A Beginner’s Guide to Performing Localization Quality Assurance
Investing in content localization is an essential part of expanding beyond home markets. But how can you understand whether localization efforts have been successful, and how to improve localization campaigns in the future? That’s where localization quality assurance (LQA) enters the picture.
LQA is the method we use to assess whether content really serves targeted audiences. It’s a process of analysis that dives deep into how content is received and consumed. The output is a detailed picture of how well that content has been localized, and how to make improvements that are needed.
In this blog, we’ll look at how LQA works, and suggest some tips to make it accessible for all of BLEND’s clients. It’s not overly complicated, but carrying out a thorough audit of all localization projects is absolutely essential. Let’s find out more.
1. Understand the basics of localization
Before clients audit anything, it’s vital to know what localization means. Without that basic understanding, we can’t tell whether projects have met their goals, or what to look for when assessing content performance.
Put simply, localization is the conversion of content to make it suitable for a different audience. This generally entails linguistic translation into target languages, but there’s more to localizing content than this.
Localization also transcreates content – turning it into a form that makes sense to consumers elsewhere in the world. It takes into account cultural variations, the needs and desires of local customers, and more mundane issues like choosing the right metrics for distances or time formats.
The aim is to create content that answers the questions of local customers. This delivers an SEO boost, encourages greater brand engagement, and also serves customers with better information – all big wins for expanding companies.
2. Plan and strategize your QA process
LQA measures whether key localization goals have been achieved, and it needs to be approached strategically via a quality assurance action plan. This plan will vary from business to business, but most share several elements in common:
- Segment the task appropriately – Decide which content areas have high priority and which need less attention. Legal documents like terms and conditions should be ranked highly, with close scrutiny to ensure that they are accurate and compliant with local laws. Front-line brand content is also high priority, as it tends to be the first point of contact with local consumers. UI elements and support databases are also important to assess, but checking every paragraph may be beyond a client’s QA resources. So focus on the areas that matter most.
- Create a QA team – Quality assurance needs to be carried out by a team of experts. Alongside project managers, add translators with the skills required to assess written content. Web developers and user experience experts familiar with the target audience can provide valuable feedback on website or app performance. Marketers can also help, ensuring that branding guidelines remain consistent across all localized content.
- Set KPIs for localized content – Decide how to measure whether localized content is performing as it should. Accuracy, grammar and cultural issues are all important issues to take into account, as well as traffic and conversion stats, and customer experience. Blending these KPIs together will provide the information needed to understand the success of localization processes.
- Set milestones and targets for project completion – Decide how long the QA process should last, and when different aspects of the process need to be completed. Markets change quickly, so speed matters. But it’s just as important to be rigorous when analyzing localization performance. So give teams enough time to carry out a thorough analysis.
It’s important to stress that localization quality assurance plans vary. For instance, game localization quality assurance plans will probably place more weight on customer experience testing than refining website content. Find a mix that suits each project.
3. Check translations for accuracy
Almost every localization project has a strong translation element. Translations matter, even if companies are expanding between English language markets. They are even more important as linguistic barriers become higher and more challenging.
Several factors come into play when assessing the quality of translations:
- Fidelity – Do translated phrases have the same meaning as the original text? Literal translations via automated tools are often very different to phrases spoken in target countries. Enlisting a native speaker will allow companies to ensure that they convey the appropriate meaning.
- Consistency – Translators sometimes choose different ways to express the same thing, resulting in a loss of brand consistency. Double check content to ensure that consistency is maintained throughout, and use quality assurance localization tools to ensure that key terms are always translated accurately.
- Context – Sometimes, literal translations can be accurate but inadequate. Languages vary in the ways they express concepts, meaning that translators can omit important text or add text that is unnecessary or even misleading. A translation audit will smooth out these rough areas, and add or remove as required.
4. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes
Translation isn’t just about converting meanings between cultures and nations. Every language has its own grammar and spelling rules. Getting them wrong can instantly alienate potential customers and damage brand credibility, and they are almost always easy to avoid. Here are some key issues to check for across all content types:
- Spelling – Translators usually employ spell checkers to verify their own work, but quality assurance teams can’t rely on their accuracy. For example, it’s easy to add “Britishisms” into content localized to American audiences, while content for audiences in Catalonia may not read the same as content for other parts of Spain. A fine-grained localization audit can pick up these errors which may seem small, but will instantly mark out content as inauthentic.
- Grammar – Punctuation and syntax also vary between languages, even ones that are superficially similar. Examples include the use of commas and ampersands, capitalization rules, and even the use of pronouns or adverbs. For example, while an American reader would know that “the ouster of King Michael” refers to a coup, a British reader would read it as referring to an individual person. Again, small variations have major effects on meaning, making local expertise all-important.
- Date and time formats – While not strictly grammatical or spelling errors, using incorrect formats for dates, distances, currencies, or times can irritate customers. Settle on an appropriate formats for key information and use quality assurance localization tools to add the right formats where needed.
