Top tips for building a bulletproof localization process

If you haven’t made one yet, now’s the time to write “create localization process” on a Post-it and underline three times. Yes – it is that crucial. Having your process mapped out from the start can help you plan for success, from creating the right automations to predicting any weak spots and preventing issues before they crop up. 

Whether you’re a globalization veteran or a first-timer just dipping your toes, laying out the steps and procedures is your first move toward improved quality and control. That is to say, it’s never too late to design your process, so don’t worry if you’ve already started localizing. And once you do have one in place, it’s likely you’ll find yourself continuously improving it based on hard-earned experience and valuable feedback from colleagues and users alike.

Let’s dive into the details and see how you can create a localization process that’s flexible, scalable, and useful. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is a localization process?

A localization process is a compilation of steps and procedures outlining how localization is performed at your company. Localization involves a significant number of stakeholders and roles – both in your company and externally. This means even small misunderstandings can easily descend into chaos. Having everything written down and agreed upon can prevent the usual uncertainty you may often find in other non-standardized tasks.

To design a localization process that’s sustainable and effective, start by talking to as many of your colleagues as possible. If you’re already localizing some content, approach those who are involved. If not, consider who will need a seat at that table once you start. It’s likely they already have some ideas on how to ensure their part of the process goes well.

Localization lineup: Which stakeholders should be part of your localization process?

One great thing about designing your own localization process is that you can fully customize it to your company’s needs and structure. If you’re part of a small startup, it’s likely most – if not all – staff members will have some presence in your process. On the other hand, working for a huge organization will keep this process limited to a much smaller employee subsection. As a rule of thumb, make sure it includes anyone involved in creating copy, getting it localized, or implementing it. 

Usually, any localization process will include at least the following people:

  • The UX and design team in charge of crafting the product or feature you’re currently localizing
  • The copywriters and/or UX writers who write the copy to be localized
  • The translators who will be localizing the copy into your various languages
  • The product managers in charge of overseeing the flow and keeping everyone in sync
  • The developers who will be required to push the actual strings to localization and pull them back in after it’s done
  • The marketing team tasked with launching the new product or feature in the new market

However, your specific use case may require the involvement of other stakeholders. For example, some companies localizing sensitive content may want legal on board. Others dealing with culturally specific copy may seek advice from local consultants throughout the process. Consider anyone who may have something to contribute, and ask them directly if they think they should be included.

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What steps should your localization process have?

To create your localization process outline, start by writing down the path your copy takes, from the moment it’s created to the moment it’s seen by users in your target market. Highlight every friction or turning point – those will be your main phases.

Then, break each phase down to pinpoint the various steps it’ll include. Consider things like scalability, quality, and efficiency (more on that in a bit). And of course, think about the procedures and guidelines your team will need at each step, ensuring they have them at hand.

Your localization process should be designed for your needs, but it’s likely to include the following steps:

Step 1: Defining the scope and goals

Start by sitting down with your team to determine what features or materials will be included in the current localization round. This is your chance to consider what you’re hoping to achieve and define key metrics for success.

Once you get your localization cycle going, carve out some time to review what you’ve learned from previous rounds. By leaning on past experiences, you’ll be able to keep tweaking and improving your process over time.

Step 2: Creating source materials

Essentially, this step includes everything to do with creating your product in its source language. For example, designing mockups or wireframes, determining the required tone of voice, and writing the UX copy to be localized.

These tasks are not exclusive to localization, and they often make up every product design effort. However, keeping localization in mind while you do them will save you time later and ensure you’re better prepared for the next steps.

Step 3: Preparing content for localization

During this step, you’ll be putting together a localization package for your translators or localization agency. On top of the actual strings for localization, this should always include a localization brief and detailed contextual information.

Now’s also the time to set up the channels you’ll be using to communicate with your linguists. You want to be able to answer their queries and provide additional information when they need it. Once you have it ready, pull the strings for localization into your CAT (computer-assisted translation) tool.

Step 4: Localizing content

It’s go time! Send your linguists the package you’ve prepared, so they can familiarize themselves with the requirements and brand voice. Then, run the copy through the translation and editing steps – and any additional steps you’ve implemented to ensure you get high-quality output.

An entire book can be written on this step alone. In fact, entire books have been written. In a nutshell, your role here is to support your linguists as they find the most fitting words in their language. You can achieve this by doing the following, for example:

  1. Send them the aforementioned contextual information;
  2. Provide a well-maintained glossary and translation memory;
  3. Ensure they feel comfortable asking questions and give detailed, clear replies;
  4. Give them enough time to work on the copy;
  5. Be clear about technical requirements, e.g., character limits;
  6. Send them translated screenshots/mockups for final review.

