If you’ve ever tried to find a hotel in Paris without knowing French or searched for that famous restaurant in Beijing without Chinese skills, you know that navigating a foreign country can be an adventure -- to put it mildly. Tech companies from Microsoft to Google are helping remove difficulties by building increasingly sophisticated translation capabilities, such as real-time voice translation.
Average users can now employ their mobile devices to ease the transition between cultures, and they expect similar progress in your company’s website and app. How do you make your multilingual presence not cumbersome nor half-finished, but seamless and invisible?
Mobile Changed the Game
Reactive translation is no longer an option in the mobile, real time world. Users expect to instantly find everything they need on a device that fits in their pocket, on their wrist or even a wall at home. Language should be a given, not a barrier. This is as true within the US as outside of the country. The 2011 census, for example, showed that over 37 million people in the US speak Spanish at home.
Business leaders used to decide which markets to enter before translating content. They’d throw documents across the wall to translators and wait for the finished product. While that behavior is still a habit among many companies, the truth is that we’ve lost the luxury of time. Spend months executing translations one by one, and you’ll quickly lose timing advantages, not to mention your content will grow stale.
In order to stay agile enough to compete on a global scale, you must integrate translation into your content workflow from the get-go.
Now You See It, Now You Don't
Your website and apps must instantly give simultaneous visitors in multiple time zones and languages the information they want. That’s no small order. To accommodate their every need, you must design your translation resources to scale up and sideways. Think of it as a translation-first mentality in a mobile-first world.
The first step is to ensure that all content, from customer service replies to documentation, is immediately translatable into any language. You accomplish this by rooting translation into your CMS. Integrating translation at the core level allows for automation, creating simultaneous copies of all content for your developers, technical support team and end users -- in their preferred language. No longer will developers in India have their own set of documentation that they must translate for the marketers in Kansas City. Every team hooked into the CMS will have the up-to-date documentation in their own language, any time they need it.
Such automated in-workflow translation also lets you update and revise content as needed, rather than adding the extra effort of back-and-forth emails and out-of-CMS documents. Your websites in Hebrew, English, Farsi and Japanese will all have the same up-to-date information, often moments after it comes out. Not only are you more agile as a company, but you remove barriers to information and barriers to conversion.
You also reap the benefit of more accurate analytics. Tracking user behaviors -- interests, views, purchases, what they need support with -- helps you strategize how to enter a new market as well as tweak the tactics for an ongoing campaign. Having that information globally lets you customize each campaign for what users really want, in real time, and helps you iterate products based on their needs.
The Goal is to Make Language Disappear
Cloud-based CMSs and translation apps make it easy to globalize content. Once you have your translation architecture set up, the process becomes practically invisible. Translating everything from web content to support forums into a new language becomes as easy as pointing and clicking. Language becomes not a barrier, but a new opportunity. 2015 might just be the year that the World Wide Web truly lives up to the "world" part of its name.