Dimitris Glezos

Is Continuous Localization Possible for Dev Teams?

Many development teams follow agile software methodologies and have a continuous integration process for developing software. For development teams with a global product, this agile timeline must also extend to translations, ensuring that new product updates are released in source and target languages at the same (or just about the same) time.

This may leave you asking, is localization possible when updates are regularly being deployed by development teams? To answer this question, we’re going to look at how products used to be localized versus how they’re localized today.

The old way of localizing products

Historically, localization meant creating and coding a product and then translating that product into desired target languages. And this happened only after the development process was totally complete. Products were, more often than not, developed in one-year or multi-year cycles, meaning big chunks of text were translated in batches every now and then. When it came time to update the product, the localization process went something like this:

  • Coding would stop all together.
  • Translations would be sent to the appropriate translators or agencies; sometimes there were multiple parties translating content for different languages.
  • When translations were done, they’d be sent back to the developers.
  • Developers would take the translations, upload them into the product, and re-release.

While the developers were waiting on translated content, and this could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how much content needed to be translated and the quality and experience of the translators, updates and changes were not reflected in the translated versions of the product. This process left whole sections of content in the original source language. Or, it left international users a version behind, essentially second-class users of a given application. Not only does this look unprofessional for the organization, it creates an awful experience for the user.

New development methodologies create
new localization workflows

A product being released no longer signifies the end of a project, but the beginning. After the initial release, a new phase of development begins which may include minor updates, like bug fixes, or major changes to content or UI. Work is done in small sprints as opposed to one big version change and it all happens continuously.

Because product updates are rolled out more frequently, it’s no longer acceptable for there to be gaps in translations. Your localized product is reaching customers around the world and these customers likely speak a number of languages. They don’t just want, they expect a fully functional product in their native language and want to access the latest versions of your product as soon as an update is released. To be successful in localization, translations must keep pace with product development, accompanying a release instead of following it.

How to make the translation process agile
(and successful)

Old-school localization processes built around content handoffs, most commonly by sending spreadsheets with content strings back and forth via email, are incompatible with continuous translation and localization – not to mention these processes are often time-consuming and highly prone to translation errors. Instead, modify your translation and localization process by finding the right:

  • Localization automation platform – Just as its name suggests, localization automation platforms help automate the localization process from start to finish, allowing you to integrate localization into the development process. Transifex, for instance, uses a REST API and command line client tool to auto-detect new content. Developers can then collect and push strings for translation. All translations are done within the platform, as are reviews before the translated content appears in the product. Transifex also comes with a number of tools like glossaries, translation memory, reports, and more to provide additional insight for developers and simplify the overall process.
  • Translators or language service providers – Your translators can make or break your localization process, so it’s crucial to use professional translators who have the experience needed to work quickly, while effectively communicating your marketing message from your source to your target language. For organizations that have a large amount of content and a tight budget (don’t worry, it’s a common localization barrier) it can be cost-effective to leverage your community, having users translate content which is then reviewed by a professional translator or agency. If you work in an industry like healthcare or government where content is highly technical or complex, you may want to consider working with a language service provider (LSP) that specializes in producing translations for your specific industry to increase overall translation quality.
  • Reviewers and project managers – To allow developers to focus on updates and building out the product, hiring experienced reviewers and project managers can make the localization process go off without a hitch. And if you’ve selected a localization automation platform like Transifex, it’s easy to assign roles like reviewer or project admin to contributors so there’s a logical and timely system in place for translating, reviewing, and taking content live.

Finding the right workflow for your organization

Continuous localization requires a team effort where the end goal must be communicated and understood across your organization, from your top-level managers to your translators. For some companies, it will take time to establish and implement a schedule that details when new updates will be released and when translators should check for new content to be translated. And while there are a number of potential workflows for companies of all sizes, know that the more time you put into creating an agile translation and localization workflow, the more you’ll get out of it!

With a product designed to facilitate continuous localization, it’s not surprising that we answer the question “is continuous localization possible?” with a resounding yes! A continuous localization process isn’t just benefiting your developers, saving them time and helping go to market faster, it’s benefiting your users by allowing them to see the most updated version of your product and content in their native language. For more information about continuous development and localization, download our Localization for Agile Teams Guide.

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