When translating a product’s UI into a new language you can make things go smoother by following a few simple steps. First develop the product so that it is internationalized and translation-ready, which means that you can easily localize text and graphics so they work with other languages and cultures. You should be able to swap character sets, dates, money, time and other data into the target country’s format.
Text-based content should be held in separate “resource” files so they can be easily read into the product. Create style guides that detail the product’s design and content standards so the translator can follow them.
So your product has optimum usability, run usability studies before you translate. Have people from your target audience do a thorough shake-down of critical features to make sure they are simple and intuitive. Gather feedback on the product’s screen and work flows, page layouts, field labels, status and error messages. Otherwise, you’ll end up translating silly design flaws that need to be reworked.
Next find a top-notch translator with experience in UX and (ideally) your product category. Walk this person through the interface so they fully understand the product, its goals, intended users and the context in which people will be using it. They need a complete understanding of the product so give them your style guides, screen flows, and page mockups as well as any product documentation or marketing materials.
Why not have the translator start with a usability study? This experience will give them an end-user’s perspective while they learn the nuances of your product’s design. Once the translator starts working be available to answer their questions and review their work regularly to ensure they are on track. Once the work is complete do one final round of usability testing with participants from the target population to ensure the user interface is optimized in the new language.
Translating a user interface is a human-centered activity that cannot be automated. Find a skilled translator you trust and who understands UX and the product category. If you don’t have a qualified individual in your network, tap organizations such as the QRCA, CASRO, the UXPA or ESOMAR for leads to excellent candidates.