Collaborative Translation Helps Adobe Business Catalyst Add New Languages

This article was originally written in English. Text in other languages is provided via machine translation.

Adobe’s Business Catalyst product is a hosted, “all-in-one” solution for building and managing business websites (see also Wikipedia.org). Out of the box, Business Catalyst (BC) provides support for five languages: In addition to English, it is being shipped in French, German, Spanish, Swedish, following the demand of its major and most important markets. A crucial role in the BC business model is played by the “partners” or “resellers”, who use the product to customize websites according to the needs of their customer groups.

In the past, BC continued to receive feedback from both their customers and their own sales organization that there was a high demand for more languages. The addition of such languages would enable the partners to start selling their business websites into more countries than are covered through the out-of-the-box languages.

Despite the partner feedback, the demand and the business case for new languages was difficult to measure or quantify for the BC team. In that situation, BC decided to use a new and evolving infrastructure available at Adobe to leverage “community translation” in order to validate demand before committing to changes. Before we go into details, first some information about the initiative’s success and the surprising response that it received in some cases.

Initial Successes

It was just in June, that the five original Business Catalyst languages were posted publicly on a community translation site for user review and translation suggestions. For participants in the pilot, the tool to use was “Adobe Translator” (AT), an application giving them access to the BC interface strings and their translations. In addition to reviewing the “legacy” languages already included in the product, the community was given the opportunity to provide translations for additional languages. Initially, those included Danish, Italian, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, Romanian, and Slovenian, based on requests coming in from the BC partners. We expect that more languages will be added to this project over time.

Contributions as of Oct. 31

What happened over the next months was a textbook example of surprising and solid contributions coming from a community. Once empowered to work on the their favorite language, driven by the expectation to potentially improve their business, the partners accessed the translation tool and got to work. The table “Contributions as of Oct. 31″ shows a constantly increasing number of contributions for each month from June through October (the numbers represent words contributed per month and are not cumulative). Going into more detail and looking at the weekly contributions on the right, we can also identify two clear spikes of activity.

If we look at the table below, we can identify Dutch and French as languages that have reached 100% completion, meaning their translation has been completed. And indeed, the two spikes in the table above coincide with the points in time when Dutch (the first spike) and French (the second one), reached translation completeness.

Words submitted on Oct. 31

In addition, it can be seen that there is also a significant activity, although not quite as “explosive”, taking place for Danish and Italian, two more languages not part of BC’s original set. German and Swedish are also receiving some attention, but on a reduced level.

Thus, within a very short period of time and with the help of their partners, BC is now in a position to add a language to their product that has not been shipped before, i.e., Dutch. The fact that BC was able to bring in their partners in such a convincing and effective way, represents a big success for the BC initiative, and for the concept of community translation.

Similarly, even though not completely translated from the ground up, the “completion” of French as a language already shipping, indicates that the community contributed quickly to close the gap between strings already translated (referring to already existing functionality) and strings yet to-be-translated (to describe BC functionality added in the latest version). Another part of the activity around French, was to review existing translations and to submit alternative or better ones.
The summary here is that, in addition to completing translations into new languages, the review of existing translations for both “old” and new languages turned out to be a task that the partner community actively engaged in.

BC partners are now finally getting into a position where they can start marketing their customized sites, built using Business Catalyst, into additional countries or regions. From their business perspective, it hopefully pays off that they invested time in the translation effort. Over time and where it makes sense, Adobe will open up more projects to the community and allow both review and translation for even more languages, be it “traditional” or new ones.

Takeaways: Why Did This Go Well?

There are a number of components that need to be in place to be successful in a project like this. Two of them have already been mentioned:

  • Required is a community that is willing to engage in such a collaborative translation effort.
  • It may go without saying, but since it is so crucially important, we are mentioning it again, a motivation or incentive for anybody willing to contribute must exist. Motivation can differ widely between different communities, and in this case of a comparatively small group (of BC partners), the incentive was to have the product in a new language, the potential reward being to increase revenue through providing a additional language interface to target an expanded market.

Business Catalyst Language Selection

There are more factors that had a crucial impact on the project’s success:

  • The single biggest motivational force that drove the partners to contribute until completion was achieved, is depicted in the screenshot to the left. In the language selection drop-down menu, you can read (in Dutch) “Dutch (translated by the community)”. Only if the community contributions eventually make their way into an application, does the community start to feel a sense of achievement. And only when progress becomes visible in this rewarding way, will it have be worthwhile for contributors to invest time (and their time is their money!) in translation.
  • Last, but not least, there is, of course, the architecture required to enable community translation. For that, Adobe is leveraging a data center in Los Angeles, California, as a link between the users and some Adobe-internal databases to retrieve project-specific information and to receive community translations. This architecture is not project-specific, but can be re-used for similar projects, independent of their size and scalable to the number of of community participants.

Other Adobe translation pilots that are currently open for user contributions are Adobe Story with 5 existing languages (German, UK English, Spanish, France, Italian), and the Flex SDK with one existing language (Brazilian Portuguese). In the future, the number of products opening up to community translation workflows will grow, and so will the number of languages included in this effort.

A Tool Always Helps: Adobe Translator

AT Dashboard

Since it will be described in a future blog article, here only a brief description of Adobe Translator (AT), Adobe’s own community translation tool.

After logging in with your Adobe ID (you may have to create one first), Adobe Translator presents a dashboard showing all projects in which a product allows users or translators to contribute user interface translations or corrections for a given language. Just select your favorite project and explore the tool’s functionality. The process should be pretty self-explaining, but a brief help can always be accessed from the About menu at the top.

AT Translation Screen

On the translation screen, translators can start contributing right away. Just select a source string and enter a translation in the text field. There may or may not be a translation proposal that AT is providing with the help of machine translation or translation memory (“in the past, this string has been translated as …”). Submit your suggestion and move on to the next string.

Adobe Translator is being developed in an agile fashion in frequent, short “sprints”. In order to leverage the opportunity we had with Business Catalyst, the team’s decision was to expose the application early and listen to user feedback in order to rank its feature development priorities. After the successful pilot with BC, the focus will now be on developing “social”, motivational, and informational features.

More To Come …

For the sake of this article’s brevity, we are not going into further details describing the translation workflow in Adobe Translator: It will be part of a future write-up that will focus on our tool exclusively. In the meantime, if you want to take a test drive using Adobe Translator (maybe your favorite product is already available for community translation), feel free to access and explore it. If you don’t mind sending feedback via email, please use the mechanism in the About menu: We would like to hear from you and are listening.

Rest assured that we continue to work on improvements, especially to make the translation workflow easier and more intuitive. In order to make translating more fun as a group or community effort, we will also do more in “social” areas. We will provide features that will motivate users to contribute (commenting and voting on translations, for example) and those that will allow them to see data about themselves, the communities, and the project(s) they are involved in (for example, through a leader board or project statistics pages).

Again, by all means, please access the application at http://community.translate.adobe.com/translator/ or track our activities on the Adobe Community Translation page at Facebook to read important announcements about Adobe Translator and other community translation efforts.