As we mentioned in a previous chapter, human linguists craft the best-possible translations, which is especially useful for localizing well-trafficked sections of an organization’s website such as its home page or landing pages.
But how does one identify the best translation services for their needs, while ensuring the vendor’s linguists can efficiently deliver world-class translations? For the uninitiated, it’s a challenge.
Companies should focus their attention on two key aspects of a vendor’s capabilities:
Its People: The qualifications and skills of the vendor’s linguists, and the resources they’re provided
Its Processes: The workflows and practices set in place to ensure efficient deliveries of high-quality translations
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these mission-critical qualities of world-class translation services and their linguists. You’ll get a crash course in the complexities of selecting an ethical, efficient vendor, including know-how about:
The Qualifications of Great Linguists: Demonstrable fluency in languages and cultures are essential for linguists, and it’s something you just can’t fake. We’ll provide the must-have qualifications to look for when selecting a vendor.
How Teams are Created and Managed: Great translations aren’t worth much if they don’t replicate a brand’s voice, or if word choice is wildly inconsistent throughout a localized site. There are ways great vendors can build and manage translation teams to avoid these missteps. We’ll show you how.
The Right Linguistic Sources: Great vendors arm their linguists with the right tools and resources to efficiently translate content at scale. You’ll get the skinny on such technologies and processes such as localized glossaries and style guides, segment matching capabilities, in-context translation tools and more.
World-Class Processes: You’ll learn the importance of certifications in ISO processes and other important industry compliance standards, and why you should especially seek out vendors that ensure security compliance—both for your localized websites, and the physical locations where that website data is stored.
Robust Editorial Review: Your world-class website should feature world-class translations … but such high standards require an intensive, and efficient, editorial review process. We’ll provide a reference sheet of important editorial steps that vendors should provide, as well as other capabilities to look for (such as the ability for you to review and change translations if needed).
Speed to Market: Finally, we’ll offer some insight into common SLAs for website translation and make recommendations on the kind of SLAs to look for from exceptional vendors.
Best Practices and Resources for Website Translators
International and multilingual customers demand content that’s just as confident, artful and alluring as the content found on a brand’s origin site. When their customers experience such stellar translations, organizations often see surges in web traffic, conversions, and revenue.
Getting it right means working with translation services that hire qualified linguists and arm them with the best linguistic resources and translation tools.
The Right Qualifications for the Right Translation Team
It takes more than linguistic fluency to craft great translations. It requires a team of experts with skills, certifications and a solid understanding of an organization’s industry, subject matter and target audience. Look for vendors that:
- Provide linguists that are absolutely fluent in the “source” and “target” languages
- Provide linguists with several years’ worth of experience translating content within your industry
- Are already familiar with your company, or can provide a clear process that proves they can rapidly educate themselves on your brand
- Can handle the unique translation demands of different media and distribution channels, such as text, videos, dynamic PDFs, social posts and third-party apps
- Can optimize online content for SEO with localized keywords, hreflang tags and other metadata
Demonstrable Market Expertise
The best translations reflect the individual demographics, habits, preferences, and experiences of a target market’s customers. Imbuing this intrinsic, invaluable verve into translated content is an artform, and often requires years of experience to properly achieve.
Look for translation services that use linguists with:
- Undisputed cultural knowledge of your target markets, so their translations will be culturally relevant
- A deep understanding of how to properly capture the nuanced tone and voice of a company’s brand in a given market
- Has the cultural fluency to consistently craft translations that transcend mere words and capture the ineffable verve of natively crafted content
It’s common for translation services to offer 24/7 translation support in case their customers urgently need translations to serve a specific international market, or to help address an emergency situation. However, it’s uncommon for these vendors to entrust those translations to the proper linguists.
They often delegate translation tasks to one of their many hundreds of linguists who happen to be “on the clock” when the translation request rolls in. These disparate linguists are often located all over the world.
This usually creates the impression of speedy global service, but it’s hard to craft pitch-perfect translations when the translator doesn’t have expertise in the customer’s industry or doesn’t have extensive experience translating for their brand.
