Is a Website Translation Proxy the best approach to localising your website?

“So you’re telling me that I don’t need to go through the hassle of exporting my content for translation? That’s great, now I don’t need to bug my IT team and mess around with files! Oh, and any changes that I make in my CMS will automatically be flagged for translation? Fantastic, now I can sleep easy without worrying about version control.”

Website localisation can be seen as a daunting task. Quite often localisation is an afterthought, and in many cases not even considered when developing or purchasing a Web Content Management System (CMS). This can lead to an extra headache when you have to figure out how to make your CMS globally ready – the process of internationalisation in other words.

Even if your site is technically globally ready, if you are new to localisation and haven’t already selected a Localisation Partner you will need to think about many things. How can I get content out of my system for translation? Who will do this? How can I get it back in after translation? How can I preview before release? How can I make sure translations are always aligned to the latest source content? Just to mention a few……. A solution that helps simplify this process will obviously be welcome. But are there any other factors that should be considered?

What is a translation proxy?

Website translation Proxy processIn layman’s terms, it is a service that sits in front of a website and applies translations on the fly so that different audiences / locales can see content in their local languages.

The translations that are applied on the fly can either be fully automated in real time (machine translation), or pulled from a repository of professionally translated sentences. So if you are looking for a high quality localised website you would first get your content professionally translated – source content can be scraped from your website, professionally translated and then stored in the proxy system. The proxy simply acts like a mirror – so you manage your source website whilst the target sites are kept in complete harmony.

What’s in it for you?
This means you don’t need to set up multiple instances of your website for each target language, or mess around exporting or importing files.All of the translatable content will sit in the proxy service, and configuration to your required URLs all set up in this platform. The provider would generally charge for storage of content and number of visits to the proxied sites.
Because the proxy system can scrape content from a website and then store translations, there is no need to set up a multilingual CMS or worry about exporting and importing content. This means less development time, no need to purchase a globally ready CMS, and no need for Marketing teams to tap into your company’s IT resources.

As well as this, on-going management of the multilingual website is made easier. You will only need to work with your source website – adding new content, editing new content, deleting content. Content changes can be identified by the proxy system and flagged for translation, making version control and synchronisation across languages a lot easier.

What are the down sides?

As simple as it seems, a proxy solution isn’t always the best solution for website localisation. To help explain this I refer back to the ‘mirror’. A proxy is essentially that – whatever you put on your source website gets mirrored across onto the target site, with the text replaced in another language. Now there are exceptions to this where certain pages or sections can be excluded from the target sites, and workarounds to allow target sites to have content that isn’t present on the source site, but in general, the deliverable is a copy of the source site in another language/s.

Now this might be suitable for some cases, but it is not really a fully localised approach to website localisation – it assumes that content that is relevant in one language will also be relevant in others, and doesn’t allow for flexibility to add unique content to each locale.

This could cause issues if you have a global Marketing team with offices managing content in their own websites and languages. If this is the case, it will be most likely that your company has already invested in a globally ready CMS, with workflows and processes enabled that allow for a truly global approach to marketing. Applying a proxy in this scenario to manage global websites would defeat the point of operating a fully internationalised CMS.

Whilst the translation proxy approach is not optimal for every business or website, its benefits are very compelling for many.

So when should a proxy solution be considered and when should it be avoided?

YES – A translation proxy may be worth considering if you learn that your sophisticated, interactive website was not built with localisation in mind and you want to serve new markets with the same level of experience that you serve your home market.

YES – It’s a great way to test the water in a new market/country as translated websites can be released in a matter of days/weeks instead of months.

YES – Many clients might apply this solution to manage their non-transactional sites where synchronisation of content is important, or if they’re running a microsite outside of their central global CMS setup. Or in fact they may not need to add unique content to localised sites, and so managing all websites through one source site makes sense.

YES – It might simply be the case that a company has limited marketing and/or IT resources, and don’t have a globally ready CMS but need to get a translated site up and running fast.

NO – A proxy solution doesn’t make much sense to companies that already have a global CMS set up, with mature processes and workflows managing websites in a number of languages (a truly localised approach). If done correctly this would include integration with a translation management system (TMS), to allow for seamless transfer of content between systems. That being said, it is often the case that these companies have a need to quickly set up localised microsites that aren’t linked directly to the global CMS – that’s where a proxy would add value.

Summing it all up

Deciding on whether or not to go with a proxy solution or globally ready CMS will depend on your company’s localisation maturity and globalisation requirements. A proxy will come with a subscription cost but can take out a lot of the hassle of setting up and maintaining a multilingual website. The good thing is that you have a choice, and even the option to go with both approaches if there is a need. A good localisation partner will be able to best advise on your options to find the right fit of solutions for your requirements.

A final bit of advice: plan for localisation early in the process when setting out your global strategy. But remember, it isn’t too late if you didn’t!


Tom is VP os US & the Language Solutions team, helping to develop bespoke projects, connectors and tools for clients, with a focus on translation technology. In his spare time, Tom enjoys playing football (even if it is only at a very amateur level!)

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