checks will only get cheaper as time passes by.

Localization tech takes advantage of an automatically generated database standard called translation memory. If this is implemented early on, it can learn phrases, sentences and lingo, then suggest it to translators, so their work is completed faster and cheaper by the amount of translation memory input used.

Early implementation of translation tech is imperative for keeping costs at their lowest. It saves time and reduces fees thanks to repetition analysis. It’ll also allow consistency across any language based on the ever changing English version (or whatever the source language is).

Distribution can be a challenge, but startups tend to rely on content marketing as a powerful lead driver. When this content is written, Google and other search engines position it for grabs under smart keyword searches. Having that same content grant double the results when it’s translated may require minimal search engine marketing effort.

The same is true for paid ads. If the product and content is readily localized, there is absolutely no reason not to localize ads and geo-target them wherever startups think there’s a market. As a bonus, please remember that local ads are usually way cheaper than the English ones.

The beauty of having localization tech implemented is that it serves as a concierge for both consistency and upkeep. You won’t ever have to worry about the changes you make to your source content, since they will automatically be submitted for translation in any language you use. This way of working also ensures you always use consistent terms for the little things, like call to action messages or system errors, which are always overlooked.

Economics of sharing and crowdsourcing

As bogus as it sounds, crowdsourcing and the sharing economy is here to stay. Entire societies are jumping on board with Uber, AirBnb and Kickstarter, and are providing amazing value to one another by sharing the means they have to make their local world a better place. It’s instinct and self preservation. Startups are making sure that this instinct is capitalized upon, and provide more and more solutions allowing people to take part in greater initiatives.

The international adoption of the aforementioned services and their clones is a prime example of how startups are impacting behaviors and beliefs of entire nations — something historically only accomplished by either religion or governments. This outstanding opportunity to build an idea in spare time, out of a cluttered garage, and then share that idea with the entire world, is in this case the market’s response to startup founder instincts.

About the Author: As a marketer by trade and product designer by heart, Blazej Szperlinski focuses on easy inclusion of translation tech in international expansion of businesses.

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Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

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Smartling: Developing the Cloud Translation Experience

Blogos, Language Industry News and Events, Translation Technology

Smartling Logo

After meself and himself of Smartling met at the Websummit, I wanted to look at a forthcoming Smartling self-service offering suitable for software developers. When Jack Welde (@jwelde) (i.e., himself) gave me the nod, I got to it, taking the opportunity to reflect on the developer experience and enterprise translation, generally.

Offering translation “as a service” for developers faces two related issues: how to make it easy for busy developers to get stuff translated without disrupting their core activity, and how to build a business model out of all that. My main concern is the developer experience, but it’s obvious the Smartling startup puck is heading towards the enterprise.

Exploring Smartling

Smartling is a rising star, with 65 million USD in funding; regarded as the industry disruptor to watch in 2015.

Smartling packs a REST-like API to integrate with, and connect to, development environments for software resources of all sorts, web-based content, documentation, and so on. From a developer perspective, a PaaS ability to use APIs to hook up translation to IDEs, dev environments and source control systems, is a must-have feature. Eliminating on-premise hardware and consulting set up time offers more ROI and productivity.

It was easy for me to get going in the Smartling browser-based UI, uploading a Java properties file, and exploring the features.

Smartling uses a very cool Context Capture API to associate visual context to HTML content for translation. Connecting a rendered UI to translatable resource string IDs (offering a preview of the translation into the bargain) makes for a better final deliverable. Behind-the-firewall HTML content can be similarly contextualized using the Chrome Context Capture extension.

Previewable source and target strings shown in context during translation

Previewable source and target strings shown in context during translation

Externalization of content from code is key to having developers on your side. Most IDE and file formats have i18n/L10n support to abstract away translation risk, so Smartling has a great baseline to enable quality translation and development productivity alike, the translator UI protecting valuable coding goodness from damage during the source-to-target language change.

Smartling provides automatic extraction of a glossary for review, a way to include style guidance, and offers features in the translator UI to define and move about patternized placeables, dashboard reporting, and so on. Mucho flexibility, if you need it.

Extracted glossary entries

Extracted glossary entries

Smartling also enables customization of the translation workflow to suit business needs. For example, different translation workflow steps might be tailored to involve particular stakeholders before the translation is finalized (enterprise stakeholders, beyond end users, are that “political third rail”; forgotten with disastrous results).

Easy customization of translation workflow steps

Easy customization of translation workflow steps

I conjured up my own translations, but Smarting integrates with human and machine translation for a quality result.

What developers care about is a productivity solution in the cloud that resonates with their world of work, and that worked for me. I liked the Smartling approach. It was easy to set up, to integrate into processes, to see stuff translated in context, and to get valid translated files back for the build or deployment stage.

Understanding Developers

The “translation as a service” model is not new. GitHub, APIs, Python, Ruby, Node.Js, PaaS, and so on, are now standard parts of the developer lexicon. Yet, the localization industry continues to play catch up with developer community happenings, whether they be FOSS-based or corporate.