Instead, look for vendors that offer 24/7/365 translation availability, but assign a dedicated translation team to your project from day one. This means the same linguists localize your website, day in and out. They’re on call for urgent tasks, too.
And since this same team works on your project at launch and ongoing, its linguists easily adapt to any changes your organization may make in tone or messaging, keeping your localized content fresh and engaging.
The Right Linguistic Resources for Translators
Localized Glossary & Style Guide
Make sure your translation service develops a localized glossary and style guide for your digital translation project.
These are linguistic rulebooks that provide translations for industry-specific terms, and explicit guidance on capturing your brand’s voice and tone. They’re like a “Rosetta Stone” of your brand, always accessible to our linguists for reference:
Localized Glossary: This includes preferred translated terms that accurately represent your products and industry and are optimized for local SEO.
Localized Style Guide: This resource includes instructions on how to presents your localized brand voice and tone.
‘Exact Match’ and ‘Fuzzy Match’ Capabilities
As we mentioned in a previous section, translation services use a special database-driven technology called translation memory to automatically re-publish previously translated phrases whenever they appear on an origin site.
You’ll recall that these word-, phrase- or sentence-length chunks are called segments.
Great vendors can leverage their translation memory technology in flexible ways to automate the publication of these previously translated segments, or identify segments that might be a good match to use when new phrases are identified for translation.
Look for vendors that support:
“Exact Segment” Matching: This application of translation memory is configured so that when new content is identified for translation:
- Technologies compare the new origin text against the translated segments already stored in translation memory
- When a 100% segment match is detected, the origin text is instantly replaced with the previously translated segments
- The best vendors never charge more than once to translate these segments, no matter how many times they appear on-site
- This configuration identifies and replaces identical segment matches only, ensuring linguistic accuracy
“Fuzzy” Matching: Translation memory can also be configured to analyze origin-text segments and—when a 100% match is not detected—offer the linguist several alternative translations, based on the contents of the translation memory.
In this configuration:
- When net-new content is detected, technologies present linguists with suggested translations, based on available translations in translation memory
- Linguists examine these new origin-language segments alongside localized “fuzzy match” results
- They can elect to deploy one of these existing translations, rather than putting the new content through the translation process again
- This human-review process generates a cost, though it is less than translating a segment from scratch
(You’ll learn more about the value of translation memory in an upcoming section.)
In-Context Translation Tools
Most website content is translated in a creative vacuum. This is because most vendors export and bundle a site’s content into spreadsheet files, which linguists then translate.
Since this translation is often occurring offline, or in cloud-based files that are still far removed from the text’s original online presentation, there’s practically no insight into how the translated text will display alongside other content on a webpage.
The end result: Translations that are functionally correct, but don’t reflect the context of a page-length narrative, or the full understanding of a page’s use of images, headlines or other UX elements.
This holistic verve can only be captured and crafted by linguists who have on-page context. Look for vendors who provide their linguists with this all-important visibility.
Most proactively solve for this problem by using a translation workbench and tool that provides translators with a live view of how text, images, and multimedia appear together on a webpage. This provides the context needed to make the right word choices every time.
In-context translation tools also help ensure a perfect localized UX. Here’s how.
Some languages require more words to express certain concepts than others. (For instance, Spanish translations are often 20% longer than their English counterparts.) This phenomenon is often called word growth, and it can impact the look and feel of webpages:
- Many websites are optimized for English content, but not necessarily for content in other languages
- During the translation process, text can grow beyond the bounds of English-optimized text fields
- This can wreck a page’s UX by creating misaligned headlines and images
- Technical functionality may be impacted, too
In-context translation tools offer linguists ways to tweak translations in real-time to accommodate page templates, and to visually confirm that the translated text integrates effortlessly with the surrounding content on the page.
Working this way produces accurate translations that play nicely with a website’s design. And it empowers linguists to make subtle-but-critical decisions about word choice, brand voice and phrasing. This helps guarantee that the translated content resonates with the intended audience.
Accommodates Customer Involvement
The best vendors also offer resources that ensure their customers can exercise creative control over translations when needed. (After all, no one knows a company’s brand and customers better than the company itself.)
