Going global: the demand for intelligent content

Bill Swallow / Content strategyLeave a Comment

Companies experience their greatest growing pains when expanding business to global markets. It’s an exciting time but can also be a rude awakening as differing local requirements emerge for both product and content.

On the content side, keeping all of these requirements in check can be a daunting task. Proper planning and execution is critical for meeting these requirements and delivery dates, and for keeping your sanity.

Translation is a small part of the picture

The first thing most people think about when going global is translation. There are core languages of each country to consider, and then there are market niche languages (Russian in Italy, for example). There are right to left (RTL) languages to consider as well, and every language has an impact on layout, whether by direction or by length of the translation.

While planning for and managing the translation effort is a formidable (and expensive) task, in the grand scheme of things it is probably the easiest part of the globalization effort to execute.

Customization is key

wall of sorted Lego bricks

Keeping everything organized and labeled makes for easy assembly. (source: Flickr/firepile)

If your company is selling a physical product, it will likely have varying features based on where it is being sold. The documentation for the product will need to accommodate these variances. If you’re authoring with traditional desktop publishing tools (Word, FrameMaker, InDesign, etc.), you can handle much of this with conditions, but it will take considerable effort to tag it all accordingly.

Your company may sell to another global company with its own configuration requirements, which also may vary based on location. Suddenly you have a new set of conditions to manage, which may conflict with conditions you already have in place.

What if your company has more than one customer with this demand? Or many? Suddenly the idea of using conditions to manage all of the differences doesn’t look very efficient, and maintaining multiple custom documentation sets is extremely labor intensive.

The biggest culture shock when entering a foreign market, and one that can easily catch you off guard, is being met with different legal requirements. Imagine a sale or delivery being stalled because not all of your content has been translated into required languages, or your cautions and warnings do not meet local regulations. What if your marketing material is rejected from the market because it makes illegal claims? The United States has fairly relaxed requirements compared to other countries, and what is appropriate or forgivable in the US can be completely inappropriate if not illegal in other countries.

Intelligent content can help

Traditional authoring workflows simply can’t scale to meet global content demands without requiring additional labor, time, and cost to deliver. Intelligent content – semantically rich XML-based content – can better meet those demands. Some key benefits include:

  • Small reusable topics and content “chunks”: Content can be written once and reused as often as needed. This eliminates the need to rewrite the same information multiple times, saving on authoring and updating time. And because the content is authored only once, it only needs to be translated once per target language.
  • Separation of form and content: When you write in XML, you focus on the content itself and not how it will look in print, online, in mobile devices, and so on. The visual formatting is applied when you publish, usually automatically by a transformation process using stylesheets. Different languages can have their own unique transformations applied.
  • Custom tags and definitions for specific countries, regions, or customers: Rather than rely solely on conditional text to handle all of your unique content requirements, much of the customization can be handled by metadata and through special processing of certain elements (XML tags). Content identified through these means can be swapped in place of standard content as needed when publishing.
  • Everything in one place: The move to intelligent content usually involves implementing a component content management system (CCMS). This means that your content is managed in one place and is easily findable by authors, and all country, region, or customer specific information can be tagged, managed, and used by all authors.

There are many other benefits to using intelligent content for global content distribution, and all aspects can be customized for your unique implementation. Employing intelligent content can ease the pain of delivering content globally, accelerate your time to market, and help you keep your production costs in check.

If you would like to learn more, visit the related topics in this post or send us a message. We’re happy to help!

About the Author

Bill Swallow

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Director of Operations. Techcomm, content strategy, and localization. Enjoys taekwondo, craft beer, and homebrewing.

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