Developers are not translators, and don’t want to be. Empathizing with the developers’ world is the foundation for ideating together on smart solutions. Smartling has already done some awesome developer outreach such as the LinguaHack event in Kiev (others, please take note).

LinguaHack 2014 from Smartling on Vimeo. Click to launch.

Smartling LinguaHack Hackathon in Kiev, 2014

So, Smartling looks like a fine solution from the developer perspective; one for builders to get apps, websites and documentation translated easily and out there into the global market. It is, of course, an on-going story.

Smartling nails the notion that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to translation for developers, and from my explorations the solution hits the mark with cloud-based developer productivity and usability.

To use all Smartling features optimally is really an enterprise-level undertaking. Developers will never rush to attach contextual images or add descriptive notes to strings. Reviewing glossary extractions, creating translated terminology, and so on, are not developer competencies. Such things require a team: localization managers, translation coordinators, terminologists, information professionals, and others working further upstream in the software development lifecycle.

Enterprising Solutions

Enterprise translation requirements now go far beyond app resources, HTML sites, and documentation. It’s a complex business, and comes with critical performance, scalability and security prerequisites. Sure, it’s unglamorous, but as Oscar Wilde says, it’s better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

Enterprises need to see real ROI and have incentives to move from current solutions. This is true of on-premise to SaaS adoption generally; there are other constraints too. Like user experience generally, making that decision “depends”.

So, I’ll be watching where that enterprise translation puck goes in 2015 for Smartling, and for others.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Silicon Valley and Localization: The Movie

Language Industry News and Events

Well…. almost. It’s a great video of a recent International Multilingual User Group (IMUG) meetup in Silicon Valley on the topic of Localization at Startups.

Localization at Startups :: IMUG 2014.04.17

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

A hot and popular topic, and one I’d love to see covered in other locales, too. Seems the Valley can’t get enough of this kind of insight. With good reason.

Are you listening, Enterprise Ireland?

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Transifex: A Language Developers Understand

Language in Business, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I’m hearing great things from software professionals about Transifex, a SaaS translation solution based in Silicon Valley.  As I work in user experience developer relations, I Skyped in Dimitris Glezos (@glezos), Transifex founder and Chief Ninja, in Greece to find out more.

Dimitris’s background is in software development, Transifex originating as an open source project. The passions and principles of the FOSS development community, collaborating on a cloud-based platform, remain true today. Transifex knows how developers work in the cloud, and provides a user experience that makes sense to a world of GitHub, PaaS, Python gettext, RESTful APIs, Ruby, SaaS, and so on. Transifex has even been referred to as “the GitHub of software translation“, which is some accolade in the development community!

Transifex API enables integration of software development workflows and tools in the cloud.

Transifex API enables integration of software development workflows and tools in the cloud.

The Transifex user community now has more than 100,000 developers and translators, working together on over 10,000 projects. Transifex users range from well-known enterprises to tech startups and the open-source community. Transifex can quietly boast of a diverse portfolio of successful translation projects ranging from hundreds millions of words of online courseware to strings for wearables and apps. A testament that Transifex is not a “one size fits all” model, what is really staggering about such a breadth of achievements is that it happened without Transifex having a single sales person, or offering those LSP-style “services”.

The Transifex platform is development friendly and flexible, tooling up small pockets of remote developers to build iterative, dynamic content using 24/7 workflows and lean software methodologies.  Exceling with the detection of string changes and merging, Transifex is easily integrated into development environments through an API and command line interface.  Transifex works upstream too, a string pseudo-translation capability enables developers to test their internationalization chops before starting translation.

Transifex translators use a browser-based online editor. This user experience packs CAT capabilities, support for glossaries, collaborative tools, screenshot preview for context, and other cool features. Translation projects are overseen in a contemporary online dashboard experience (it’s translated, too).

Transifex user dashboard view.

Transifex user dashboard view.

The  editor supports the major file types (including XLIFF and “TMX), has built-in QA for code variables in strings, enables character limits to be set, handles singular and plural variants, and makes it easy for developers and translators to work together.

Transifex online translation editor.

Transifex online translation editor user interface.

“It’s translation the way developers want it, or the way they would have built it themselves”, says Dimitris. Most large companies have figured out a translation process, but many now innovate rapidly with small teams using agile frameworks and don’t want to build their own translation infrastructure. Developers are busy people who like to be productive,  solving code problems using smart reusable solutions, and don’t need extra work. “It isn’t easy to build a translation process”, says Dimitris, “Instead, Transifex is integrated into existing development tools and workflows”.

The Transifex success is based on an understanding of developers and translators and how they work, keeping both these users at the center of the user experience. An easy to use solution that seamlessly matches development processes and work styles with a community of online translators generates a powerful networking effect of kudos from satisfied users, who share their positive experiences with others.

“If developers love it, they talk about it!” says Dimitris. That’s the sort of organically-generated  customer experience that most can only aspire to, and money alone cannot buy. There are powerful lessons from Transifex  about how software development teams and translators can work well together, not least of which is “know your users”.

The Transifex story continues to unfold, and you can find out more about building international products using a SaaS platform in the case studies on the Transifex website.

If you have other examples of cloud-based integrations of translation and software development teams, please  share them in the comments.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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