Look for vendors that offer several ways for customers to provide direct feedback to linguists regarding a specific phrase, or even the ability to revise those phrases themselves. Some vendors offer tools that empower customers to:
- Navigate and review the full scope of their localized websites
- Provide linguistic feedback to the translation team
- Revise translations for improved clarity, word choice, etc.
- Review feedback and edits performed by their own team members
- Review their project’s localized glossary and style guide resources
Best Practice Processes for Website Translators
It’s not enough for translation services to bring excellent, qualified linguists to a website translation project. Those linguists should also leverage world-class workflows, certifications and processes to minimize operational complexities and costs while delivering authentic translations.
Clear, Consistent Communication
As you look for translation services, don’t be afraid to communicate clearly what you want, and how you want it—brand voice, tone, style, messaging and anything else that matters to your brand.
Best-in-class vendors will happily work with you to meet your needs, and will welcome clear direction about your brand voice, the preferences of your customers, and the details that really set your company apart from the competition.
Look for a provider that treats you like a partner, and who encourages frequent, clear and specific communication about how best to convey your brand in a new market.
Important Certifications for Website Translation
Look for vendors that implement security programs that provides flexible and comprehensive security controls to meet stringent industry requirements. Important certifications include:
ISO 17100 — Translation Services
This standard outlines requirements for the core processes, resources and other aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service. Certified organizations meet important international standards and offer reliable, consistent translation performance.
ISO 9001:2015 — Quality Management
ISO 9001 an international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use this standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.
PCI DSS Level 1 Service Provider
To ensure the security and privacy of its customers (and its customers’ customers), website translation vendors should have a PCI DSS Level 1 certification to localize transactional websites. This means completing annual security assessments conducted by an independent PCI SSC Qualified Security Assessor. They should also demonstrate ongoing practices that comply with PCI DSS.
HIPAA/HITECH Business Associate
Vendors should also completes regular independent assessments to ensure they comply with HIPAA Privacy and Security rules. This includes audits to demonstrate HIPAA compliance.
Other noteworthy certifications include:
- Privacy Shield, which complies with requirements for transferring personal data from the EU to the U.S.
- Visa Global Registry of Service Providers, the payment industry’s designated source for information on registered and compliant agents that provide payment-related services to Visa clients and merchants
Company-Wide Security Education
On-site security should also be practiced by vendors and their linguists. This includes personnel screening and ongoing education on how to safeguard information assets. Training includes topics such as:
- Acceptable use
- Physical security
- Data privacy
- Account management
- Incident reporting
- Workstation security
The Value of Website Translation Automation
Continuous Change Detection
The localization process always begins with the identification of new or updated website content that requires translation. Many vendors use low-tech and convoluted manual processes to find this online content and assign it to linguists for translation. This might include:
- Finding all translatable website content, which isn’t just on-page text
- Additional content may include:
- Metadata and structured data
- Images with embedded text
- Mobile applications
- Dynamically loaded third-party content
- Other multimedia elements
- Manually extracting the content for translation
- Manually distributing this content to linguists for translation
This complex and costly process repeats again and again, every time on-site content is added or updated. This workflow isn’t a best practice, mostly because there are many touchpoints in which translatable content may remain unseen or may be forgotten.
Those translation delays often leave untranslated content on multilingual websites for days—or even weeks. This broken UX alienates customers and increases bounce rates.
Instead, look for vendors that use content- and change-detection capabilities. This automatic website translation technology, which systematically analyzes, identifies and classifies a website’s content, is often powered by a web crawler (sometimes called a spider).
When the web crawler spots new or updated content, the vendor’s content-parsing technology then splices it into easy-to-translate segments. The segments are then instantly funneled into an automated translation workflow to determine if they require human translation. (You’ll learn more about this automated website translation workflow in an upcoming section.)
Change-detection technology completely eliminates the kludgy, costly manual processes mentioned above, and also eliminates any associated customer-side effort. There are no gaps or guesswork in this workflow.
