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What is a translation management system and do you really need one? Find one that truly fits your needs

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Without a good translation management system, the stakes are high. Customers of international companies will expect accurate website translation and localization, and may look to your competitors if this is delivered poorly or not at all. 

Any business that operates in foreign markets should use a translation management system (TMS) to help you manage language translation by automating the bulk of the translation. Web agencies also benefit from using a TMS to support clients who already cater to global audiences, as well as clients looking to expand into new markets.

A TMS is a tool for efficiency, and this is not limited purely to translations: Top quality systems also automate workflows for improved project management. Several factors like this need to be considered when you are choosing the right translation management system for you.

Most businesses need a TMS that is highly automated, easy to use, compatible with other tools, and crucially, that works. Other deciding factors that may come into play are whether a TMS is optimized for SEO, the storage and translation memory it comes with, how much customer support is available, and, of course, the price.

How a translation management system brings you closer to business goals

Translations open up a whole new world of commercial opportunities, so the benefits of using a translation management system to take your website multilingual are unlimited. Take a closer look and you’ll see that a TMS also provides benefits for accuracy, efficiency and consistency:

1. Integrated machine translation

Using an automated process is essential for most language translations. It would be unthinkable for a business – whether large or small – to translate an entire website to different languages manually. The time that would be required, the cost of a translator and the risks of inaccuracies are all too high.

Using a translation management system provides integrated machine translation that ensures fast, high-quality, accurate translations without the drain on your resources. With a tool like Weglot, translations can be reviewed and edited manually to refine and polish them with a human touch after the majority of work is handled through machine translation.

2. Workflow automation for project management

Good translation management systems will enable collaboration between multiple colleagues, clients, and language specialists. For more complex translation projects and with more people involved, you need a responsive and efficient workflow. 

Workflow automation to help you manage tasks, approvals, terminology and all manner of project management for language translation is a game-changer. Everyone knows what they are doing, as well as when, why, and how they are doing it. 

Less time is wasted, fewer errors and duplications occur, and any room for confusion is replaced with clarity. This streamlined approach improves efficiency, helping your translation processes run like clockwork.

3. Translation memory and terminology databases

If your volume of translations is high, you’ll want a place to store translations and use them again in the future. Translation memory is a practical necessity, but using this together with terminology databases is also key for brand consistency. 

Translation memory and terminology databases are used to ensure that certain words or brand concepts always translate in the same way. This saves time by removing the need for a team member to make the same manual tweaks after every translation of your product names, slogans or common phrases.

For example, Nike translates “Just in” to “Lige landet” in Danish, which literally translates as “Just landed” but conveys the correct meaning. Using translation memory and terminology databases, tweaks like this one can be automated.

Example of how Nike handles translations

With a database of translated terms, you can produce high-quality content with a tone of voice and choice of expressions that are consistent with your brand, in all languages you use.

Essential features for translation management systems

If your business goals involve expanding internationally and you are planning to localize your website, you’ll want to be confident in the translation management software you use. 

When comparing translation tools to find the one that offers you the most value, these are the essential features of a translation management system to look for:

  • Usability and automation
  • CAT tools and localization
  • Compatibility
  • Collaboration
  • Marketing value 

Usability and automation

No matter how many languages you intend to use or how much content you have to translate, a TMS should facilitate your task. 

The highest quality services will be able to handle a large amount of content and deliver automatic translation across a wide variety of languages. However, no matter how much power there is behind a system, it won’t be a worthwhile investment unless that system is easy to use.

Seeking out a translation management tool that is not only powerful and automated but also prioritizes usability is the best choice you can make for your team.

CAT tools and localization options

When you first look into your options for expanding into foreign markets, you might be caught up wondering whether to commit to machine translation, human translation, or a combination of both. 

Computer-assisted translation tools, sometimes known as CAT tools, provide machine translations. However, a good TMS should leverage machine translation while providing options for reviews and manual edits from human translators too. If you’re starting your journey with machine translations, read our dos and don’ts.

There should also be features to help you achieve high-quality localization, so you can create a customer experience that’s relevant to your target market and considers both language and culture. 

The food delivery provider that’s known as Just Eat in the UK is known as Menulog in Australia, but it’s not just the brand name and logo that are included in the localization process. 

Just Eat’s website for UK audiences

The Australian version of the website has a different list of menu items compared with the UK version, and there are also differences in the headings, body text and call-to-action buttons. Even the choice of images demonstrates how each version is catering to a different market.

Menulog’s website for Australian audiences

For localization projects, learn how to use localization testing to expand into new markets with confidence.

