From translation to localization: our first steps

Our clients come from all over the world. Having Easy LMS available in a variety of languages is important to us. But how did that all start? And where do we stand today?

Dyann
Written by Dyann UX Designer & Researcher
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Reading time 6 minutes

As you might know, Easy LMS is available in a lot of languages. But that has not always been true. Like everyone, we started small, and we have grown over time. Let us dive into how we got this far and what is yet to come.

The first steps to a multi-language product

Addressing (potential) clients in their native language has a positive effect on growth

In the beginning, Easy LMS was only available in English and Dutch. As we are a Dutch company with international ambitions, it was obvious to us to pick these languages. Since we could manage both languages’ content—fun fact: we build and document everything in English for the entire company.

We were curious to see whether addressing potential clients in their native language would stimulate growth in the corresponding countries from a sales perspective. To test this, we set up an experiment. We picked a language, German, and translated the website using Google Translate. That allowed us to get the results we needed to determine whether the experiment succeeded. And it did! We gained more traffic and leads from German-speaking clients and some even signed up.

We concluded that addressing (potential) clients in their native language has a positive effect on growth. Thus, we continued adding other languages using the same method.

From machine to human translations

Even though we started growing in new countries, we also received complaints about the translation quality. We did not see this necessarily as bad because if a (potential) client sends us feedback, it shows that they care about our product and want to see us improve. That made us start assembling our team of owlsome freelance translators. Some even used to translate Easy LMS to more than one language for us.

If a (potential) client sends us feedback, it shows us that they care

To stick to our German example, our Danish translator also translated our German website at first. As we are an informal company, we briefed our translator that we wanted the language to be informal too. We quickly discovered that this did not work for our German clients. They mentioned during demos their need to address their end users formally. They also told us that it made us seem unreliable as a company and that we needed to update some of our labels in the system as they were not accurate. This feedback made us decide to hire a German native-speaking translator. It resulted in fewer complaints and questions about translated content, and we started growing more rapidly in Germany.

Through this process, we discovered that having better fitting and consistent translations helps clients to understand the product better. Since then, we have addressed clients in the client’s preferred language as much as possible. As Caroline, our QA/QC Officer explained, "This why our translators have the freedom with their translations to localize as they see fit and not literally translate. They know the market in their country best. We trust that they know how to handle, phrase, and present their text accordingly." Because of all these findings, currently, the Dashboard is available in 11 languages, the public website is available in 12 languages, and the participant interface is available in 24 languages!

Being culturally aware

But our journey does not end here. Despite all these improvements over the past years, we felt an opportunity to grow in local markets. By adapting our brand identity and design to clients’ needs based on where they are from, we would like to compete with local competitors.

To localize and reach a deeper understanding of our clients, we needed to become more aware of the different mental models at play. We also needed to find out how a client’s mental model from one country differs from another. We knew they were different from what we learned in the translator journey, but we did not know what was different.

Culture influences the way that we humans interpret everything around us and make decisions

Thus, we decided to research how we can raise awareness within the team that we are designing for different cultures around the globe. However, we did not stop there, as we also wanted to be able to use that knowledge actively. It was essential to create a process or method that allowed us to look at culture objectively. The research results were combined into a guide that helps us to define culture as objectively as possible. That country-specific culture guide allows us to create an adapted design and content with context in mind.

We discovered that there are different needs and different ways of making a decision. We want to be of service to help you make the decision that is best for you. Localizing helps you with this as we have a better idea of what you need and want from an LMS.

Where are we now

History repeats as we, again, are using Germany to test what we have learned over the past few months. This time, we picked Germany for a reason. We are growing there pretty fast, and we are not sure why that is. Right now, we are in the middle of testing whether an article that we adapted to the German culture will perform better in Germany than the original translated one. The only way of knowing is to try and see what the results will be. Those will allow us to define our next steps. We do not know what those will consist out of yet: back to the drawing board or continue by discovering more cultures and adapting content.

Over the past few years, we have made some significant steps in localizing our product. We have learned a lot, and we will keep learning and improving as we experiment with culture-sensitive design.