Let’s say you’re the proud owner of this amazing app, and now you are ready to sell it to the 400 millions of Spanish speakers around the world.

What do you need? A localization professional who knows how to speak to your foreign users. You know, to speak their language is one thing, but actually connecting with them is priceless!

So, you need to adapt your product not only linguistically but culturally, while taking good care of user experience in the process.

In this competitive market, the technical factor alone is not going to make your users fall in love with your app. It’s all about the experience they get. You may want to improve this experience with a clean and user-friendly interface, well-defined calls to action, clear language, engaging storytelling, or maybe with your brand’s magical touch.

See how important are these things? Don’t let a bad localization ruin that.

Localization mistakes that can kill your user experience

You decide to hire McTranslations & Cheese, a localization company. How could you not hire them? They look so successful and professional in those photos shaking hands and wearing suits… And they’re cheap! You can’t go wrong, right? They’re experts in localization, medicine, economy… whatever you want them to be. They promise to have everything ready in a week. Awesome.

After a week, your app is ready! Ok, let’s see…

Words that don’t fit

Words that don't fit the layout

As you probably know, your text strings must be exported to be translated. So, translators need context to know what they’re translating.

It’s crazy, because you provided an Excel file in which each text string was shown along with its context. Something like this:

Column A
Column B

This way the translator knows if she’s translating a tooltip or a button with character limitation.

How could that happen?

Well, McTranslations’ translators use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools for consistency, which automatically show previous stored translations. This way, translators can see how something was translated before. This is good, right?

But some of these tools can’t show your contextual notes.

McTranslations wants to deliver your localization very fast, with ketchup and fries, so they can go to the next project as soon as possible. Who knows, maybe being in such a rush, the translator couldn’t check your notes properly.

Eye-stabbing misspellings and poor writing

Sloppy marketing copy

It doesn’t matter how excellent your app is, how easy to use, how good is your design, how clean your user interface… If you have typos and bad writing in your app or your landing page, your app will certainly seem lazy and unprofessional. Congratulations, McTranslations, you broke all the magic.

Misspellings can be very easily avoided by using the built-in spell check functionality that almost all of the CAT tools include. So, this makes obvious that McTranslations couldn’t care less about you.

Some other writing mistakes, however, are only fixable with a proofreader (see how bad is the use of punctuation on that bullet list).

Non-consistent terminology


Menu options

That menu item is translated as Subir imágenes (Upload pictures) and your help content tells the users to click Subir fotos (Upload photos). What?

Well, maybe this happened because there were two or three different translators working in your text translating things differently.

Wait, didn’t you know that? This is why they can deliver your translation so fast, with cheese.

“But McTranslations guarantees consistency and quality.”

Yes, because their translators work with CAT tools and maybe they have one internal editor to check for quality… But do you really think this is a guarantee when having too many people working in such a tight deadline? They’re relying too much in CAT tools (without actually checking translations in context) and super human abilities.

Cheap translation


Badly-translated menu options

It’s Summer, and McTranslations is a little short of freelance translators. They had to call two new freelancers with almost zero experience in localization. Well, they deserve an opportunity too, of course, but McTranslations should’ve compensated this lack of experience at least reviewing the translation with extra care. But they were short of employees too.

The result is a disaster (I know, I know, this example is so stuffed with mistakes that is almost surreal, but I’ve come to see most of them):

1) All menu options begin with initial uppercase. Bad style in Spanish.
2) The translator doesn’t know what is an URL, which is a feminine noun and should translate as URL predeterminada.
3) URL Inválido. Again, wrong gender. Also, this is saying that URLs are handicapped.
4) Historia de Navegación. Historia is not related to Internet language but to real History, the study of past times. Historial is the word we are looking for.
5) Páginas de Aterrizaje. The translator didn’t know what he was translating, so he chose a literal translation. Well, these are not pages where you actually land an airplane. C’mon, even Google Translator knows that!
6) To translate Remarketing as Promoción Repetida is a nice try to make this term sound more Spanish. But also implies very little knowledge about the industry.

Fine, so what can you do to avoid this disaster?

Don’t hire McTranslations ever again! It’s better to have no localization at all than having a bad one.

You can generally assume that the cheaper their rates and the faster the delivery, the worse the localization. Why? They pay peanuts to their translators. Everybody knows that if you pay peanuts, you get a bunch of translators typing like crazy monkeys.

Next time, if you want to take control of who you want to work with, consider hiring a freelancer. It makes communication easy.

In my experience, a freelancer is more open to ask you when problems arise and assess you in localization and linguistic matters, so keeping good communication during the project goes a long way.

But maybe your project requires a lot of management (i.e., you want to launch your app in several languages at the same time). In that case, hire a localization company, but make sure they manage your project responsibly. Ask them to hire specialized translators, ask how much they are paying them, and ask them to take the necessary time to check for quality, contextual notes, and unify different translators’ writing styles. You don’t want crazy monkeys messing up with your text and making wild guesses without checking things properly.

Oh, one last thing… Make possible for the localization professional to test your app in the translated language as a final check to make sure everything is fine. Or at least give them enough context and answer their questions during the project.

All you need is love

People should love using your app, video game, or website.

This is why you cannot let a bad translation kill your user experience, just like you wouldn’t let your dog defecate on your $1,000 Persian rug.

A good localization should take into account your brand, your vision, what you say, what you imply, the thing that makes you unique… Everything should be there, but in another language.

The result is powerful. Users forget they are reading some translation. They are reading you.

Note: I just made this presentation summing up this post. Enjoy!