Compatibility

A translation system should work well with your other software, such as website builders, content management systems (CMS) or eCommerce platforms. Without compatibility, the amount of work that goes into a translation task can shoot up immeasurably.
Choosing a tool like Weglot means your translation system will integrate seamlessly with your website, working with your existing technology to reduce your task load instead of increasing it. Find out more about Weglot’s integrations.

Collaboration

Tools that improve teamwork are more important than ever before, so it should be no surprise that collaboration is an essential feature of a good TMS.

Allowing for easy collaboration between internal stakeholders, project managers and external translators, or between agencies and clients, keeps projects running smoothly, emphasizes teamwork and shared goals, and ensures nobody is left in the dark.

Marketing value

An ideal translation management system will also boost your marketing efforts by supporting your international SEO strategy. This can be done by adding hreflang tags, translating metadata and making it easy for Google to index your website.

It’s a smart business investment to choose a translation software that delivers additional marketing value by optimizing your content for global SEO, and this will likely make purchasing decisions easier for stakeholders or budget controllers. Find out more about creating a winning global SEO strategy.

In terms of marketing value, accurate language translation also helps convert website visitors into customers by ensuring they won’t miss out on information that might sway decisions. For example, Zoom includes testimonials from Uber, 21st Century Fox and Zendesk, which are translated if the potential customer views the website in their preferred different language.

Zoom testimonial from Uber, translated in English and simplified Chinese

When features become deciding factors

All businesses are different. For some, committing to a tool with inadequate storage is counter-intuitive. For others, having the guarantee of high-quality support is non-negotiable. In many cases, stretching a budget is simply not possible.
While being a lower priority than essential features, the nice to have features of storage, support and competitive pricing often become the deciding factors when comparing translation management systems.

Translations storage

If you want an agile yet secure platform, choosing cloud-based software is best. Look for a translation management system that works fast and provides easy access to translations without opening up security vulnerabilities. 

Choosing a TMS with a single, central place to store all translations also simplifies workflows by reducing the number of tools and interfaces that your team needs to access.

When assessing your options, consider any storage limitations that could potentially create problems later. You won’t want these unexpectedly creating barriers to productivity further down the line.

Help and support

Support comes in many forms. Most good tools provide documentation such as help guides in a searchable knowledge base, or onboarding videos and tutorials. When you need help, some customer service teams can be reached using live chat, others will operate email ticketing services, and some might provide 24/7 support services and hotlines.

Prioritizing tools that offer good quality support is a way of safeguarding your business. If something unexpected happens or goes wrong, you want to be guaranteed you’ll receive help to resolve it as quickly and smoothly as possible. 

When downtime can be detrimental to commercial goals, support makes up part of your disaster management plan. However, for some businesses, this is not a deciding factor until after they’ve had a negative experience with a product that offers poor support.

Most of the time, it’s unlikely things will go badly wrong, but choosing a translation management tool with a help and support offering that you can trust provides extra peace of mind.

Price

For many businesses, price is a major factor when choosing new software, particularly if the value of a particular system has not already been proven to senior decision-makers.

If you’re on a budget, it’s important to look for a translation management system that gets the ratio between price and quality right. Cheap choices are not always the right choices, and making a small investment might save your business more money in the longer term. 

It’s also important to futureproof your choice by considering potential upgrades or increased costs in line with your business growth goals.

Finding essential and bonus translation features in one place

Translation management tools can include a lot of features, but they don’t need to be over-complex, slow or difficult to use. 

Weglot has many of the features we’ve covered in this post built-in, ready for you to use, and packaged with excellent UX, meaning getting real-time translations is incredibly simple.

How to translate a WordPress website

To translate your WordPress website to other languages using Weglot, there are just a few steps. First, install and activate the Weglot plugin.

Add the Weglot plugin in WordPress

Next, enter the API key (which you’ll find when you log into Weglot) and select your chosen languages. In this example, we’ve selected English as the original language, along with translations to Japanese, Norwegian and Spanish.

Weglot installation

Finally, head over to the Weglot dashboard to customize your translations and fine-tune your multilingual website content, so you’re confident it’s exactly how you want it.

Weglot installation

Your audience will be able to select their preferred languages when they visit your website.

Select language on Weglot

If you use WordPress as your website CMS, you’ll benefit from extra Weglot features, such as:

  1. translating URLs 
  2. translating pop-ups
  3. migrating translations from WPML

Start using a TMS that fits your needs

The highest quality TMS options will automate translations as well as workflows, streamlining your project management, enabling team collaboration, and working seamlessly with other platforms. They will also support business growth through localization, international SEO, and translation memory for brand consistency.

On top of these essential features, you’ll need a reliable tool with secure storage and access to help and support if you need it, all the while being kind to your budget.

Using a translation system like this is not out of reach: Sign up for a free trial with Weglot to find out for yourself.

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