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September 3, 2014

Three factors for evaluating localization vendors

Localizing content can be a frustrating and expensive effort. In addition to per-word costs and turnaround times, keep these three key factors in mind when choosing a vendor.

localization checklist

Keep your content in check throughout the localization cycle. \\ pixabay: Nemo

Technological aptitude

Your localization vendor should fit seamlessly into your content development workflow. They must be able to work with the source content in its raw form. Whether you have a template-driven WYSIWYG authoring environment or an XML-based environment, your localization vendor should work with your files without performing extra work. Most translation tools used today can handle nearly any source format, whether it’s Word, InDesign, FrameMaker, or DITA. When you have XML-based content or very rigid templates in place, there should be no need for DTP services. Formatting is handled by your templates or your transforms, not the vendor.

Before you engage with a localization vendor, send them samples for a test translation. Evaluate what you receive back, and if there are issues, determine whether they are correctable or not. DTP costs are expenses limited to reformatting text or recreating a layout that didn’t exist in the source copy (for example, translating a PDF) and should not apply when your content is completely separate from the visual design.

Subject matter expertise

You’ve spent a good deal of time, effort, and money producing your content. You’ve not only invested in technology, training, and workflow development; you have carefully written your content, edited it, and sent it through reviews for technical and stylistic correctness. Therefore, your content isn’t a necessary evil in delivering product or supporting customers—it’s an asset that should be treated with care.

Take the time to determine if your localization vendor truly knows your domain. Ask for translator credentials to determine whether they have direct or past experience working in your industry. Ask them to discuss examples of past work in your domain. (You may not get actual copy to review, but you can learn a lot by how they address your questions.) If the vendor seems knowledgeable about your company’s industry and has translators who are also adept, send a small job first to evaluate the vendor’s actual work.

Skipping this level of investigation is detrimental to your business. Erroneously translated content can result in confusing text, frustrated end users, and in cases where the content is used in dangerous settings, bodily harm or death.

Knowledge of local or regional demands

Subject matter expertise isn’t the only important element in producing effective translation. You also need to be mindful of your audience. A big part of this is understanding not just the core language they speak but the nuances local culture adds. There are also many local and regional regulations that stipulate what you must (and cannot) say about your product.

To ensure that your content is understandable and usable for all of your audiences, your localization vendor must be aware of the audiences’ local needs and use translators who are well versed in local dialects and regulations. You must communicate not only your language needs, but also the locations where the languages are spoken. For example, you may need to translate into German, but your German-speaking audiences may live and work in Dresden, Germany, as well as DuPage County, Illinois.

You’ve worked hard to produce quality content that strengthens your company’s reputation. Make sure it reaches all of your audiences at that same level of quality. Do you have questions or need help? Contact us.