Localization Meaning: A Hotel Metaphor
So you have your software application up and running! What would be a good metaphor in the physical world for your app, your baby, you spent so much time on? If you imagine your application as a hotel that people enter to enjoy the offered amenities, would that be a good metaphor? In this blog post, we’re going to use the power of this metaphor to explain the meaning of localization.
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Hotel Logicielle, or a software application in the real world
That “Hotel Logicielle” – “Software Hotel” – offers a core amenity of hosting people in rooms for some nights. Of course, there is a multitude of features in each room, one having a bubble bath and free-cable TV, a hair-dryer, or Wi-Fi.
But there are other amenities your hotel offers, too, such as a dining room, a ballroom, or a conference room with a stage and projectors. As a good manager, you track your facilities’ usage and plan for improvements, renovations, and expansions – like some tennis courts outside.
Broaden your Hotel Logicielle audience – or enter localization for your software application
Your business is doing great, with rooms being booked daily and more people joining for the services offered. At some point, you realize that you can gain more traction and extend the period people join your business by personalizing your services to certain groups. For example, personalize your autumn offering to people playing golf, enjoying a local feast in November, or the football mid-season in December.
This is like expanding your software to new local markets so that more people can get the benefits.
You have identified that the personalization required has to do with decorations in your hotel. So we are talking about paintings, light setups, and maybe furniture in public areas – like halls and dining rooms.
You now realize that some big wall paintings installed from day one need to be converted into framed paintings. Some areas may need bigger or smaller framed paintings to accommodate thematic needs, e.g. having a small painting in a big wall will look empty.
So, you and your team will need to go through the process of applying all the needed changes. And that, in turn, requires you to use any materials that you may already have there, such as – paintings and furniture – as well as apply any changes needed to host new materials, e.g. stronger nails or bigger distance between lamps for bigger paintings to fit on the wall.
The analogy of that process when talking about software localization is called internationalization. It’s the process of getting your software ready to accept content in a new language, moving things around to “make space” for a more descriptive language needing more characters to express the same message. The internationalization process involves work from your team and spans across all your existing software.
Turn your Hotel Logicielle into a thematic heaven – or kickstart localization for your software application
You are now past the point of turning some of your hotel assets into animate and changeable objects! You want to start seeing the fruits of your team’s work reflected on each hotel room and space. Having new thematic paintings and decorations all around!
For starters, you will need to find the proper people to actually create the new thematic paintings and decorations, so you are checking for artists! A new wave of problems kick in, how much will these people quote their work? What’s your budget and your specific requests in terms of themes, style, and quality to cover?
Once you identify the proper artists or contractors to do the work, you will need to provide them with the original art and some briefing on what’s the expected outcome, e.g. “Try to maintain the hotel building from the original, but place it in a spring setting”. In order for your contractor artists to get these briefings and originals, you grab pictures or scan the original and write a short brief. And once everything’s ready, you send everything either via post or through emails.
The metaphors for a software application and localization here are on recruiting the proper experts that fit both your financial and quality standards, as well as the process of making your content available to your localization experts so that they can start translating. This kind of work usually involves a few people from your team; the ones responsible for how your application will look and feel. In the following chapter, we will dig a little deeper into how you send and receive content for your application.
Request and get a new thematic decoration for Hotel Logicielle – or how your content is grouped for better management
Now that you have all your hotel assets available and artists’ deals set, you need to start dispatching content and instructions to get the work done! You have already organized the work in functional groups of assets assigned to separate artists – or studios. So, you start preparing all the material needed to be sent.
Grouping of material on your side will have a digital form, photos for the original paintings, the placement room, and some instructions for context. With all material ready, zip and email! Artists and contractors will get that email and start working on their assignments.
When work is complete, it is grouped and sent back to you. Artists cannot send their final work via email, so they dispatch through the mail service. Single pieces of work are sent in a single box. Grouped work is added in oversized packages – or containers – for shipping to your hotel.
Back to your hotel, you receive these packages and inspect the delivered work. If you have feedback and require fixes, you re-package the pieces in question and send them back for revisits. If everything is fine, you will need to transfer the thematic elements to their permanent storage location, adequately organized.
The localization analogy of the above process relates to how to group content that needs localization. That group of content for localization is usually a file with all the content for translation, called localization file format. There are many file formats, each supporting a different subset of instructions for the translation team.
Manage your Hotel Logicielle thematic decoration – or how to organize your application localization in a way that makes sense
At this point, you’ve successfully managed to set up a flow of work between your contractors and you start getting some amazing thematic pieces to decorate your hotel! When the hotel is not busy, you and your team start playing around to see how those pieces look in the exact location and you are all happy!
As more work arrives, a new wave of problems starts to surface! You need to track progress on each theme! Also, there are cases where a delivered piece needs some adjustments and you need to send it back to the artist with an additional briefing for fixes, e.g. “Please adjust the hotel size to be bigger, as this piece is to be viewed from a distance”. Finally – as your appetite to see a theme in action ramps up – you need to set priorities on certain themes to start planning for actual usage!
All of this work requires coordination and management. So you start having a system to log what’s delivered, what’s pending, what’s been re-send for improvements. Additionally, you want that system to be able to display on a higher level how much work is complete and remaining per theme, e.g. “60% of the spring thematic decorations are complete”.
The localization analogy relates to the management system where all your localization progress is stored and updated. This system is called a Translation Management System (TMS) and can answer questions like, “How much French content is available?” or “Who is handling the Chinese translations and at what state those are?”. A TMS can answer and assist in many more ways, e.g., communicating and exchanging content with your localization team about improvements or deadlines.
So that was the first part of my localization metaphors blog post series! I hope you are now a little bit closer to the meaning of localization.