A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to one of Dr. Pam Brewer’s classes at Mercer University via web cam. We had a great conversation about global-ready content and why it’s important. Here’s a summary of what I told them:
Global-Ready Content Defined
Global-Ready content means applying technical communication best practices stringently and consistently. Localization adds a layer of complexity to your content development process. In the traditional process, 50% or more of your localization costs are associated with DTP. And, anything you do to help alleviate these costs also helps the audience of your source English content.
Global-ready content has these characteristics:
- Culturally neutral
- Well-written and well-edited
1. Plan for the Future
Always design with the world in mind, even if you aren’t yet translating your content. It’s a lot easier to design it right in the first place than it is to retrofit it. If your company has a website, it’s potentially a global company.
The Language of Content Strategy defines it as, “The analysis and planning required to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the content lifecycle.” What this means is that you have to look at your content holistically, and that includes localization. Your strategy and architecture should support and facilitate localization.
Information Architecture and Design
The Language of Content Strategy defines it as, “The art and science of structuring content to support findability and usability.” The information architecture is the technical side of the content strategy. It is what allows you to actually implement your strategy effectively.
If you only remember one thing, make it this: Design with the world in mind. That means making sure that all your structures, processes, models, etc. all support and facilitate both source content development and localization (and I’m including visual content in this…)
2. Build a Solid Structure
Build a solid structure/architecture, one that won’t collapse under its own weight or get blown away with the first problem that arises. Make it flexible and scalable.
Think about how your workflow supports these things:
- Multiple users
- Status tracking
- Version control
- Multiple output formats
- Process efficiency
- Content chunking
Creating content ‘chunks’/components/modules allows you to send only the untranslated content to the vendor, which saves 10% or more of your localization costs because vendors charge you even for 100% matches. This charge is because the human translator has to do context verification. Sending only new or modified content eliminates this.
Reuse facilitates consistency. Instead of rewriting a note, caution, or warning every time it’s needed, you write once and reuse. Same thing with graphics, tables, regulatory information, and other content that’s used in multiple places. It bears mention, however, that consistency doesn’t equal quality. You also need to also spend time internationalizing the content to ensure that it is clear, concise, and accurate. But, that’s a whole other discussion.
Structured Authoring for Intelligent Content
Once you have identified how to properly chunk your content, you need to structure it well so that it can be more intelligent. The structure of your XML needs to facilitate flexibility and scalability, as well as support localization. Yves Savourel’s book, XML Internationalization and Localization is a deep dive into the technical aspects of structuring your content for localization.
Metadata is the key to happiness in a content management environment. It’s what allows you to find, manage, and use your content. When you add localization, suddenly you need to think about which metadata needs to be translated and how you are going to expose it to the translators.
Make this the 2nd thing you remember: Hard-coded strings are bad. Metadata needs to stored in such a way that you can easily identify and extract the strings that need to be localized.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will share items 3-5 on the list of 5 things you need to know about global-ready content.