Lately, I spend a lot of time thinking about global content. In fact, I spend most of my working hours (which seem to be the hours between 6:00AM and 10:00PM) pondering the effects of globalization on content development and the effects of content development on globalization.

Again and again, I come back to the creation of the content. The first “pen to virtual paper,” if you will. It seems to me that if your product is going to be sold to an international market, then planning for globalization should occur from the very beginning. Before the UI is designed, consideration should be made for the translation of the menu items and buttons. Before icons are created, someone should think about the cultural implications of certain symbols. And before the words are written, care should be taken to create the content in a way that is simple, straightforward, and easy to translate.

To me, planning for globalization from the very beginning seems obvious. It is the only practical thing to do. Yet, time and again I hear about companies that wait until the very end of the development lifecycle to pay attention. The code is complete. The UI is done. The docs are written. The marketing plan has been executed. Now let’s localize!

The “create now, localize later” scenario is a recipe for waste. Without taking care to include globalization in the planning process, retrofitting translation and localization is time-consuming, cumbersome, and prone to error. Consider the number of iterations of documentation that can be eliminated if the content is created with translation in mind? Iterations are costly for everyone and can ultimately delay the time to market of the product. And we all know how expensive that can be.

I’d love to hear about products that had globalization considered in the very early stages of planning. Where everyone from the UI designers, to the product managers, to the writers and marketeers thought through the entire process for worldwide sales and customer service on day one. Do you know of any?

Val Swisher
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