Major site content revisions – when do you translate?

Coinciding with the article in CSN this month we also put a new revision of our site up. It’s a fairly major overhaul, focusing a little less on our content management system and more on our translation workflow gateway – which connects to content authoring and management systems and ties them directly into a TSP/LSP’s workflow.

Interestingly enough this revision brought about some interesting questions/considerations when it comes to a small business trying to run and multi-lingual website – the biggest being, “when do you send the content out for translation?”.

Based on feedback during sales and partnership efforts we recognized that some of our messaging probably needed to change – what resulted was a fairly large change in how our site is structured, a generous revision to existing content and the addition of several new pages. Changing our source language (English) is no big deal (ah the wonders of a CMS), and with our Gateway getting the content translated is just as easy (just click “Send for Translation”). The challenge though, is that clicking “Send for Translation” has a fairly serious financial impact (we’ve made it easy, not free :) ) – especially for messaging that may or may not be quite right yet.

So the question comes back to – when making a large change in the content of your site when is the right time to send content out for translation?

Of course the ideal is to finish your source content, send it out for translation and launch all languages at the same time. For more established companies, who’s messages and marketing components are more established, and less likely to change this is fairly easy to accomplish. But for a small business, or startup, who may be in a much more turbulent space, it’s very likely that their messaging will initially change frequently for a while and over time settle down. Constantly sending out revised content to translators can quickly add up – and for some companies the costs could become crippling.

From what I see you have three choices:

1. “Turn off” the other languages until you’re ready to get them translated
2. Retain the old versions of the translated sites and update your source. Translate when you’re confident the content is stable for a bit.
3. Bite the bullet and just keep sending those revisions out.

For small “tactical” changes in content I believe option #3 is really the best way to go – a website should be dynamic and elements of it should change from time to time. It’s important that when companies consider moving to a multilingual website they also budget for the iterative changes that will incur some translation work.

I also think #3 is the way to go if your existing content has become completely out of date to the point of being incorrect or misleading. Happy customers or prospects aside there could be serious liability risks for your organization in some cases.

For now we’ve chosen to go with Option #2 for our site. While we’ve made major revisions to the site, the fundamental messaging from the old site is still accurate. Our products haven’t changed dramatically, just the way we’re talking about them.

What are the risks? Well, If we’ve really nailed the messaging this time around on the English site we run the risk of missing an opportunity because a non-English visitor hasn’t seen the improved messaging. Other than that I don’t expect we’re risking much else. Information is still available on our site in 5 additional languages (English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin), and those visitors are getting accurate information about our products. Our goal right now, provided the messaging works, is to push the new site out to other languages within the next few weeks – it’s still very important to us to maintain a consistent multilingual presence.

As for #1, personally I think it’s only an option in very few circumstances:

  • Your organization just can’t afford to translate your site anymore and content is getting to the point of being inaccurate or misleading.
  • Your organization is moving away from operating/making an effort in the regions you hoped to service through that language.

In either case, you’re company is getting to a point where it’s hand is somewhat forced. In the first circumstance it’s understandable that an organization may come to the point where it’s just not fiscally feasible to maintain a multilingual site – unfortunately at that point there are probably much bigger things to worry about as well. In this situation you’re likely also experiencing circumstance #2 – when things get tight an organization needs to focus, it’s likely that international sales efforts will be reevaluated.

If you’re purely in circumstance #2 it does make sense to stop spending money translating for a market you’re not interested in pursuing at the current time. The key though is “Current time”. Remember that you may decide to turn your focus back on that region again. My recommendation if you find option #1 as your only choice is to take the last of your translation budget and make a graceful exit from that language. Consider condensing your basic pitch or product info to a single page or maybe just a page with a message that indicates why that language is no longer being updated.

At the end of the day you just don’t want to come across as not caring – you never know when opportunity may arise in that region again – the last thing you want them to remember is how you just vanished the last time.

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