Further, look for website translation vendors that have world-class web crawlers with superior change-detection algorithms. This means the technology can easily identify translatable content, even in notoriously challenging technical frameworks, including:
- Third-party applications or integrations
- Error messages, on-site forms, dropdown menus
- Metadata and structured data
- Images with embedded text
- Videos (on-screen text, audio subtitles), interactive applications, images with embedded text, infographics
- Dynamic PDFs
- Documents created in applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs, desktop publishing files, XML
- HTML email templates used for business and marketing correspondence
- Mobile applications
- Digital content for multichannel social media or online ads
- Third-Party Functionality Shopping carts, payment systems, customer review systems, customer-facing content for in-store kiosks and other self-service systems
Instant Application of Translation Memory
Automated website translation tools also alleviate burdens from linguists, enabling them to focus on the work that matters most.
When translatable content is identified by a web crawler and parsed into segments, it’s processed through a translation memory database, which compares incoming content segments against segments that have already been translated for the website.
Any segments that register as untranslated are flagged for translation … but all other translated content is instantly published on the multilingual website.
Immediate Assignment to Linguists
Automatic website translation workflows also accelerate the publication of translated content on-site. Look for vendors whose processes include near-instant assignment of translatable content to linguists.
The Importance of Customer-Centric Editorial Review for Website Translation
Multi-Step Review Process
Great vendors provide documented editorial processes that clearly explain their translation and editorial processes. They also leverage quality control at all stages of a translation project, including:
- Translators use powerful translation tools and reference materials to efficiently localize your content for global customers
- Proofreaders check for linguistic accuracy and narrative flow
- Editors ensure the spirit and intent of your original content is preserved, and that your industry’s terminology has been properly localized
- A Quality Control editor then reviews the translations to guarantee your brand’s unique voice and tone are accurately presented.
- Approved translations are then published
For the very best translation quality, at least three linguists—a translator, a lead linguist and an editor—should craft and vet the translations before on-site publication.
Pro tip: Look for website translation vendors that require their linguists to pass a rigorous translation certification program. To ensure the best-possible linguists are hired, look for acceptance rates of about 5%.
Customer-Facing Editorial Capabilities
The best vendors enable their customers to vet the quality of their translations, too. Look for companies that offer customer-facing technologies that provide a “live view” of translations in relation to how they appear alongside on-page images, menus and other design elements. This provides time- and cost-saving benefits for customers, including:
- Helps prevent text misalignments or other UX flaws that may occur when other users make content changes
- Reduces translation costs by using in-house resources for simple edits and reviews, rather than relying on the vendor’s translation team
- Speedy publication of revised translated content
- Direct contact with the vendor’s translation team
- First-hand assurance that brand voice and messaging are accurate and consistent, site-wide
Customer-Facing Customization Capabilities
There are use cases in which companies may want even more creative control over their translations, especially when working with their regional or in-market sales and marketing teams.
Look for vendors that offer ways for customers to replace standardized content with impactful localized content that caters to a market’s unique culture and buying preferences. Look for features like:
- The ability to replace existing translated content (such as a promotion exclusively for U.S. customers) with customized imagery and messaging of their choosing
- The ability to display this customized content exclusively to website visitors based in specific markets
- Dashboards to help manage these customized campaigns
- And in-context editing capabilities, as described in the previous section
Ongoing Quality Assurance
In order to guarantee end-to-end functional assurance, look for vendors that ensure that the multilingual site’s UX perfectly replicates the experience on its origin website.
This is often accomplished by a Web Quality Assurance team that oversees the creation and execution of QA tests, as well as reporting of results, to ensure the localized site operates correctly and smoothly.
This team should also be tasked with managing ongoing automated QA testing after your localized website is published. They should:
- Automate the testing of functional areas of the translated sites by creating automated scripts that replicate online user behavior
- Execute those automated scripts across browsers and mobile devices
- Execute the automated testing of mission critical flows on the translated live sites daily
- Review script results and document findings
- Replicate flows manually for failed scripts on the actual site to report any site or script defects
Superior Speed to Market
Website vendors should be able to consistently translate and publish content at a pace that keeps up with online business.
Ideally, new or updated website content—regardless of medium such as text, images, interactive applications, etc.—should be identified for translation, translated, edited, QA’d and published in about one business day.
Read more about website translation in our ultimate guide to website translation.
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