|February 2005 issue (Vol 11, No. 3)
About the Author
David Dick is the editor of Usability Interface
Is Localization of a Product Essential to Ensure Usability and Customer Satisfaction?
By David Dick, Editor
Do you believe that localization of a product is essential to ensure usability and customer satisfaction? What do you consider the consequences of delivering an English-only product for a user community that, by majority, speaks English as a second language?
The following is a true story about how one group of technical writers put customer satisfaction ahead of their careers.
Several Technical Writers of ABC Company (a pseudonym for the company) decided to translate the user guides of a new system into Japanese. If successful, it would significantly reduce calls to the Help Desk about regarding information covered in the user guide. Support came from members of the company's office in Japan who graciously volunteered their time and effort to this undertaking.
Not everybody thought the idea was worthwhile. Management and budget holders balked at the idea because they did not consider the time, effort, and costs worth the return on investment.
Everybody worked feverishly to adhere to tight deadlines, and cope with numerous changes to system design and documentation changes. Members of the Japan office worked tirelessly to translate, proofread, and copyedit the translated manuscript.
Despite the time constraints, the product (system, and user guides (English and Japanese) was delivered on schedule. Although only the user guides were translated, the Japanese user community was grateful.
At the annual meeting of the company’s user community, the new release of the system was heralded as a major achievement. To the dismay of the writers, no mention was made that the documentation was now available in Japanese.
I was disappointed to learn that "management" was only two people. Did their opinion reflect those of a company that prides itself on quality and satisfying customers or a lack of understanding users' needs?
I congratulate those daring men and women who challenged the status quo and who demonstrated team work to improve usability.
Articles about Localization that have been published in Technical Communication
“Guidelines for Authoring Comprehensible Web Pages and Evaluating Their Success” by Jan H. Spyridakis . Volume 47, No.3, p.359-382, August 2000
“Building a Truly World Wide Web: A Review of the Essentials of International Communication” by Mitchell D. Arnold. Volume 45, No.2, p.197-206, May 1998
“Global Issues, Local Concerns” by Nancy Hoft, Guest Editor . Volume 46, No.2, p.145-148, May 1999
“Illustrations in User Manuals: Preference and Effectiveness with Japanese and American Readers” by Waka Fukuoka, Yukiko Kojima, and Jan H. Spyridakis. Volume 46, No.2, p.167-176, May 1999
“One Company’s Efforts to Improve Translation and Localization” by Daphne Walmer. Volume 46, No.2, p.230-237, May 1999
“Communicating with the World” by George F. Hayhoe. Volume 46, No.2, p.139-140, May 1999
“Going Online: Helping Technical Communicators Help Translators” by Patricia Flint, Melanie Lord van Slyke, Doreen Starke-Meyerring, and Aimee Thompson. Volume 46, No.2, p.238-248, May 1999
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