Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Translation Vendor Selection

After a few recent positive experiences with one of our translation companies I thought I'd go ahead and give some props and talk a little bit about factors effecting vendor selection for translation projects.

I've been through several large translation projects in the past and have learned quite a bit along the way. I've even posted about some of these lessons before on this blog.

Before I give props to my vendor let me explain the two types of translation projects that web masters typically undergo.

Code Translation: This is where your translation company takes your website code and filters out all the little strings of code and translates the readable text left over. When they're done translating they re-insert all your code and in theory you would have a functional site when the project is complete.

Copy Translation: This is where you provide plain text to your translation company and they simply translate what you provide. You are then responsible for coding the translated copy into a functional site.

There are several factors that will dictate which type of translation project you need to undergo...

1. Volume of pages to be translated. If you have an existing site with a lot of pages, it might be easier to have your translation company scrub the code and translate the readable text. If you're just translating one or two pages it might be easier and cheaper to scrub the code yourself and just send over a plain text file to be translated.

2. Code complexity. Many sites will pull text from a central file and insert it into the rendered page. The file where the text is pulled from may be largely plain text. If this is the case it is cheaper and faster to provide that plain text file to the translation company. If you have a fairly complex code base you may want the translation company to use their automated tools to remove your code and translate your readable text.

3. Do the pages exist? If you haven't coded the page yet it is much easier and cheaper to provide a plain text file of the copy for your new page.

There are also several factors that may effect which translation company you use for a specific type of project...

1. Code filter quality. Almost every translation company has some sort of code filtering capability. Most of companies use off the shelf tools offered by a company called SDL. In my experience these off the shelf tools are moderately effective; however, if you have a fairly complex code base then you may find yourself with a huge mess when you get your files back. Some companies will also develop custom code filters designed around your code base. You'll have to pay a little extra to get the code filter built but the files you get back can be nearly perfect and can save you a ton of time during implementation.

2. Quality of translations. This is the hardest thing to check because let's face it, if you had employees who could read and write in the language you wouldn't be hiring an outside company. Be ware of translation quality and use some of the techniques I describe in my article "Translating a Website - Keyword Analysis" to make sure your translation company is providing accurate translations.

3. Cost. The primary cost driver for most translation companies is cost per word. The cost per word varies based on new words, exact matches, and fuzzy matches. In addition to cost per word, you'll also have to deal with project management, quality testing, and other similar fees. These vary by company and can significantly effect the end price.

I actually use different translation companies for different types of projects. Now, if you're a translation purest you're probably screaming about translation consistency about now, but if you manage your translation vendors properly through an established translation dictionary and detailed translation instructions backed by exhaustive research then you'll probably be okay.

The company I want to give props to is Click2Translate. They offer a nice interface for starting and tracking a translation project. They're best to use with plain text translations, but they can handle code filtering if need be. Their cost per word is competitive and because it's an automated ordering process there are no management fees. I like to use them for one off plain text translations like press releases, keyword lists, and ad creative.

They're fast, professional, and their web interface is easy to use. If you have small plain text translation projects I'd definitely recommend Click2Translate. If you have a project which requires a lot of code filtering I'd recommend you check out several different vendors and even have them translate a page or two on your site to see how effective their code filters are. The last thing you want to do is to finish a two month translation project only to find out your code has been butchered in the process.

1 comment:

Tony Ruscoe, Click2Translate Manager said...

David, many thanks for your kind words about Click2Translate. Your comments and feedback are very important to us!

With regards to the costs section of your post, just in case you didn't already know, Click2Translate is able to offer reduced cost-per-word rates for 100% repetition and fuzzy matches on projects that are large enough to warrant it. (Of course, as you point out, you'll also have to pay project management fees then too.)

What I'm really interested in is why you feel you the need to use different translation vendors for different types of projects. If the reasons is due to code-filtering, our software and engineers should be able to provide code filtering that meets your standards. If not, I want to know about it so that we can improve our service. And if there are other reasons why you like to use different vendors, I want to know about those too.

I'd be more than happy to have someone discuss any issues, questions or suggestions for improvement with you. If you're interested in doing this, please drop an email for my attention to:

customerservice@click2translate.com

Thanks again!

P.S. Are you the same David who left comments about Click2Translate in the Google Blogoscoped forum?