Engineering Archives | Rubric

Ian A. Henderson
September 16, 2019
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Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems are applications or devices that enable humans to interact with and operate machines. These solutions are used across almost every sector – especially those that rely on industrial equipment.

HMI is a fairly broad term that applies to a wide variety of technologies. At one end of the spectrum, we have traditional, push-button interfaces that are often mounted on the machines themselves. And at the other end, we are increasingly seeing multi-touch displays, and even cloud-enabled smartphone apps.

Modern HMI solutions are designed to improve operator productivity, provide insight into the machine’s status, and flag up potential issues for maintenance. With that in mind, proper understanding of an HMI system is fundamental to the safe and effective operation of machinery. And when understanding is this important, manufacturers can gain immense value from localizing their HMI systems.

 

When to localize?

Translating your HMI system text and its associated documentation can make the interface much easier to utilize for non-English speaking end-users, and it can drastically improve the customer experience. When trying to decide whether it’s worthwhile to localize your HMI, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do your end-users have a good level of English? If users don’t understand English, it will be a nightmare for them to learn how to use your products effectively. That high learning curve can risk driving away customers.
  • Is safety a factor? If so, there can be no room for misunderstanding. Even if customers have a strong grasp of English, it’s often still worth translating to ensure maximum clarity.
  • Would localization enhance the user experience? End users in many countries understand English, but that doesn’t mean it’s their first language or first choice. Making the extra effort to translate HMI text can help build brand loyalty.

Localizing HMI solutions isn’t without its challenges, particularly if it’s left until the last minute. Here, we’ll go over the key considerations, and explore how manufacturers can save time and money – and improve quality – by taking localization into account throughout the HMI production process.

 

Allow space for translations

Most languages require more space than English. Word length, phrase length, and even script size (in the case of non-Latin alphabets) can significantly increase the space needed for translated text. Translating from English into European languages, for instance, typically expands text by at least 30% – and shorter strings can expand by as much as 200%.

HMI systems have limited UI space, so without leaving extra room in the initial design, it can be very difficult to fit in translated text without compromising readability. Abbreviating translated text is one way to get around this – and it can be especially useful if your interface will be viewed on a variety of screen sizes – but it can introduce ambiguity that might put users at risk. For example, does “eng” mean “engineer” or “engine”? In Spanish, is “fin” an abbreviation of “end” or “fine”?

If you do include abbreviations or leave any text untranslated, we suggest adding clarification in the documentation. For instance, if you left “ON” and “OFF” in English, you could write “ON (encendido)” and “OFF (apagado)” in the Spanish user manual.

Where possible, we recommend including enough space in the English design to accommodate longer languages. For example, one method might be using a vertical layout and placing labels above input fields (Figure 2). This would better accommodate labels of an indeterminate length.

 

human machine interface systems

 

 

Factor localization into your schedule

If you’ve ever been involved in global content creation, you already know that localization can be a deceptively time-consuming process. And for HMI localization, not only will you need to translate the interface, but the user manuals and support documentation as well.

Aside from the text translation itself, there are some major time-eaters in the localization process that might not be immediately apparent. Firstly, bear in mind that when localizing the documentation, you will also need to take localized photos of the UI to insert into the user manual. Secondly, if your text needs to be shortened on some screens and not others, the variations will need to be reflected in the documentation.

It’s always best to assess your localization needs early and factor them into your overall timetable. Expecting localization to be a quick process that can be tacked onto the end of the production schedule is a recipe for missed deadlines.

 

Quality control – no going back

Especially for machine-mounted HMI systems, there is often no going back after the hardware has shipped. Once the product is in the field, the text is set and it can be difficult, or impossible, to change. This makes quality control absolutely crucial, and makes it doubly important to include a thorough review phase. At this point, ensuring consistency between the interface and documentation should be a priority.

 

Work with a global content partner

Consulting an experienced service provider is the best way to take the complexity out of localizing your HMI systems, which is why manufacturers such as Yaskawa, Lancer and GenerationNext have trusted Rubric to complete their HMI localization projects.

For more insights from our experts, be sure to subscribe to the Rubric blog. Next week’s article will be all about silos, and how to overcome them for a better Global Customer Experience (GCX).


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A Translation Management System (TMS) aids localization by automating parts of the translation process, centralizing resources, and simplifying workflows. But establishing what features you really need and considering the many options available, it’s difficult to choose one that ticks all of the operational boxes. From file format and user access, to translator visibility of context and CAT compatibility, the considerations can seem endless.

