When translating your website, it is important to consider the status of your source website content. If you are anticipating changes to your source language (usually English) or content, it is best not to send content to your translation provider until it is in its final form, or what we like to call the “pencils down” phase.
"Pencils down" phase
The “pencils down” phase can be defined as the phase when all content has been approved and no changes will be made to it. This is the most efficient way to handle website translation, especially when creating a multilingual site.
You may not think making small changes here or there would make a difference, but consider this. You make minor content changes to 10 pages on your website. Now, you need to resubmit those 10 pages for translation (which takes developer time, and project manager time), and the translation needs to be assigned to translators for every language. So, in a 5-language project, basically, 5x of re-work is needed to accommodate those “minor changes”.
It’s highly recommended that if at all possible, website translation happen at the “pencils down” phase. This means that all English content would be frozen, at least until the initial translations are completed. Making constant changes can increase the time needed on a project as well as the budget as the scope grows or evolves.
An analogy that I like to use in this situation is if you are asked to build a house. You would have a set of blueprints and you would follow them to build the house. Simple, right? Changing source content after it has been sent for translation is like producing new blueprints when the house is halfway built. If you are lucky, the foundations and frame of the house are the same and can still be used. However, there could be some very significant detail changes, while not critical to the stability of the house, they are still important to consider.
Leveraging translation memory
It’s important to remember that not all is lost if changes are made. Sometimes changes to the source content are unavoidable. The positive aspect of changes is that your provider will still have the ability to leverage the Translation Memory database (if that feature is something your provider utilizes), so they would only be working on the differential. They would not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to translation and would only be working on what has been modified.
The best workflow, in this case, would be to finish the first pass of the translated content, then commit all translations to the translation memory. At that point, a new batch of content would be pushed, but the content would be leveraged against the Translation Memory to save money and time.
It is still important to consider that changes will have scope, budget, and timeline ramifications. If changes are made, there will be additional content to translate (scope), at additional cost and project management time (budget), and the translators and editors will need additional time to translate the new material (timeline).
Once that initial volume of content is complete and released, your language services provider will do a functional review of the content in the same way your users will see your content. This step should be an exhaustive review of all your live pages to uncover any issues that were missed in editing. At this point, your site is ready for release and you can now work out an effective strategy with your translation services provider on how and when to roll out updates to the site.
Freezing your content once you send out the initial draft of your website will save you time and money and get your website in front of your customers as quickly as possible.