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March 7, 2016

Translation and the complexity of simple content

Translating content for foreign markets can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. While it’s important to keep costs in check, the critical element to watch is quality. The only sure-fire way to ensure quality in translation is to build it into your source.

GIGO: Garbage in, garbage out

Storm Trooper action figures startled by a Storm Trooper trash bin

That’s not what we meant! (flickr: JD Hancock)

Developing content is often seen as a necessary evil. It’s easy to justify cutting corners to deliver it quickly or create it using fewer resources. After all, it’s just content, right?

Not quite.

More often than not, even technical content is being used in the pre-sales cycle. People want to evaluate a product or service before purchasing, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by searching for information online. Content quality in this case might make or break a sale.

Content quality is also a major factor in retaining existing customers. People are extremely happy when they can easily find answers to their questions without having to call support. Likewise, the easier the answer is to understand, the better.

So there’s a logical fallacy that content is a necessary evil. It plays a critical role in attracting and retaining happy customers. It is a business cornerstone. This is true in all markets. Despite your translators’ best efforts, the quality of their translation work is a direct reflection on the quality of your source content. And to keep translation costs down, you need to make that effort simple.

The complexity of simple content

Simple content does not mean dumbed-down or bare bones. In this context, simple content means streamlined content.

  • Messaging is clear and concise
  • Words are carefully chosen
  • Content is written in discrete chunks (topics)
  • Those chunks are written once and reused wherever appropriate
  • Content is consistently formatted (or better, tagged in XML)

In short, the entirety of content development is closely monitored and skillfully performed.

The effort involved is anything but simple, but the benefits far outweigh the work. All of the heavy lifting is done on the source content side, simplifying the translation process.

When your source content is clear, concise, and complete, it can be translated easily. When content is written once and reused, translators only need to translate it once. When content is consistently tagged, formatting translated content becomes automatic.

As a result, your content quality is consistent across all languages, your translation costs are reduced, and the translation work is completed quicker, allowing you to accelerate your time to market.