(also, feel free to add anything that works for your team and company)

Step 5: Performing thorough quality assurance

Localization is done,  but you’re not – yet. A lot can go wrong after you push your localized strings to production, so make sure you carefully review all screens for layout, context, or formatting issues. Don’t settle for in-house here – provide your linguists with screenshots or a link to the localized product. Since they speak the language, they’re much more likely to notice the issues. Plus, they’ve probably been dealing with some of these problems as users for years.

If you want to go all out, consider getting beta feedback from users in your target locale, too. This will help you pin down critical issues and cultural mishaps before they go live.

Step 6: Set up a feedback loop

A beta feedback loop is one thing, but to ensure the continuous quality of your content, it’s a good idea to create a regular feedback loop. Schedule regular sessions with stakeholders, or send a survey, to ensure that every step is working as it should and that the process is adding real value to your company.

Are all localization processes born equal?

Designing a flexible process is that much more important when handling different localization needs. An app-only process will have one stream of data flowing through it, with the same people involved every time. But if your needs are more complex than that, you’ll need to establish different workflows to facilitate them.

Considering the use and goal of each channel you’re localizing will help you design this effectively – and find the right linguists to help. For example, an app localization task will require UX writing and product expertise. But for a landing page, you want your linguists to bring marketing and conversion knowledge on board.

Designing your localization process: things to consider

1. Think about scalability from the get-go

Even if your localization needs are few and your team small, it’s best to think big when it comes to your process. Setting up the right procedures from the start will prevent future issues, so your company can scale globally as quickly and smoothly as possible.

When Revolut started localizing, for example, they only had around 20 people on the team. Having no dedicated team meant they had to create their process to run alongside their other business tasks. However, they were wise enough to plan ahead, incorporating advanced tech tools like Lokalise into their workflow. They’re now a 2000-person company, and their scalable process helped make the switch to a localization agency seamless.

“When we started to work with RWS Moravia, they already had their own internal workflow. Lokalise was flexible enough to allow them to simply plug their workflow into it. And we were able to plug our workflow into Lokalise and organize the translation processes really well, not only with internal Revolut people but an external company as well,” says Edward Cooper, Head of Mobile at Revolut.

2. Pick a single source of truth

When workflows are complex and involve different companies and tools, it’s easy to miss a crucial change or update. For example, let’s say your product team changes a small bit of English copy directly in your repository or CMS. By skipping the mockup and localization stages, they effectively create an inconsistency that’s almost impossible to track or identify.

To prevent this from happening, it’s essential to define a single source of truth for your copy – in both the source language and the localized ones. Whether it’s your mockups, your CMS, or your localization tool, ensure copy always flows in the same direction from point A to point Z.

3. Keep humans in the loop

In our quest for maximum productivity and efficiency, we sometimes forget our localized copy is meant for people. When designing your localization process, keep your users in mind. Incorporate the right steps to ensure the quality stays high, the target copy is clear and fluent, and the layout supports all languages.

A great way to do that is to include a user feedback phase at specific intervals (e.g., once a month, or when a new major feature is launched). This will give you insights into how your target copy is accepted by your users, and what you should focus on to improve it further in the future.

4. Automate, automate, automate

Automation is probably one of the biggest advantages of bringing in an advanced localization tool like Lokalise. Not only does it let you route your professional workforce to other tasks, but automating repetitive tasks can dramatically reduce human error and delays.

Once you set up your automated workflows, you can sit back and watch localization happen almost contact-free. No need to wait for a single developer to pull localized strings to production or manually run a QA check. At Deliveree, for example, the team was able to eliminate hours of work previously spent idly waiting for translations to arrive. By streamlining their translation-to-development workflow, they made the entire localization process significantly more time- and cost-efficient.

5. Get continuous feedback

A localization process will never be perfect from day one. Once you implement things, your teammates will start noticing what works well and what still needs improvement. This is your time to gather their feedback, learn from it, and iterate to iron out the kinks.

It’s a good idea to define set time points for feedback collection. Depending on the size of your team, it’s best to meet with the different stakeholders in person to get their take on how the new process is going. If that’s not possible, you can also distribute a questionnaire to collect their feedback.

Ready to start?

Now’s the time to sit down with your team and start listing your requirements. Don’t forget – the more you iterate on this process, the better it gets.

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With exclusive insights and real-life examples from companies such as ActiveCampaign and Onfido, this ebook will show you how to assemble the best possible localization team. Download

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