If you're involved in content and product design, it's likely you already know this: Collaboration and coordination are crucial to creating a stellar end-product that users love. Teams are working together more than ever, creating innovative, exciting products every day. As users, we get better, more intuitive experiences thanks to constantly-improving research and design.
But when it's time to make those experiences available in another language? That's when things stop looking so bright. There's still a significant disconnect between those involved in creating the original product - designers, researchers, writers - and localization teams. Localization is often seen as an afterthought, something that happens once the "creation" work is done. This results in products that don't quite live up to their potential when made available to a global audience.
"Localization is often seen as an afterthought, something that happens once the "creation" work is done. This results in products that don't quite live up to their potential when made available to a global audience."
This doesn't have to be the case. Design-driven localization brings translators and localization teams into the fold from the very beginning. They get the context they need to do their jobs well, and they can provide valuable insights that help improve the final product.
So how, exactly, do you create a design-driven process? And what impact can it make for your team? Let's take a closer look.
Integrating localization at the design stage
When you make localization a part of your design process, it completely changes the game. No longer is it seen as a last-minute addition, or something that happens after everything else is done. Instead, it's part of the conversation from day one.
This has several advantages. For starters, it gives everyone a chance to provide input and feedback - not just on the localization itself, but on the product as a whole. A perfectly localized experience often involves layout adaptations, typography changes, design tweaks... and these can be difficult (or even impossible) to make after the fact. By starting early, you give your localization team the opportunity to weigh in and help avoid potential problems down the line.
It also allows for a more collaborative approach overall. There are fewer surprises and misunderstandings when everyone's involved from the beginning. And since localization teams have all the information they need from the get-go, there's no need for back-and-forth and guesswork. This can save your team a ton of time (not to mention frustration). You can catch errors before they ever go live, and significantly shorten your time to market. Design-stage localization fits into any production workflow and ensures you'll always have your translated strings ready when you need them.
"There are fewer surprises and misunderstandings when everyone's involved from the beginning. And since localization teams have all the information they need from the get-go, there's no need for back-and-forth and guesswork."
Getting everyone on the same page with clear context
One of the main challenges of localization is that it's often difficult to provide enough context for translators to do their jobs well. This is especially true when working with agile or continuous development processes, where new strings are constantly added with little explanation. Or when working on complex systems where there might be dozens (or even hundreds) of screens to keep track of.
This is where design-driven localization comes in. By including localization teams in the design stage, you can ensure they have all the information they need to do their jobs well - from live designs to style guides or more comprehensive documentation.
They also get an insight into the thought process behind certain design choices. Why was this particular piece of copy chosen? What's the purpose of this UI element? What kind of tone should be used? All of these questions can be answered up front, which helps ensure that the final localization is in line with the original product.
With this clear context, translators can do their jobs more efficiently and with greater accuracy. They understand the product better, which means they're less likely to make mistakes or overlook important details. In turn, this can lead to fewer errors in the final localized product and a better overall experience for users.
"By including localization teams in the design stage, you can ensure they have all the information they need to do their jobs well - from live designs to style guides or more comprehensive documentation."
Ready to start?
If you want to try design-driven localization, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- First, make sure everyone's on board. This includes your design team, your localization agency or translators, your UX writers, your developers, and anyone else who might be involved in the process. It's essential that everyone understands the benefits of this approach and is on board with making it work.
- Second, start small. If you're not sure how to integrate localization into your design process, start with one project or one team. This will help you figure out what works and what doesn't and give you a chance to iron out any wrinkles before expanding to other areas.
- Finally, be prepared to change your workflow. Design-driven localization might require some changes to the way you work, but it's important to be flexible and open to new ideas. If something's not working, don't be afraid to adjust your approach. The goal is to find a process that works for everyone involved and helps you create the best possible experience for your users. And once you have the basics down, you can experiment and find ways to make design-driven localization work even better for you and your company.
Read more about design-driven localization with Frontitude.
Michal Kessel Shitrit is a highly experienced translator and UX writer with extensive experience in localization. Michal works as a Localization strategy consultant to help teams make sense of their localization workflows and processes.