The following is a takeaway from a presentation delivered by Acclaro Program Manager Lydia Clarke at the 2010 California State University, Chico Localization Certification Program in San Francisco.
Content creators often do not consider the possibility that their material may one day be translated into another language. Therefore, they often write, organize, and present information for their target audience, whether that audience is English speakers or say, Spanish speakers. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this sense of immediacy, but companies do expand into other language markets and should be able to use the same content for these new readers.
Enter translation, and its many challenges! Words and their many nuances aside, one of the most problematic parts of translating content — be it technical documentation, user interfaces, website pages, or marketing collateral — is images.
The good news is that you, as a content creator, can do a lot now to save yourself time (and money!) down the road:
Keep text out of images. You may have already been aware of the problems inherent in laying text into images, because logic dictates that when you change the text, you have to change the image. Also, many European languages (e.g. German, French) require more space, so you may even have to alter the background to allow for those extra characters. Another reason you should keep text out of images if possible is for Search Engine Optimization (SEO): search engine crawlers can’t identify words when they are part of an image.
Use screenshots sparingly and/or create a “screenshot roadmap.” Screenshots of your content will obviously change as your language changes, so they will have to be re-taken for each target language. Thereore, you may want to reduce the actual number of screenshots that need localization. More than likely, however, if you need localization of documents related to your localized software, this is not possible. Your localization agency will need to navigate to the exact screen, with all the same parameters and same (but localized) data in the localized user interface. What really helps with this is a “screenshot roadmap” — a path to each and every screenshot that will be used in the documentation or other collateral. This saves time, money and confusion.
Replace locale-specific images. Not all symbols are international. For instance, you might think that you can just replace the text “STOP” in the red hexagon and insert the translation for “stop” in the target language. Not so! In Japan, the symbol for “stop” is an upside down triangle.
Keep the art that you know will not change separate from that which will need alteration. This saves your translation vendor from having to scrounge through all of your images and determine what needs to be re-done, and what can be re-used as is. Remember: the more time you save, the lower the overall cost.