The Global Access Blog

Thoughts on building and growing globalized products

Winning big by going global: When to do it

April 18, 2016

It’s funny (read: frustrating) to read the stats that localization companies have to use to get potential customers interested in localization. 56% of customers prefer to read in their own language! They’re 5x more likely to buy your stuff if it’s in a language they understand! Etc. It’s amusing that the idea of connecting natively needs to be sold. Do you “prefer” to see traffic signs in a language you can understand? Do you “prefer” to be able to read directions on medications?

There’s a big difference between your product being in 20 languages and your product feeling local to every user in every market. Having a global market opportunity doesn’t necessarily translate into success in local markets, but when localization is paired with a focused, intelligent global product effort, it can.

Savvy companies know that this global product buildout is a must: the question is when to do it. In a series of posts, we’re going to benchmark the go-global efforts of four consumer apps—Dropbox, Instagram, Foursquare and Pinterest—to try to answer the “when” question. In some ways, the number of languages these products are in are proxies for the number of markets that these companies care about: and that means localizing not just interfaces but also go-to-market, growth and partnership strategies.

First up: Dropbox.

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How Global Brands do Twitter

March 14, 2016


For those of us who use Twitter for social media marketing, it won’t come as a surprise that Twitter has grown enormously in foreign language markets, with more than half of all tweets now in a language other than English.

Though we don’t have a breakdown of company versus consumer usage by country (we checked), the general trendline globally has been up and to the right for using Twitter for business. If your user base or audience is global, this means thinking about how to tweet across languages and geographies. The only no-no here is tweeting or retweeting multiple languages in the same Twitter handle, which is one of the best ways to confuse an audience. But if you do have the resources to manage multiple Twitter handles, there are a number of different ways to do it effectively. Though there are top brands that are successfully utilizing each of the strategies below, what you choose for your company depends on your content and your audience.

1. Tweet same-ish content, but via separate handles, by language 

To reach a German-speaking audience, for example, consider a Twitter handle that is @YourHandleDE or @YourHandle_DE, with tweets that mirror @YourHandle but in German.

Advantage: Easiest to scale, as the localization can happen at HQ, with your existing social media tools (with an integration to Qordoba) helping you target your local audience for both tweets, retweets and replies. The content should be adapted in its entirety, however: if you are using images, then any text in those images should be localized as well. Adaptation in this strategy encompasses the repurposing of a Canadian Thanksgiving post into a German OktoberFest post, for example, or using different but similarly festive local imagery around the winter holidays.

Who does this: @MercedesBenz, @AppAnnie

Drawback: Not all of your tweets will be equally applicable to your local audiences. We say “same-ish” because you’ll want to avoid including in a German tweet in @YourHandleDE, for example, that links to information that is not in German. Doing this could mean frustrated local followers and slower engagement growth with your target audience. It’s a double-whammy, because when you do tweet to localized content, a pre-conditioned follower is less likely to click on your tweet. A faux-pax in this vein from the otherwise social-media savvy App Annie:

Localizing your Twitter presence
Localizing your Twitter presence

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Localizing a brand: Uber breaks new ground to grow, again

February 9, 2016

Hate it or love it, Uber’s logo change had 8 million+ users in 400 cities and 68 countries registering a new visual identity last week.

Like the company’s blitzkrieg through local taxi markets, the redesign, 24 months in the making, broke new ground in terms of global brand adaptation.

Artboard 1From the new brand guidelines: “When we start designing for a specific market, we look at the culture holistically—art, architecture, tradition, old and new fashion, textiles, the environment—to create color palettes and patterns that are both fresh and relevant. We’re launching with 65 local color palettes and patterns, representing countries in which Uber operates. These colors and patterns are authentic expressions of the real world’s diversity, and they afford flexibility in our communications.”

We’ve seen brands localize their names (Coca-Cola) and we’ve seen brands localize their logos (RJ Metrics), but what’s groundbreaking here is that Uber is localizing colors and partially localizing the logo. The “bit” is the connecting element. If that’s not enough to make your design/brand team queasy, add that these 65 color palettes and patterns will be applied by individual city teams at Uber, and that there are now different logos for different Uber products, both at the rider and the driver level.

This intensely local design is a direct result of Uber’s intensely local expansion strategy. We’ve long admired their empathy for global users and the care with which the Uber app UI is localized for local markets and habits.  Will the local design strategy be just as brilliant as the local expansion one?

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5 Strategies for Localizing Your Website in 5 Days

February 8, 2016

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 contentcollaborative editing, style consistency, technical terminologycan be solved by technology, but there’s no software that can fake product love (yet).


Selecting content writers with Qordoba's Team tool
Selecting content writers with Qordoba’s Team tool.


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 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.

Creating a workflow in Qordoba.
Creating a workflow in Qordoba.

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.

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Sketching for 3 Billion People

January 26, 2016

Developing empathy for your global user can pay off big time down the road, regardless of how many markets you’re in now. Helping product leaders think about their international users starting from the design stage is why we built the Qordoba Sketch plugin, which allows designers to pull in localized content from their app or website right into Sketch.


How to translate Sketch files
Downloading translation into Sketch


Localizing Sketch pages in Qordoba

Here’s how it works. Let’s say your app (or website) is already live in 10 languages. Qordoba allows you to pull this content into Sketch on-demand, creating new pages automatically. This allows the product and design teams to review how a new feature will look like (or break!) across the 10 languages—-way before needing to involve the engineers or translators.

The plugin is helpful even if you’re testing out a language that you haven’t localized formally into yet: the localized content that is sent back to Sketch is from Qordoba’s SmartSuggest, which is automated translation.


Creating localized font profiles in Sketch

We’ve also built a font profile feature into the plugin. Customizing the fonts in your app by language shows your global user base a lot of love—but it’s hard to do efficiently outside of code. The Sketch plugin lets you automatically convert the fonts in your base design to the special fonts you’ve selected for specific languages. You can customize the font as well as the font size, ie, making your Japanese text layers 10% bigger than the English across your entire design, for example.

Set font preferences to localize text layers automatically in Sketch
Set font preferences to localize text layers automatically in Sketch

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