The globalization of travel websites presents challenges on many fronts.
Global brand adaptation, coordination of internal resources, translation resource management and technical considerations are at the top of the list.
But before launching any initiative, step one is an accurate analysis of the budget and resources required to deliver on business objectives within a given timeframe.
The ability to accurately scope a travel website localization initiative lies within a companyâ€™s expertise in understanding all project variables and identifying those areas where budgets, resources and timelines are likely to come under the most pressure.
Translations.com offers the following list of considerations that, if appropriately addressed, can make the difference in meeting user experience expectations, controlling costs and launching on time.
While this is not the sum of all considerations, it is a compilation of some of the most important recommendations as identified by three Translations.com senior production managers from across the organization with a combined 35+ years of experience in website localization.
1. Global brand management
Perhaps the most fundamental element of global expansion is the appropriate and consistent adaptation of the brand. Â To this end, globalization managers must ensure that language assets are collected and/or developed.
These assets include previously localized materials that represent the brand voice as appropriately adapted for each target market: a bilingual glossary of key industry and company terminology, local language style guides and local language brand guides.
The time required to collect and/or develop these assets will pay significant dividends during the localization process.
2. Global brand communication plan
The next step in global brand management is a communication plan to ensure all project members are aware of how to leverage the language assets during the localization process.
Local staff that will be evaluating the translations of any external resources (vendors) and ultimately signing off on the brand messaging in-country should be involved in the creation and/or review of the language assets to ensure that their preferences and cultural considerations are understood upfront.
3. Responsibilities of content owners
Identifying who within the organization authors and owns the selected content is a prerequisite to website localization and local control of content.
The local control should also carry an understanding of any budget and schedule impacts.
4. Use of shared content
Wherever possible, limit the use of free-form text while still keeping the site content engaging.
Although this may seem like common sense, you might be amazed at how many different ways â€śhigh-speed internetâ€ť can be described.
In some cases for large-volume translation, â€śnormalizationâ€ť of source language content upfront can save significant amounts of time and money.
Just as with internationalization of source code (see item number 7), some work upfront can result in significant savings down the road, and the greater the number of target languages, the larger the payoff.
5. Translate static content first
Any content that is expected to remain the same over time should be translated first to help create the largest volume of leveragable content.
Dynamic content should be translated as close to launch as possible to avoid paying for the translation of content that will be outdated soon after launch.
6. Reconsider the all-or-nothing approach
Some companies elect to translate the entire site (all properties/offerings) for one language, while translating a pared down version (eg, brand-critical pages, booking engine, in-region offerings) for other markets.
Although this may increase the complexities from an IT perspective, in the long run, it can often reduce costs and increase ROI.
When taking this approach, companies should carefully consider content priorities so that the content most closely related to conversion is classified correctly as the top priority.
Internationalization is the process by which source code is evaluated for issues that may result from translation into any language.
For example, testing for string concatenation during source language site development is vastly more efficient than testing each different language version for string concatenation after content has been translated.
8. Source systems
Travel sites have been making money for as long as any other category, so successful sites often have legacy architecture. A successful globalization plan will take all source systems into account upfront.
In particular, feeds from other sources, such as special promotions and rate descriptions, may come from systems that cannot accept translated content without a significant amount of development time.
In some cases, a means to bypass the source system for managing the translated content may be advisable.
9. Machine Translation
Formerly reserved for only the most structured content, such as user manuals, machine translation today is more viable than ever.
When considering the incorporation of machine translation in its various forms (straight machine translation, machine translation with human review, etc.), companies must first decide on their content priorities (see item #6) and then evaluate the output from any machine translation or hybrid machine translation process as it relates to the cost, user experience and core needs.
10. Steady state requirements
If there is one area that is consistently under-scoped, it is the consideration of steady state requirements.
The reason steady state requirements are so frequently underestimated for travel sites is the dynamic nature of the industry.
A snapshot of steady state requirements today does not necessarily reflect the same business environment in six months.
Whatever the scale of your own travel site initiative is, you should regularly review the requirements, opportunities, associated budget impacts and site performance to ensure that the budget is allocated in an agile way.
11. Marketing support
Another area in which budget and resource allocation often comes up short is in the realm of total market dollar allocation.
For example, no company would dream of launching a travel website today without carefully considering its natural search and paid search strategy, and yet, even sizable travel sites launch multilingual versions of their websites without truly understanding the nuances of search optimization for all their target markets.
Each and every travel website will have its own particular combination of interlocking and weighted considerations as they relate to these items.
As you keep these considerations in mind when starting down the path of website localization, always be on the lookout for what makes your offering unique and customize your approach to fit your business.
NB: This is a guest post by Liz Elting, co-founder and co-CEO of Translations.com and TransPerfect.