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Web Localization

White Paper

Web Localization - Success Depends on the Infrastructure

Foreign markets are becoming an increasing source of revenue for companies, which means web localization is becoming more and more of a necessity. After all, the cultural, linguistic and business needs vary from country to country, so it's rather shortsighted to create just one version of your web site.

Most people understand the need for web localization yet run into problems when faced with the actual implementation. Release schedules are often pushed out. Budgets are extended. Quality is inconsistent. The toughest challenge for any web localization project is coordinating all the logistics - translators, developers and designers located in different countries all need to work on the site - and still launch the site on time and within budget.

This white paper will explain two different approaches to web localization. The first method, the waterfall life cycle, has been used for years. The second, the iterative cycle, is a newer approach and has been proven to shorten the time to market for numerous multi-lingual web sites.

Waterfall Life Cycle - a Sequential Approach

With this method, developers, designers and translators work on the site in a specific order. Each takes the time to make their specific changes, and then passes the project on to the next department.

At first glance this seems logical, yet it can result in numerous delays. Globalization projects often require 30 to 100 different people working across time zones. If one person needs to rely on the other before he or she can proceed, valuable time can be lost. In addition, if a major flaw is found in the testing stage, the time to fix the problem can delay the site launch since each functional area must be separated and then changed. While the waterfall life cycle has been used for software development for years, it's ill suited for the evolutionary nature of the web.

Iterative Life Cycle - Simultaneous Workflow

The iterative method enables designers, developers and translators to work simultaneously and independently. Since designers do not have to wait for developers before they can start working, this process enables the site to be completed much faster.


The iterative approach, however, only works if those familiar with every step of the process analyze the site requirements early in the product's life cycle. Here are a few key questions that need to be asked before starting the internationalization of the site:

  • Will the web site be able to accommodate all of the languages?
  • What needs to be modified in order to handle the unique characters?
  • How will the site recognize and remember what language the visitor wants to use?
  • What are the common resources?

That last question is the key to using the iterative life cycle for internationalization. Once common resources are identified, localization engineers can make the software independent from any language/character set encoding, extract all language and other elements that depend on nations, regions and cultures and create tools that allow translators to translate the extracted text efficiently. Since the localization and translation effort can be worked on while the core development is under way, this process has endless efficiencies when compared to the waterfall life cycle.

Prevent Risks, Plan for the Future

Since time to market is often crucial, the last thing you need is defects than can lead to costly and time-consuming revisions. The iterative life cycle addresses issues at the onset and enables a smoother process for the initial localization project and future content changes.

Back in the days when companies relied on printed documents to communicate with their clients and customers, there was a sense of finality to a translation project. The web changes that. Changing content or localizing the site for another market can be done efficiently if the infrastructure is built to be flexible and if it's internationalized before it's localized.