5. Spot potential cultural issues
Cultural translation is probably the most difficult part of localization projects, and it’s also where quality assurance audits can make the most impact.
Every nation has its own forms of address, sense of humor, pop culture references, social taboos, and colloquialisms. Web searchers, gamers and app users are steeped in those cultural elements, which in turn heavily influence how they interact with brands.
Here are some cultural factors to take into account when carrying out a full LQA assessment:
- Use appropriate imagery – The metaphors used to describe life vary between cultures. For instance, Proctor & Gamble once tried to launch a diaper brand in Japan using the traditional image of a stork delivering diapers to parents in need. What the brand didn’t know was that in Japan, the most common image was of a giant peach delivering baby products by floating down a river. The brand’s ads had little impact because locals couldn’t assimilate them into their world view – something localization specialists will quickly detect.
- Avoid humor failures – Humor is a key part of branding and game production, but it’s also a cultural minefield. Use jokes as much as necessary, but flag them up at the LQA stage and have each one assessed by a native speaker. Even seemingly harmless terms like KFC’s “finger lickin’ good!” can prove problematic. When translated into Mandarin, the humorous tagline became “eat your fingers off”, and turned off many Chinese consumers in the process.
- Use relevant references – This is crucial. If your game or website refers to pop culture figures, make sure they are relevant to the audience being targeted. One obvious example would be changing references to monarchs to presidents, or soccer players to footballers. But it’s also important to refer to songs, books, and films that are well-known enough to resonate with readers.
All of these cultural factors can be picked up during quality assurance testing for localization, whether audits deal with product descriptions for eCommerce sites, or playing through adventure games.
6. Test layout and formatting changes
The way content looks and feels can also change when large amounts of text are translated. This can make website front ends more cumbersome to use, and even obscure important information on app interfaces or during games.
Those problems can be avoided by auditing layouts and formatting for all web pages and gameplay elements.
- Look out for text that has become longer during translation, and if necessary make it more concise. The shorter the better is a good rule when creating web layouts, without losing essential meaning.
- If longer text needs to be accommodated, expand buttons and text boxes accordingly. Bring in UX experts to achieve this in an ergonomic way that retains site functionality.
- Fonts are another area to check. For instance, languages like Chinese or Japanese may require larger fonts, and Cyrillic languages may not look as good in the original font.
- Binary encoding might change between languages as well. For example, UTF-8 works well with western scripts, while UTF-16 is preferable for Asian languages.
- Some languages flow in a completely different direction compared with source texts. This seems obvious, but it’s important to check that content is directed appropriately.
7. Evaluate customer experience
When you’ve covered cultural factors, formatting, layouts, spelling and grammar, make any necessary changes and move on to the final testing stage: customer experience.
This part of LQA provides a window into how customers use websites, apps, or games. It functions as an extra layer of quality assurance, detecting additional issues and verifying that the changes made by LQA teams haven’t created new problems.
There is no single way to audit customer experience. eCommerce companies will need to cover searching for products, purchasing, customer support, and terms and conditions. Game localization quality assurance projects will need playtesters who understand both game mechanics and local culture.
The exact mix depends on what is being localized. But the process has to be guided by native speakers and their reports must be acted upon.
8. Finalize your quality assurance report
LQA finishes with a quality assurance report. This brings together the findings of translators, cultural analysts, play testers, coders, and user experience experts and tends to follow a series of meetings where team members discuss issues arising from the process.
Make the report comprehensive but clear. Detail any changes that have been made or need to be made, along with evidence to back them up. Remember, this report isn’t just useful for the short term. It’s also a learning document to support localization efforts in the future. So make it accurate, easy to read, and accessible to future LQA teams.
When would you need a localization quality assurance service?
LQA doesn’t have to be carried out in-house. In fact, enlisting third-party quality assurance services can often be a better option.
Bringing in a third party like BLEND adds an extra benefit – the ability to see with the eyes of an outsider. External perspectives provide an objective analysis of how content performs. Outsiders can analyze language without worrying about offending writers or managers. They can just deliver assessments that get to the heart of the matter.
Why should you consider localization quality assurance?
Every localization project should incorporate LQA. Whether companies are selling soft drinks, designer sneakers, or immersive smartphone games, products should never reach new markets without a full localization analysis.
The benefits of LQA far exceed the costs, and include:
- Higher quality content
- Better click through rates
- Fewer customer complaints
- Improved Brand engagement
- Stress-free expansion to new markets
- Institutional learning for future localization projects
BLEND provides high-quality QA testing for localization in all business sectors. Our experts can analyze and content to remove even the smallest mistakes, leaving no stone unturned.
In a world where minor cultural or linguistic errors can ruin localization campaigns, LQA is not an optional extra. Get in touch with us, and create content that succeeds anywhere in the world.