The Challenges of Urgent Website Localization During Global Crises

Can organizations effectively, accurately and quickly communicate with multilingual users during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Jessica Rivera's avatar
Jessica Rivera

March 25, 2020


Timely, clear, direct communication with multilingual customers has always been important—though not necessarily essential—for companies and governmental institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that.

As the scope of the disease continues to quickly spread, it is now mission-critical for organizations to provide urgent information to citizens and customers in their preferred languages.

Practically every industry has been impacted by the pandemic. Many organizations have realized that their outreach to multilingual constituents is falling short. Failing to localize urgent announcements, service updates, healthcare information and other communications can create risks such as:

  • Misaligned or misinformed messaging across global markets
  • Confused, frustrated or panicked customers
  • Loss in brand trust and revenue

Translating digital content at high speed, especially in times of crisis, projects empathy and good corporate citizenship. It also leads to better customer education, improves customer service, and increases brand engagement and conversions.

But it’s very challenging to translate online content at the pace of a pandemic. The technical complexities of websites, portals and other digital experiences usually confuse most translation solutions. This impacts their ability to localize content in a timely manner. Complicated, cumbersome workflows often create further translation delays.

Companies can scarcely afford that kind of lag in their outreach. Here’s a breakdown of the key challenges that create delays among most website localization solutions, and several suggestions for addressing them.

Content Detection

These days, online experiences are powered by programming code and content that are so thoroughly integrated, it’s often impossible for most translation solutions to discern the difference between them.

The kinds of technologies these solutions use to analyze websites can completely overlook some—or in worst-case scenarios, most—of a site’s translatable content. They can also misidentify phrases in a site’s programming code as text that requires translation. This leads to:

  • A UX that is only partially translated, which creates user confusion and frustration
  • A UX with broken functionality, due to mistakenly translated programming code
  • Technical setbacks as translation agencies (and their customers) scramble to fix the problems

In a time of crisis—where near-instant communication with customers is vital—these missteps create unacceptable translation delays.

Single-Page Applications and Dynamic Content

Modern web technologies and frameworks—such as web applications powered by JavaScript, Angular and React—further complicate matters, and create additional delays.

These technologies present text that is stored within dense programming code to deliver customized user experiences. Unfortunately, most translation solutions’ content-detection technologies can’t make sense of these frameworks. They often fail to properly detect their translatable content.

It can take vendors weeks to find these “hidden” strings of translatable text … if they can identify them at all. Meanwhile, the resulting translation delays—and missed opportunities to provide urgent information to multilingual constituents—continue to grow.

Inelegant Workflows and Slow Speed-To-Market

Even when common website localization solutions accurately detect translatable text, they often can’t translate it with much urgency. Here’s why.

Operational Complexity

Most translation vendors shift the responsibility of identifying and managing translatable content onto their customers. This unexpected workload creates extra work for organizations, demands the creation of new and unfamiliar workflows, and often requires additional human resources to accommodate.

This all leads to further delays and costs. Adding to the delays: Translation vendors can take weeks localize online content.

Predictably, this culminates in a website UX in which multilingual users never receive urgent information in a timely manner.

‘Batch’ Translations

Another common practice among translation vendors is a translation approach sometimes called batch translation. This also creates delays.

  • Many vendors won’t translate any online content until the amount of on-site untranslated text hits a specific number of words (this threshold is often predetermined and locked into a translation vendor’s contract)
  • Until this word-count threshold is met, untranslated text continues to populate the localized site for days or weeks
  • Once the word-count threshold is met, the vendor finally translates the content … but the volume of accumulated untranslated words may generate further delays in delivering the localized content

The end result: Content that should be translated right away (to say nothing about the rest of the untranslated on-site UX) goes untouched for far too long, eliminating its timeliness and relevance.

Pokey Speed-to-Market

The underdeveloped state of most solutions’ content-detection technologies and their slow translation deliveries impacts more than the day-to-day operation of multilingual sites. It also affects the initial translation and deployment of those sites.

Most solutions require several months, or up to a year, to fully localize and launch a website for a multilingual audience. Again, this lethargic timeline practically derails any meaningful way of communicating with multilingual constituents when they need information right away.

Next Steps

With so much at stake—and with the numerous localization challenges we’ve described, and others still—is it possible for organizations to ensure the urgent delivery of localized content during the COVID-19 crisis?

Proxy-based translation solutions are worth serious consideration. These solutions operate independently of a website’s or secure portal’s Content Management System and technology stack, and don’t require complicated integrations that demand ongoing IT development. This can reduce production and translation delays.

Organizations should be thoughtful about the proxy solution they choose, however.

Technology-Only Approaches

Some vendors provide only a proxy-based technology platform to localize websites, but only provide the technology. These solutions shift all implementation, setup, operation and translation processes onto customers. This usually demands a large development team, along with the ongoing management of complex workflows and people.

Within the context of providing expedited launches of localized websites and the daily translation of urgent content, this approach can create undesired costs and delays.

Technically Underdeveloped Approaches

Other proxy solutions require less day-to-day oversight, but often use the underdeveloped technologies and cumbersome workflows mentioned earlier in this story, such as:

  • The overlooking or misidentification of translatable content
  • The inability to parse complex single-page applications and dynamic content
  • Heaping configuration and operation work on to the customer’s IT team
  • Delays in translation deliveries due to inelegant workflows and “batch” translation processes

Turn-Key Proxy Solutions

The best turn-key proxy solutions, however, use mature technologies that address those shortcomings. These end-to-end solutions provide all the technology, hosting and personnel required to translate websites on an ongoing basis, in as many languages as an organization might need.

This hands-free approach eliminates effort for organizations, which eliminate time-consuming technical tasks and translation delays. Their robust technologies can easily distinguish translatable content from programming code—even in complicated web applications and dynamic-content databases.

The best solutions provide quick translation services turnaround times, too. New or updated content is identified for translation, translated, edited, QA’d and published within one business day—or within even tighter delivery timeframes, if needed.

Turn-key proxies can also translate and deploy multilingual websites, regardless of their size or complexity, in as little as 30 days.

Last updated on March 25, 2020
Jessica Rivera's avatar

About Jessica Rivera

Jessica Rivera brings an expert understanding of global business, executive leadership, and holistic team and culture building to her role as MotionPoint’s EVP, Global Sales and Corporate Affairs. She has over 15 years of experience collaborating with C-suites at leading SaaS and fintech companies.

Jessica Rivera's avatar
Jessica Rivera

EVP, People & Performance / Chief Legal Officer


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