10 Ways to Cut Website Translation Services Costs

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Beyond quantity (the bigger the project, the bigger the discount), turnaround (rush charges), and complexity (topical and technical) there are several other factors that affect website translation costs.

And it may surprise you to find that it’s actually more effective—and easier—to approach multilingual site translation from a cost-savings perspective. Here’s how:

1) Consider the demands of a global website design from the start

Are you ready to go global—from business, operational, and resource perspectives? Have you defined and analyzed target markets, languages, and locales? Appointed in-country staff? To successfully and cost-effectively create websites for new markets, you’ll need to plan and build your source-language site with globalization in mind. Key elements of a global website design include site architecture with fully internationalized (global-ready) front and back ends. These dramatically simplify the localization process and result in substantial cost savings over time.

Tip: Is your website localization strategy an afterthought? It shouldn’t be. Your online goals should be aligned with your business objectives. Get out front—and save.

website localization strategy

2) Choose a truly global content management system

Global-readiness means more than ensuring that your content database is able to store data in any language. A truly global content management system (CMS) includes multilingual interfaces for business-critical applications, out-of-the-box workflows, integrated language/locale menus for authoring tools, and more. And it will save you lots of money and headaches. One great way is to automate source- and target-language file transfer by integrating your CMS with your language service provider’s (LSP) translation management system (TMS).

Tip: Try a quick “pseudo-translation” of your site to test for multi-byte characters (East Asian) or bi-directional text (e.g., Arabic or Hebrew). You’ll find out immediately if your CMS can handle international languages.

Global content management system

3) Adapt your writing for translation

Writers often create source content without localization in mind. And the process suffers from it, resulting in longer translation times and significantly higher costs. It’s important that the source language be highly translatable, which means simplicity is key. Minor mistakes, ambiguity, or inappropriate use of terminology may surface as errors in translation—requiring revisions in all language versions. Clear, concise, and grammatically correct source material reduces turnaround time, improves the quality of target languages, and cuts costs.

Tip: Avoid using jargon, slang, clichés, idioms, culturally specific terms, and abbreviations when writing for translation. (They draw out the process and increase costs.) If possible, use in-country teams to review source-language content before translation to test for market fit. And always use in-country reviewers post-translation to ensure linguistic equivalence.

Writing for translation

4) Create and use a glossary and style guide for translation quality management

Further streamline the localization process for reduced costs with a terminology glossary and translation style guide. Whether produced by your team or your LSP, these are invaluable to the translation team’s understanding of the subject matter. They also ensure consistent use of your preferred terminology and language style rules, which means fewer revisions and associated costs—and a more uniform global brand presence. And by incorporating these tools into the LSP’s translation quality assurance (QA) tools you can automate the process to save more time and money—as you increase revision accuracy and efficiency.

Tip: Create the highest-quality glossary possible. Otherwise, erroneous terminology could spread across the project, resulting in substantial rework costs.

Translation quality assurance

5) Use translation memory technology

Translation memory (TM) is among the most valuable cost-saving tools available to you and your localization team. This database automatically stores source- and target-language sentences (or text strings) while the linguist is translating, so the translated sentences can be reused later in the project—or by other linguists for the same or future projects. You can save significant costs, increase terminology consistency and ensure translation quality assurance with TM. When outsourcing, be sure your LSP uses TM for all your localization projects.

Tip: TM databases become most valuable once they’ve grown in size to comprise thousands of corresponding text strings. And you own them. So be sure to ask up front about your LSP’s TM access policy.

translation memory technology

6) Use multilingual templates for a global website design

Create multilingual web page templates for use across all your international sites. You’ll save on design and development costs—and you’ll promote global brand consistency as well as local content generation. Don’t forget that you’ll need to accommodate text expansion, bi-directional text, multi-byte characters, and more. So build for scale and flexibility. Also, be sure to provide a design style guide.

Tip: Avoid fragmenting headlines and other copy across multiple page elements. Embedding or hard-coding presentation-related design elements might work fine in the source English, for example, but will likely cause issues in target languages where the word order may change.

Multilingual web page templates / Global website design

7) Make translating images easier: don’t embed text into graphics

Graphics with text can’t always be avoided and can be quite dynamic when used correctly. But in the interest of saving money, it’s always best not to embed text into graphic files. Instead, try overlaying the text onto the graphic within the HTML itself. If embedded graphics can’t be avoided, be sure to create a text layer within your InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator source files so that the entire graphic doesn’t need to be rebuilt—which could increase costs significantly.

Tip: You can either pay your designer or developer to optimize graphics for localization—or the LSP’s specialists. Handle it in-house to save on production costs.

Translating images

8) Consider machine translation tools

How does machine translation work? Using machine translation (MT) software is a sure way to reduce translation costs. But because of uneven quality issues, many industry experts agree that it’s best relegated to large volumes of content that might not otherwise be translated (knowledge bases, large technical documents, etc.)—or where exact translations aren’t necessary (such as web chat or other user-generated content). Regardless, MT is most effective when source content is of particularly high quality and consistency. MT is also used as a first-pass translation tool followed by a human post-editing cycle to increase quality while keeping costs relatively low.

Tip: Many leading LSPs provide MT solutions—along with professional editing services. It’s one more choice for translating certain content types. Machine-translated content can be post-edited to varying quality levels to align with your cost/quality priorities. And yet, MT is not suited for more emotive content such as creative marketing copy.

How does machine translation work

9) Centralize key localization activities

Reduce inefficiencies, wasted resources, and redundant processes by centralizing core localization functions and processes. This could include your relationships with your LSPs if you use more than one. Industry experts cite that centralizing to use one vendor can save up to 15% over managing several multi-language vendors (MLVs). Indeed, a single point of contact for localization boosts accountability and economies of scale. Other cost-saving tactics include efficiencies gained by centralized localization workflows, CRM integrations, global brand management efforts, and the control—and flexibility—of a global CMS.

Tip: By centralizing key localization functions, processes, and management you’ll not only significantly reduce costs. You’ll also streamline workflows and speed time-to-market.

Marketing localization


10) Increase efficiencies by reducing rework

Boost translation efficiency and reduce costs by ensuring that all of your content is complete, reviewed, and approved before sending it to your LSP for localization. Even minor additions or corrections can result in significant rework costs when spread over several languages and website locales. Timely review cycles—especially in-country reviews—are particularly important for staying on schedule and within budget.

Tip: Project managers provide deadlines for a reason. If you can stick to them, you’re more likely to stay on budget. Help your in-country reviewers stay on schedule by including them early in the process, providing ample notice that review requests are coming, and agreeing on reasonable timeframes.

Translation efficiency


More information

Learn how to build business and get personal on a global scale with Lionbridge website translation and localization services.

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