Localization Leaders: Meet Wix’s Helle Gabler
This month we sat down with Helle Gabler, Head of Product Localization at Wix. Originally from Germany, Helle moved from the art history world into the hi-tech scene in Israel after moving to Tel Aviv in 2012. After joining Wix, the leading cloud-based development platform that helps people build their business online, she worked her way up from writing to leading the product localization team. Learn more about Helle’s journey, the Wix localization philosophy, and what she sees as the key to successful localization.
Thanks for joining us! Tell us a bit about your career. How did you get to where you are today as Head of Product Localization at Wix?
Thanks for inviting me, I’m really happy to be here. So I’m half Danish and half Austrian, but grew up in Germany. I grew up bilingual and from the beginning was exposed to different cultures and languages. But I didn’t decide to work with languages from the get-go. First, I studied art history in Berlin and worked in galleries as an art historian for a while. It was there that I learned more about how different people have different experiences based on their cultural backgrounds, so I’ve always been surrounded by those kinds of ideas.
But when I moved to Israel, I knew I wanted to shift my career. As I was writing a lot, I used that skill and found a job at Wix in the German Knowledge Base team as a writer. While I was there, I fell in love with the product. I really believed in what we do: helping our users be successful with their business. Because of my background, I immediately understood how important it is to adjust our communication and our products to our international users.
After a year in the Knowledge Base team, I shifted over to product localization. It felt like a natural next step for me because I believed I could have a bigger impact working on the product. And now, about eight years later, I’m leading the Product Localization team. When I started, we localized into about 8 languages, and now we’re up to 21. We’ve come a long way.
Amazing! It seems like you’ve grown a lot. Tell me a bit more about how localization works at Wix. Where does it fit within the structure of the company?
At Wix we want every user to feel like Wix was built for them. Great localization is the base for this. Only if we speak our users’ language, and offer them perfectly localized products they will truly enjoy using Wix. Wix also offers tools to support our users and the visitors to their own websites. Helping them create their own multilingual websites empowers our users to expand their reach, and connect effectively in multiple languages, when relevant.
The different departments at Wix – product, marketing, knowledge base, and the chatbot team – currently do their own localization, but we work very closely together in order to make sure that our users have one unified, consistent experience and that we all speak with one voice. We have one shared glossary and style guide to make sure our content is aligned. So even though every department has its own localization team, we really work as one big team.
We try to have as many in-house writers as possible. We believe that if the writers understand deeply what our goals are, why we are doing things and how we do them, they will have a much better understanding of the product and they will write much better content.
At Wix, we always encourage everyone to speak directly with our users. By being close to the users, our writers learn how users are using Wix, what their main pain points are, and what they really appreciate about Wix. While the products are created in English, we really encourage our team to not just translate, but to tailor their translated content for a local experience and get creative. This is why it is crucial they know who they are writing for.
Additionally, all writers are part of cross-company teams that we call the Market Groups. Here, everyone from Wix that is working for the same market gets together to learn about the market and to align their efforts. In these groups we have the product writers, the customer care representative, the marketing team, the account managers, and more. That way, everyone really understands their users and their needs from all angles, and they learn better how to address the users in their market. So, this is an additional way to get closer to our users.
Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you’re doing great work, and it sounds like a lot of responsibility. Is there any challenge you’ve found as you built your team?
The most challenging thing was changing the way we did localization. When I started, we were doing something that is very common, which is doing localization at the end of the process. You first build the product, then you send it for localization. But this created a lot of issues because the product teams didn’t always keep in mind what it means to localize your product for an international market.
So, when I joined the team, we started shifting the way we work. Today, we have a dedicated Localization Ops Manager per product at Wix. They are part of the product teams in order to overview the localization process from the get-go. They are an integral part of the product cycle, and are able to flag localization-sensitive areas at an early stage, like narrow panels that need to be enlarged, formats that need to be localized, or product features that need to be adjusted to their markets.
The Localization Ops Managers take the new product we are working on to the writing team. They will set up a kick-off meeting in which the writers get briefed and can ask any questions that come up, to make sure the writers understand the product or new feature in-depth. We make sure everyone has all the information they need before starting.
Basically, it is about ownership. We are owning the processes and have in-house writers to make sure they have our users at heart when writing. By owning the localization, we make sure that the localization is in the highest quality, that we have the right content for the right users, and that the final product is perfectly localized.
Do you find that most of the people on your team come from a translation or localization background? Or are they like you, coming from different directions?
Most of them were writers or had writing experience before joining our team, but they didn’t necessarily have experience in translation or UX writing. For us, the most important thing is that they have a passion for writing and for the product. And I can say that we today have a really passionate team, where everyone cares about what they do and are constantly striving for creating the best localized products for our international users.
Sounds like it’s working really well for you. So my last question is, what kind of advice would you have for someone who wants to get into localization, or someone who’s in localization and wants to work their way up in the field?
Focus on the user and be passionate about what you do. That’s something I constantly tell my team. With everything you do, focus on the main goal- offering our users a good product. And if you have the passion and really stand behind what you do, you can’t go wrong and will automatically grow to do and be whatever you want.