It was about two weeks before Christmas, and we found ourselves in an interesting spot. We had launched our new product marketing site two weeks prior and still hadn’t localized our web content. For most folks, a two-week delay may not be so bad, but we build software that makes localizing content easier for a living…so we really had no excuse. We had also started to get a tiny trickle of traffic from Germany and Saudi Arabia thanks to a couple of local customer implementations there, and we didn’t have localized resources for those visitors.
So, we prioritized getting ourselves global-ready. We were live in 8 languages within a week. Here’s how to do it:
1. Select a solid team of translators and editors
We give this advice to customers a lot: the best person to localize your product into Japanese is a user of your product who happens to be a phenomenal Japanese writer. Just about everything else regarding your content—collaborative editing, style consistency, technical terminology—can be solved by technology, but there’s no software that can fake product love (yet).
Our product marketing site describes the benefits of the Qordoba localization platform, so we worked with linguists who have worked on Qordoba previously as freelancers to our customers. It was important that they understood SaaS and localization and shared our mission of building products for a global audience. Because they were already users of Qordoba and had user profiles, we were able to a) ping them to see if they were available and b) add them to the qordoba.com project within a few hours of starting the project.
2. Map a localization workflow
Our internal team speaks a dozen languages or so [insert emoji for humblebrag here], so we knew that there were folks on our team whom we could trust to do a final review on the content writers’ work.
We decided on a workflow where content would be pulled from our English site and go to the relevant professional translator, and then to an internal editor, then back to the translator again for SEO, and finally back to Sara, our customer success lead, who did the QA and was the one who clicked “Publish.” This workflow was mapped out in Qordoba in a few clicks on the same day that we started the project. Because notifications are automated from that point forward, there was little project management overhead for Sara.
3. Have content roadmap
There are a few key decisions that need to be made regarding localizing content:
- Which markets/languages do you want to be in?
- What pages will you make available, and into which languages?
- Will your layout and imagery be the same, slightly different, or radically different, by market?
- Will your navigation be the same, slightly different, or radically different, by market?
- How do you want international users to find the site that is in their language?
- Who will do your in-market SEO?
Because we knew all of these decisions could be changed or reversed with a few clicks, we optimized for speed and made the following decisions:
- Markets: German, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, French, Arabic, Swedish (based on analyzing existing inbound traffic and our existing customer target markets, ie, which markets are our customers also trying to reach?)
- Pages: We turned off our Terms, Privacy and Career links for all of the languages (first two pages for speed; second because the language of our office is English). We will localize the blog and new pages on an on-going basis
- Design: For the first release, we decided to maintain the same layout and imagery across localized markets, though we did use our Live Editor tool to improve alignment and spacing by language
- Navigation: We kept navigation the same, though we will likely tweak navigation in the next update
- Localized URLs: We opted for subdomains (more on that later) and a global gateway at the footer of the site indicating language (not locale)
- Localized SEO: We asked our professional linguists to perform local keyword searches, using the original source as a guide
4. Do QA!
We sent preview links of the localized sites across the team, and the next day, to a few customers in those markets. Internally, we asked our team to make any changes they wanted directly in the copy, letting the original authors know of the updates/changes.
We also QA’d by browser and device and made sure all of the demo submission forms worked. We got feedback internally and externally regarding unlocalized text in images, but we decided to tackle that at the next round of localization improvements.
Ultimately, the copy in localized languages is just as much a work in progress as the copy on the original site, and both we and our linguist team will be watching the traffic and conversions carefully to make sure we’re making the best of our localized presence.
5. Don’t be afraid to ship
You are never “done” your localized websites anymore than you are “done” your first-locale website. The important thing is to get started and start building traffic. To ship our localized sites, we used the proxy publishing method in Qordoba (there are a few others too) and were live with a CNAME redirect to the proxied sites.
Fast forward 4 weeks!
As a result of adding Chinese, we now have almost as much traffic from China as we do from the US. Our potential users from China don’t request a demo as much as our US visitors do, though, so we will be further localizing our Chinese site next month, with locally-recognized customer stories and graphics. We plan to watch the results of that localization carefully, as it will help us determine which languages we should localize our application into first.
The Buzzfeed-esque nature of this post title notwithstanding, it clearly takes more than 5 days to localize a website in a way that is worth doing in the first place. It’s only valuable if the international traffic begins to materialize and convert. What is clear, however, is that by using smart tools and strategies to manage the globalization of a site, we can make meaningful steps towards growing a user base in a relatively short period of time.