December 3, 2015
5 min read

What global content pros could learn from designers

Kirill Soloviev
CEO & Co-Founder, ContentQuo

Previously, we’ve looked at the challenges that Erin, Lisa, and Marta face on their quest to deliver high-quality, effective multilingual content for Healthsoft, Inc. Today, we explore how a designer mindset can help overcome some of those challenges, and outline specific steps to make your global content quality management program truly customer-centric.

Some of the tools in a traditional designer’s toolkit

Content as Design: User Needs vs Business Needs

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Have you ever thought about the difference between design and art, or designers and artists? It seems that many people often confuse the two. Yet there’s a very strong, fundamental divide between them:

Designers solve problems. Artists express their personalities.

The same perspective can be easily applied to content creation and localization. In a commercial setting, content is rarely, if ever, commissioned just for the sake of unleashing the creative spirit of its authors, reviewers, translators, and all other people that collaborate to publish it. Ideally, each piece of content (be it a caption for a button in the mobile app UI, a video ad on TV, a technical manual, a landing page on a website, or a legal contract) has behind it a specific purpose and serves a specific need.

Now, designers know very well that there are two types of needs: those of the people who will use the product, and those of the company that will create and sell the product. They work very hard to balance user needs and business needs when solving design problems. No design can be considered “good” unless it is able to reach and maintain this (often fragile) balance. To make this balancing act easier, specific design criteria are established to evaluate the quality of each design in a more objective fashion and guide subsequent iterations.

While design criteria may include a number of different things, they are usually NOT focused purely on aesthetics. Instead, designers ask themselves (and the people around them): “Does my design solve the users’ problem in a way that’s viable and feasible for the business?” Granted, there’s always a lot of room for self-expression and personality to shine through. However, those factors are rarely the key criterion that distinguishes “high-quality design” from “low-quality design”. After all, that’s exactly why design is not art.

Contrasting Monolingual and Bilingual Worlds

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Let’s now venture back from the world of design to the world of digital content, specifically multilingual global content. What do we see?

First, let’s check out those parts of the global content supply chain that are mostly working in a monolingual context: content marketers, copywriters, technical communicators, instructional designers, and — partially — user experience designers.

Now, let’s take a look at those parts of the global supply chain that are mostly working in a bilingual context: translators, localization managers, translation quality managers, in-country reviewers, software localization testers, etc.

To me, this situation with dual views of quality in the global content supply chain is a bit like a two-headed monster (and no, I don’t mean the one from the Muppets). Each head is looking in its own direction, and they are not talking to each other. Each head is trying to pull the body to one side, and as a result, nobody gets anywhere.

7 Steps to Make The Most of Content Quality Metrics

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I think it’s about time we help the two monster’s heads start talking to each other. Or, if you wish, arrange a strategic marriage between members of those two slightly hostile factions. Here’s one way how this could be done:

1. Remember that all business content, whatever the language, is created for a purpose.

2. Use the same set of customer-focused, outcome-based KPIs as the final, highest level measure of content quality in ALL languages (= not just for your source language).

3. For each language (including your source language), collect interim content quality KPIs of different types, levels, and from different data sources.

4. Correlate interim metrics with final metrics for the equivalent content and language.

5. For selected languages, perform root cause analysis to identify the factors that affect final metrics most strongly.

6. Rearrange authoring & localization processes to leverage drivers and negate inhibitors.

7. Evaluate the results via final metrics and plan the next experiment accordingly.

How does the content quality management process work across languages in your organization, and how do you enable its continuous improvement? Please share in the comments.

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