 

Gather key stakeholders early on

Identify the stakeholders and understand what is the problem you are trying to solve. Collect data on the scale and cost of that problem. Stakeholders should agree on who will use the system, what’s required of it, and whether the business actually needs one. It’s a fine balance of cost, functionality, and interoperability:

  • Do you need your TMS to function both offline and online?
  • Can the TMS integrate with your CMS?
  • How will the integration of glossary checks and customizable QA tools affect compatibility with the existing CAT system?
  • How much support will your internal team need from the TMS suppliers?
  • Do you have the budget and resources necessary to operate on your own?

Taking on TMS administration is a complex endeavor that could cause workflow bottlenecks and drain resources. Consider enlisting the services of a Global Content Partner. Typically, these professionals will be expert at using an internal TMS, allowing you to leverage their skills and experience.

 

What are your operational requirements?

The translation files and what the system is expected to do with them are crucial factors in selecting a TMS. For example, can content be translated in its native format? By minimizing the need for file conversions, you reduce the risk of compatibility glitches.

It really boils down to a business management decision: do you utilize a traditional, developer-friendly localization process, or do you need an advanced set of features that make the translation process easier for non-technical stakeholders, like content marketers?

 

What level of support do you need?

From the outset, companies should identify and prioritize their needs against the costs of development and maintenance.

Weigh up the value of each feature against your localization process to better understand potential ROI and total economic impact (TEI). A crucial consideration is whether you can afford to take on the management and maintenance of a TMS yourself, or if your business would be better served by enlisting the help of a Global Content Partner and their own TMS.

Because a range of TMSs are available — each with varying degrees of development and configuration support — it’s incumbent upon the business to assess each tool and decide if the “out of the box” features suit their content ecosystem and budget. As the system is provided by an external supplier, IT maintenance and software updates may be infrequent or fall short of a business’s requirements.

 

Complete support relies on trust

When in doubt, trust your Global Content Partner and their tried-and-tested TMS.

A Global Content Partner offers full support in establishing a managed and easy-to-maintain translation process, bringing their expertise and experience to the table and taking much of the burden and stress from your plate.

By weighing up the costs and features of a TMS against your needs and wants, Rubric can help you make an informed decision. Partnering with us means reduced overheads, as you can leverage our skills, our knowledge, our own TMS, and our bespoke process-building capabilities. We take pride in supporting our clients and giving them a better understanding of their localization needs.

Subscribe to our blog below and receive the latest updates on translation, localization, and how TMS solutions can affect your organization’s strategy.


Ian A. Henderson
July 15, 2019
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When it comes to managing your content, there’s more choice now than ever. Dedicated Content Management Systems (CMSs) have become exceptionally popular and diverse, giving organizations a wide range of both open source and proprietary options to choose from. What’s more, there’s a vast array of non-traditional solutions that can meet the needs of structuring content – especially from a localization perspective – for whom a full-blown CMS would be overkill.

Choosing the right content management approach for your organization can yield major efficiencies and cost savings; but at the same time, committing to a CMS that does not meet the needs of all your stakeholders can complicate your operations and lead to even greater expense. That’s why it’s crucial to evaluate your requirements as early as possible when designing or modernizing your content management processes.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of the key factors to consider for choosing a content management approach that supports both your localization strategy, and your business as a whole.

 

What is a CMS, and do you need one?

Content Management Systems are software platforms that aim to streamline the creation, editing, localization, and publication of content. CMSs have traditionally been associated with website content, but modern solutions are often designed to support multi and omnichannel content strategies. An enterprise CMS will enable users to manage and repurpose content across numerous outputs, such as press releases, brochures, and other marketing collateral.

This brings us to the first and most important consideration: do you need a CMS?

Using a CMS is increasingly becoming the status quo, even for small businesses – but you should think carefully about whether you would really benefit from the technology. If you aren’t pursuing a multichannel strategy or frequently updating a complex website, then a full CMS might well be unnecessary.

Instead, consider other options such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, a Product Information Management (PIM) system, or even a social media platform. Each of these can provide a convenient environment for creating and managing content on a smaller scale, while also delivering a host of other benefits to your organization.

And when you factor in localization. If you are only managing content for a small-scale, static website, it is perfectly viable to just translate the HTML rather than processing the content through an enterprise CMS. HTML is a format that most translators are very comfortable working with, so skipping the CMS effectively cuts out the middleman. New technology can be appealing, but older, proven approaches are often simpler and cheaper.

