Time to market. Those three little words can make the difference between getting ahead of your competition and being just another maker of a smartphone (or whatever product or service your company sells). As product managers and marketeers will tell you, time to market is one of the crucial aspects of a product launch.
Nowadays, there is a mandate to launch products in multiple markets simultaneously. It is no longer acceptable to go to market in English and follow up with other languages later. In fact, I know of products that have been launched in non-English speaking markets before ever being available in the United States or other English speaking countries.
The need to launch in multiple languages from the beginning puts a heavy burden on the content that ships with your product. Whether it is the user interface, the online help system, product documentation, or marketing collateral, it is critical to have the appropriate content translated into all of your languages as efficiently as possible.
Unfortunately, the typical workflow for the writing and translation process rarely affords enough time to do a quality job of creating, localizing and translating content. Usually, content is being created alongside the product itself. As the engineers finish aspects of the product, writers scramble to create content for each part. Once the writing is complete, localization and translation takes over. Then, the content is translated into all of the languages. Each translation is sent to the region for local language review. And, in many cases, this is where the iterations start to occur.
It is very common for each in-country reviewer to cycle through multiple costly and time-consuming review iterations with each individual translator. Back and forth they go correcting the translations and making them appropriate to each specific marketplace. This process can take days or even weeks to complete. All the while, the product team needs to launch on the scheduled date. In the end, what happens most often is that the materials go to market in a form that represents the best the team could do, given the timeframe they had. Rarely does the launch get delayed. But the quality definitely suffers.
There is one way to get ahead of the review iteration curve: creating global-ready content from the start. By this I mean writing the content from the very first word on the page with the knowledge and expectation that it will be translated. I’ve written in detail about the specific things writers can do to make their content global-ready here and here. In brief, here are things you can do to make your content easy and quick to translate:
- Eliminate unnecessary words
- Keep sentences short
- Use nouns with the words this, that, these, and those
- Use correct grammatical structures
- Eliminate idiomatic phrases
If your content is global-ready from the start, the localization and translation process is easier. If the translation process is easier, it is more likely that translators will understand and accurately translate the content on the first try. If the translation is accurate on the first try, the number of in-country iterations decreases. And if the number of in-country iterations decreases, the time-to-market is significantly faster. Your product launches on time. Your content is accurate and easy to read. Your customers are happy. And everyone wins.