Growing globally? Here’s a guide to efficiently translating your content for audiences abroad. 

By Meytal Markman (Product Manager, Rakuten Marketing)

Part of growing our global online presence is being able to efficiently manage translation and localization of content and data. Today we are going to zoom in on how to manage content translations as part of an agile software development cycle. The list of things to consider will vary depending on your needs, but here are ten high impact, high visibility places to focus your attention:


Depending on your budget this may be a free or open-source translation engine, a third party company, or internal resources. Think about this not just for your initial full content translation, but as an ongoing relationship you’ll need to maintain for adding new text, new languages, and making edits. It’s always best to have someone with knowledge of your industry working on this.


Building up an industry-specific dictionary with relevant translations for your business that you can grow and maintain will help improve the quality of your translations.


You likely have multiple file formats to manage across your applications. Multiply that by the number of languages you’re translating into, and by the number of people who will be working on the project and you can see why you need a clean and easy way to manage text updates. Whether you build in-house or use third party software, the ability for your project team to be able to see source and translated text side by side is essential.


Identify strings and words that are the same across pages and make sure they use the same translation where contextually appropriate.


Context will help your team test your translations. This is something to build in, or note, in your translation management software or system and to maintain long-term.


Do you have functionality that allows users to upload or download files? Think about file format (UTF-8 vs ANSI, for example) so that non-English characters are supported. How about cross-system data? Do you have data stored in another system that needs to be translated or localized (like numeric values or column headers in reports)? Make sure these systems are integrated as part of your translation strategy.


List and menu content can often originate from a table rather than sit directly in the code. Review this to identify text that will need translation. Furthermore, look at how that text will be displayed so that if you display menu options in alphabetical order, you can make sure that order is maintained across languages.


Do you have buttons or other images on your site that contain text? Prepare to switch over to an HTML & CSS approach. If you simply must have images, then invest some time in refactoring your code so that images can be swapped without needing a code change.


If you have any emails, newsletters or other communications that go out to your clients you need to make sure they are translated in order to provide a good end-to-end experience for your users. Take special note of system-generated messages, alerts or automatic emails as these are easy to overlook initially.


If you are translating in-house, most likely your translators are geographically distributed. Consider using a KanBan project board (for Agile development) to manage your process so that you can quickly see what stage translations are in (pending, in progress, ready for development, ready for testing, released).

A note on localization: In addition to displaying translated text content to users, make sure that elements such as date, time, currency and number formats are flexible in their formatting and display. For example: “01/10/2013” – is this January 10th or October 1st? “1.000” – is this “one point zero, zero, zero,” or is it “one thousand”? You get the idea.

Other considerations: This post does not cover right-to-left translations (RTL) nor does it go over content delivery (i.e. showing translations based on browser language, IP address, or user selection), but these are technical aspects that should be considered up front as well.

If you think about these things before you get started, you’ll be in a strong position when you begin translating your content.

This post originally appeared on: Rakuten Linkshare Tech Talk. 
meytalAbout the blogger: Meytal Markman is a Product Manager at Rakuten Marketing, based in San Francisco.  She is interested in human experience and enjoys the challenge of facilitating productivity by combining thoughtful design with clever engineering. She believes that a solid understanding of the end user and their overall workflow is vital to developing a successful product.