A step-by-step guide to creating a web globalization program including how to setup, how to optimize and how to scale


How to setup

    • A comprehensive globalization audit is carried out which incorporates ongoing brand strategy, existing market research data, allocated localization budget, timing, stakeholder meetings, style guides (if any), tech stack analysis and website content and analytics analysis.
    • Based on the globalization audit, a localization strategy document is created which also incorporates tools and language service provider (LSP) requirements, choice of either country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) or subdomains, and initial choice of language variants (e.g. European Spanish vs Latin American Spanish or European Portuguese vs Brazilian Portuguese?).
    • Selection of localization tools. The primary tool must have the following characteristics:
    • Integrated TMS (translation management system) localization platform supporting as wide a range of file formats and languages as possible
    • Multi-vendor LSP management
    • Cloud-based centralized data management
    • Project management dashboard
    • Integration with in-house systems and as wide a range of connectors as possible (GitHub, WordPress, XTRF etc.)
    • API available
    • Translation management interface with real-time collaboration and editing features
    • Machine translation (MT) integration with as wide a choice possible of MT engines plus the ability to integrate/train an in-house MT engine
    • Continuous translation/project handling functionality
    • Quality assessment function with multi-user access
    • Translation memory management with import/export and editing functions
    • Terminology management with glossary build and import/export function
    • Selection of additional tools: localization testing tool (TestRail etc.), word count tool (if necessary)
    • Selection/creation of localization testing team (specialist LSP and/or freelance assets)
    • Website internationalization verification (i.e. is the website ready to be localized? Is any of the text hardcoded, how are strings, dates and currencies managed?)
    • Creation of localization glossary
    • Creation of style guide (if necessary)
    • Selection of LSP based upon the following criteria:
    • Knowledge of local or regional demands
    • Number and choice of languages offered
    • Technological aptitude
    • Technological capabilities (number of file formats, ability to handle video, sound file, translations, connectors, API etc.)
    • Subject matter expertise/industry experience
    • Local office/proximity/availability
    • Scalability capabilities
    • Two-step QA process
    • Certified security procedures
    • ISO certifications for quality, processes, resources and deliverables
    • Risk management
    • Translator capacity/in-house linguists
    • Continuous translation capabilities
    • Cultural customization capabilities
    • Multiple time zones capacity
    • LSP onboarding:
    • Key stakeholders established and their roles and responsibilities defined
    • Definition of the initial language pairs that will begin the project
    • Selection of translation method (human, MT with human post-editing, or hybrid)
    • Definition of the different types of content that will be included in the localization process (text, video, sound etc.)
    • Content amounts and word count volumes per language
    • The roles and responsibilities of the localization testing team
    • Information concerning any prior localization projects
    • Information about the company, products and/or services and the necessary expertise that the translators need to possess (technical knowledge, style, voice, terminology and linguistic preferences)
    • Whether support will be required in multiple time zones
    • Risk management plan created (It is necessary to create a risk management plan together with the LSP that clearly identifies and defines each risk as well as the potential solutions and contingency plans to adopt)
    • Delivery to the LSP of the localization glossary, style guide, and any other existing assets such as translation memories and terminology databases
    • Initiation of the website localization process:
    • Content extraction after a detailed content inventory and process mapping
    • Content sent for translation to LSP
    • Translated content received from LSP and quality-checked
    • New corresponding language subfolder created (e.g. yourbusiness.com/de)
    • Existing website structure copied to staging site
    • Translated content inserted into staging site
    • Code updated to reflect language and location (hreflang etc.)
    • Final linguistic and functional quality checks
    • Staging site pushed live to subfolder
    • The process is repeated for each language
    • A global gateway page or language selection menu is created and each new language version is added. Geolocation redirects are applied (if applicable).
    • Project post-mortem/feedback (linguistic quality data, project summary reports and localization metrics) provided to the LSP

How to optimize

Most web globalization vendors can kick off a project very quickly and handle ad hoc localization requests, but for long-term success, plan on your vendor requiring three to six months to establish a fully optimized program framework. This includes assigning an experienced production team, qualifying and training linguists, implementing your technology solution and designing both project workflows that meet your requirements and a reporting environment so you can track the health of your program. Web globalization has a lot of moving parts and logistical challenges. Discuss your timing needs and expectations with your globalization vendor and agree to an onboarding schedule that is mutually beneficial and feasible. If you need to start work right away, be sure to discuss all the risks of this approach so that everyone can go into the first project with eyes wide open.

