The best time to think about localization is in the product development process, so you don’t have to do a bunch of rework on the back end. That method usually results in poor first impressions and lost opportunities.
At Blueprint Technologies, one of our key practice areas is localization. We still find that many do not understand the basics of localization, nor do they accurately estimate the benefits to be gained from getting localization right early and on the first attempt. Here is part 2 of Blueprint localization expert John Simpson’s Q&A to help answer some of the most asked questions.
What are the some of the challenges of localization?
From an operational perspective, it’s really about hiring, training and retaining the best employees. Blueprint invests heavily in the quality of our staff, and we have a very long average tenure, which is uncommon. Most of the industry operates in a freelance/contract mode where a high number of resources do bits and pieces of work and QA is outsourced. There might be 80 million people in Germany who speak German, and you might assume all of them can translate, but translation and localization are about more than that. Language is also very fluid. It’s always changing when it comes to slang and memes, and even more so when it comes to games, creative-type work and technology. Our employees must stay on top of these trends and ensure they are always using the correct words and getting the right references.
What are the general steps companies go through when setting up a localization practice?
A lot of companies try to do localization in-house first. When they want to take something to market in Japan, for example, they contract someone to do the work who speaks Japanese – not always a native speaker – and then try to compete with local competitors. These types of launches don’t usually gain a lot of traction in the target market. Local competitors and companies that have nailed the localization component have an edge because they are either developing everything in Japanese and don’t need to translate, or they have an established localization partner in Japan.
We really want to be a partner, and I think that is why we do what we do so well. We do a lot of exploration work – we need to understand clients’ products first and foremost. We need to know their priorities, their history and what they are trying to achieve. Then we bring in people with expertise and native language speakers who understand that market, and we begin the work. We start with the first deliverables, get them on track and then build out from there. Depending on the scope of the effort, we have localization engineers and production artists – a whole slew of support roles that can be brought in, depending on the customer and the product.
How do you know it’s time to invest in localization?
Localization needs to be considered during the development of a product if you intend to take it into international markets. There might be things that can be addressed initially that would be easier done from the beginning. For example, in China you cannot show blood and gore in video games. If you have a game that has graphic violence, and it is really successful in the U.S., you would have to replace a lot of assets if you want to take it to China. It’s a matter of evaluating the cost of all the rework needed to rebuild assets, replace them and then do new testing. If localization is accounted for up front and production considerations are worked into the production timeline, you can build versions for each different country or region, all completed at around the same time. And this applies to everything from simple products like toothpaste, to more complex products like software and cars. The best time to think about localization is in the product development process, so you don’t have to do a bunch of rework on the back end. That method usually results in poor first impressions and lost opportunities. It’s much more cost effective to localize up-front as well, because if you have to go back in after launch, tight timelines will often mean rushing work and bringing on high numbers of head count to meet deadlines. It becomes very expensive very quickly.
What industries benefit from localization the most?
They all do. It is important for any company marketing a product to mass consumers – for any company that wants to do business globally. Our focus is mostly on tech, software and games, but you could even apply it to real estate. In Seattle, a lot of the display boards outside new buildings are not in English, they are in Chinese – because they know their audience.
Is there a project the Blueprint localization worked on that you are especially proud of?
We were able to complete a tremendous backlog of work quickly for one of our clients, which was a really meaningful project, and it speaks to the expertise we have. The client had dozens of products they wanted to localize internationally for a long time, but they just couldn’t find the right partner. They chose Blueprint because our staff skillset matched up with what they were trying to achieve and our unique set-up allowed us to offer the high level of quality required.