 

What do you need from a CMS?

Once you’ve decided to use a CMS, the next step is establishing what capabilities you need. CMSs come in all shapes and sizes, and we recommend looking for one that satisfies all your requirements right out of the box. Some solutions will offer numerous plugins for additional functionality, but relying on these can lead to complications down the road – especially with community plugins that lack guaranteed, long-term support.

While our focus is on localization, we can’t stress enough how important it is to consider the needs of all stakeholders when choosing a CMS. This will likely be a mission-critical tool not only for your translators, but also for writers, engineers, and project managers. In our experience, selecting a system based on the requirements of only one group is the most common cause of CMS-related issues.

Typical capabilities that you might look for in a CMS include:

  • Content storage
  • Content authoring and editing
  • Translation management workflows
  • Templating and layout creation
  • Publishing tools
  • Content syndication

It is also worth considering a headless CMS, especially for multichannel content strategies. Headless CMSs are back-end only solutions that separate authoring from publication. Instead of publishing to a front-end view layer built into the application, a headless CMS serves as a central repository for content that can be published to numerous channels through a RESTful API.

 

Import & export – the most important CMS features for localization

You may have noticed that one feature is conspicuously absent from the list above: direct content translation. Many CMS platforms advertise support for translating content directly within the CMS itself. On paper this might sound like a good way to streamline localization – but in reality, it often has the opposite effect.

Translators work best when they are able to use their preferred applications. Working within a CMS typically requires training to get to grips with an unfamiliar environment, and can limit access to essential computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, such as translation memory. This issue is so severe that external translators sometimes charge a higher price-per-word if they are required to perform translations within a CMS.

So if direct content translation isn’t the answer, what should you look for?

We recommend choosing a CMS that enables you to easily export content in an editable format (such as XML or XLIFF) for translation, and seamlessly import the localized text back in. Although this approach requires extra steps, we find that it still delivers by far the most efficient and cost-effective results. Without import/export support, you might have to resort to manually copying and pasting content, which is both time-consuming and prone to error.

Last but not least, you should ensure that your CMS makes it easy to view and manage localized content without needing to understand the language it’s written in. For example, engineers should not need to know Greek to correctly publish Greek content.

 

Consult your Global Content Partner

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about when selecting a content management approach to support your business and localization goals. Your Global Content Partner will be able to help you assess your CMS needs and choose the ideal solution for your business. We’ve seen far too many organizations pick ill-fitting CMSs that have to be replaced after only a few projects – seek guidance early to avoid costly mistakes.

Rubric can help you choose your CMS and make localization easy and cost-effective from the get-go. Contact us today and work with our experts to build bespoke localization processes tailored to your business needs; or subscribe to our blog for upcoming articles that dive deeper into related topics such as headless CMSs and PIM systems.


Rebecca Metcalf
July 1, 2019
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This week we have a guest co-author, Michael Hall from Yaskawa. As Manager of Technical Communications, he’s responsible for all aspects of technical document production for the U.S. Market. Learn more below:

 

The destruction of the Mars Climate Orbiter is a notorious example of what can happen when numerical standards get confused. A programming error in one piece of software produced numeric results in United States Customary Units (USCS) instead of the intended Metric (SI). This error caused the $300 millon Orbiter to approach Mars at the wrong trajectory and be destroyed during orbital insertion. This was an error of software development rather than documentation, but the same principle applies – don’t let your technical writing lead to the next $300 million mistake!

Accuracy is the cornerstone of technical writing. Engineers and end-users depend on precise documentation to safely maintain and operate equipment. Mistakes in writing or localization can put lives in danger or lead to costly equipment damage. This is especially true of numeric content, particularly measurements, where even a single digit or symbol out of place can lead to wildly incorrect assumptions or calculations – with potentially catastrophic results.

With that in mind, ensuring the accuracy of numerals and measurements should be a top priority for every technical writer and translator, and for every organization where users depend on accurate technical documentation. In this article, we’ll take a look at some key considerations and best practices to guarantee numeric accuracy in documentation.

 

Know your standards

It almost goes without saying, but you should always be following the appropriate numerical standard – a system of measurement that clearly defines the name, symbol, and quantity of each unit.

The most common standard today is the International System of Units (SI), the modern form of the metric system. However, note that applicable standards do vary by industry and country. The most important example of this is the United States, where SI is used for science and medicine, but consumers and the manufacturing sector typically use the USCS instead.