Successful web globalization programs strike a careful balance between speed and quality. While the two are not mutually exclusive, they tend to have an inverse relationship in that the quality of the content can suffer when an organization prioritizes speed. Be sure to get on the same page with your globalization vendor and work together on a realistic schedule for the delivery of high-quality content.

Nearly every project in every industry has risks. web globalization is no exception. It is necessary to identify risks at the outset and devise ways to avoid them. Create a risk management plan together with your new vendor that clearly defines each risk as well as its potential solutions and contingency plans. Again, it is important to be transparent with your globalization vendor about any challenges you have encountered in the past. Experienced vendors will involve not only localization project managers in the process, but also program and operations personnel to gain a full understanding of your needs and challenges. These stakeholders can include sales staff, account managers, technology teams, onboarding managers, linguistic services managers, supply chain managers and others. Rely on your vendor’s expertise and work together to plan for and meet challenges as they arise. Now that you know how to identify and plan for risks, knowing the challenges that can arise during a typical web globalization project will be helpful. Each of these potential issues should be addressed and mitigated during the onboarding process. General experience indicates that a LSP requires three to six months to establish a fully optimized web globalization program framework. For the LSP, this includes assigning an experienced production team, qualifying and training linguists, implementing the correct technology solutions, designing project workflows and creating a reporting environment. Successful web globalization programs strike a careful balance between speed and quality, and this necessitates agreeing upon an onboarding schedule, timing needs and expectations that are mutually beneficial and feasible. A realistic schedule is essential for the delivery of a successful web globalization program.

Finding highly qualified and specialized translators that are available to work on a project can be challenging. These translators are often in high demand and typically schedule their workload in advance, so project delays could result in them no longer being available when the time comes, or if delays are common, refusing your projects altogether. Thus, it is important that you work with your vendor to meet logistical challenges, provide heads-up and scope information on projects and ensure that tasks remain on schedule so you can keep the assigned translators. Having to find new translators mid-project can impact the project timeline, not to mention introduce potential quality issues.

So that your new vendor can plan assignments, implement the right workflows and ensure top quality, forecasting is necessary. For example, if 10,000 words in five languages is planned and then 1 million words come in for 12 languages, your vendor will have to scramble to find enough linguists to handle the work. The reverse situation—when the scope ends up being much less than planned—can result in trained resources being lost. If possible, establish a budgetary threshold (i.e. you are going to spend $50,000 per month) and collaborate with your vendor to make sure the necessary frameworks are in place to consistently handle that volume.

How to scale

For scaling the web globalization program the technical process is, as mentioned above, repeated for each language. It is important to note that, even if the initial budget is sufficient, it is highly unadvisable to attempt to localize into all the different languages at once. There are inevitable issues early on and the process needs to be initiated with no more than four languages. In particular, the most usual choice is what is known as FIGS in the language industry: French, Italian, German and Spanish. This is because these languages, being the most common, have the most resources available and are the easiest and cheapest to manage. They also enable the issue of text expansion/contraction to be dealt with (Spanish and French can result in 20 to 25% expansion from English, while German may expand as much as 35%. In comparison, Swedish contracts by 10 to 15%). After the initial FIGS websites have been fully validated and the entire web globalization process is optimized and working correctly the additional languages can be added but, again, not all at once. This particularly applies to Asian and Middle-Eastern languages which are complex to localize and need the partnership with the LSP to be as effective as possible before being attempted.

The overall web globalization scaling aim is that the localization process (which is continuous once it has begun) needs to be integrated with the content production process. At this stage there needs to be a coordinated model for content generation and strategy which allows the local country managers (it is desirable to have a country or regional manager in each target market) a strategic input but where all the content is created and localized centrally and then pushed out to the country managers for revision, publishing and feedback.

If you have any questions about the web globalization process or need the services of a web globalization consultant please contact me. As a consultant, I bring with me a global network of over 1000 selected and tested service providers and am able to offer a complete range of services in all of the web’s most important languages, from localization and SEO to content creation and marketing.


David Boniface

Author David Boniface

I am a Digital Globalization Consultant. I help companies develop an international web presence and aim their products and services at a global market - not just a local one.

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