Agile development, DevOps, continuous integration and continuous delivery are the things of the present of software production. An essential part of these methods is continuity according to their names: the production process is not a long journey to one target. Instead, the aim of the development work is to achieve small and large specific objectives, which are pursued at a steady pace, for example, in the two-week sprints. The aim is to produce functional code and new versions of the product as flexibly as possible.
Previously, the localisation following the traditional software development of the waterfall model took place in the end as a one-time effort. At this point, the product was quite ready and there was a lot to localise – in addition, the need to rush was usually quite urgent after other stages were prolonged. Localisation also delayed the release of the otherwise finished product further and further into the future. In principle, it was possible to release the English version first and the others later, but that way had its own clear problems.
In the world of agile development and DevOps, this kind of localisation thinking based on big pieces fits badly. Of course, there is still a place for waterfall-style localisation, as there may well be situations where everything is worth doing at once. However, the constantly updated and frequently released code needs constant localisation as a partner.
What is continuous localisation and why is it worthwhile?
Continuous localisation is made up of elements similar to continuous development work: with the right routines and, if possible, automated work phases, the localisation becomes the translation work of smaller packages, which is constantly rotating as a continuous stream. Due to efficient working methods, it is not necessary to limit the number of lots and collect the items to be translated in large individual lots.
Here are three good reasons to use continuous localisation in software development:
1. Simultaneous release:
It is always a good thing if the product or its update can be put on the market everywhere at the same time.
2. Shorter ‘localisation delay’:
When the product is otherwise ready for commercial release, it is good if only a small part of the localisation remains and not the whole package.
3. Quick response:
When small lots are constantly localised, any problems may also be found earlier, whether they are technical or related to the user experience.
Prerequisites for continuous localisation
Traditional localisation workflows often do not take shape directly as continuous localisation. In many organisations, localisation may even follow the same paths as translation of marketing content, resulting in different perspectives and needs. It is a good idea to adjust a few larger entities so that localisation can be genuinely continuous.
When localised in small lots, there must be no major administrative burden at any point. The heavy management of translation lots would make continuous localisation too cumbersome and, at the same time, expensive. Light management reaches all the way to the translators, as the work must be profitable and agile for them as well. The systems used for development work and the translation environment must communicate with each other, either directly or through an integration platform, so that the texts can be quickly submitted for localisation and imported back translated. Copying and pasting into different file formats or complex conversions are not suitable for this type of workflow. Good localisation tools directly support the same file formats that are used in development environments.
Your language services partner will help you find the right ways to integrate development and localisation systems.
Fast-paced localisation requires effective communication channels where questions and clarifications are not trapped in the steps between the translator and the developer but are processed quickly.
Localisation as everyone’s business
To ensure that localisation on a fast schedule does not produce low-quality translations, it must be considered from start to finish. Developers (or other producers of localisable content) must consider already at the writing stage that the text is meant to be localised to other languages. This should be considered both from a technical point of view and in relation to the content of the texts. For a few internationalisation tips, please see this link. Particularly important in the case of new features is the provision of context to the translator. When strings are accompanied by sufficient context information, for example in the form of screenshots or descriptions, the translation is more likely to be correct.
At the other end of the chain, the translator must be able to master the localisation of software, i.e. know the structure and processing of software strings and, of course, understand what the software in question does.
It is the responsibility of the language services partner to choose the right person for the work and to support the translator’s work. The language services partner is also the voice of the translator towards the development team. Especially in multilingual projects, it is not appropriate, for example, to have dozens of translators meet with the development team. In addition, a knowledgeable language services partner provides flexibility, and the translation cycle is not interrupted by a trusted translator’s holiday.
Does localisation always have to take place at the speed of development?
Short answer: no. Sometimes less is enough, and it is also worth confessing this to yourself. In other words, you should carefully review your own and your end customers’ needs: Does my release process benefit from the fact that the translations are continuously completed with a fast input? Can I make sure that the localised versions work and are of sufficient quality? So do not plunge into the world of continuous localisation just because it sounds good but think about how you might benefit from it. Your language services partner will be happy to join you in reflecting and making their own recommendations!