The United Kingdom is another notably peculiar case. In the UK, SI is the official system, yet imperial units are still widely used in everyday life and in specific circumstances, such as road signage.

When creating technical documentation, ensure you are following the correct standard for your target audience and industry, and make it clear from the outset which system you are using. If multiple standards are included in a single document, consider which should appear first.

 

Keep it consistent

Accuracy and consistency go hand-in-hand, especially when translation and localization come into play. What this typically means is that it’s vital to handle all numerals and measurements in exactly the same way throughout each document.

Following a standard is a good first step, but manufacturers may have unique or specific requirements for numeric content in localized documents.

As best practice we strongly advise technical writers go a step further by creating a style guide that clearly lays out rules for dealing with numeric content. A good style guide is often the result of collaboration between the manufacturer and the language service provider.

For example, a style guide will help linguists with rules for rounding or unit conversion (the latter being particularly important when the audiences for localized documentation use different numerical standards).

You should work with marketing, legal teams and your translation provider to create style guides for each locale that you are targeting, taking into account all industry-specific standards and safety regulations. Building style guides can be a daunting prospect as they must contain more than simply rules for numeric content. Capitalization, word choice, punctuation usage are also key components of a good style guide. Writing source English content to a language standard such as Simplified Technical English (ASD STE100) can also dramatically simplify the process.

 

Check, re-check, and check again

Even the most careful writers following the most well-defined standards and style guides will occasionally make mistakes. That’s why it’s crucial to use a robust system of checks to flag any inconsistencies – both in the original and localized texts. Ask your language service provider about their quality control processes to ensure this crucial process is used to translate or localize your documents. This process can be largely automated, but it’s always worth including at least one human review.

When dealing with multiple languages, we suggest paying particular attention to the original version. Identifying issues in the original will help to anticipate and prevent issues in translation, while any mistakes or inconsistencies in the original will likely be carried over into localized versions.

 

Localize in bulk – but be careful!

Localizing your numeric content all at once can be an excellent way to ensure consistency and save time. That being said, be very careful about making global changes. For this reason, we recommend only making global changes to numerals, and not to measurements. Anyone who has ever used a “replace all” function knows how easy it is to inadvertently create gibberish words when making sweeping changes to text. It is similarly easy to accidentally break numbers and codes – and these mistakes can be much more difficult to spot. If global changes are made, we recommend a thorough comparison of the target to the source to expose unintended results if they exist. Then adjust the global replacement routine to eliminate these errors.

Also, remember that not all numeric content actually needs to be localized. Product and part numbers, for instance, will typically remain the same in all versions. Excluding this content from translation can significantly reduce the word count and, by extension, the cost. With the right tools and authoring architectures (such as Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) it’s easy to flag specific numeric content for exclusion.

 

Putting it into practice

At Rubric, we recently put these principles into practice while designing a localization process for our client, Yaskawa America, Inc. – the world’s largest manufacturer of AC Inverter Drives, Servo and Motion Control, and Robotics Automation Systems.

Yaskawa’s technical documentation includes a large amount of numeric content. They use leading-edge database publishing tools to enforce strict control and consistency of content for product instructions. Yaskawa requires the same level of quality when product instructions are sent for language translation. To maximize accuracy and consistency, we created a process that enables the translators to identify and work on all the appropriate numerals at once by extracting the data from DITA and scalable vector graphics (SVG) – numeric content that does not require input from translators is excluded. We also implemented automated checks to flag up any anomalies after translation and established a final human review process to ensure quality.

These steps have relieved Yaskawa from the time-consuming burden of checking numeric content post-translation. Yaskawa’s quality assurance process for language translation enables them to review and approve final publications much more quickly.

If you’re interested in achieving similar results, consider partnering with Rubric. We’ve spent almost 25 years localizing technical manuals, developing bespoke tools, and building trust – we’ll work with you to transform your localization approach with robust processes for each project. Subscribe to our blog below to get the latest updates on translation and localization, and how they affect your business.


Ian A. Henderson
June 19, 2019
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The Internet of Things (IoT) is an interconnected universe of device, data, and software. Simply put, IoT connects physical devices — TVs, fridges, headphones, etc. — to the internet via sensors that send data to cloud networks for transformation into useful information. From experiential marketing technology that enhances event management, to an app that works with the thermostat in your office to provide comfort-ability, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what IoT can do.

Essentially, IoT expands the reach of the internet to improve our everyday lives with data. It’s showing no signs of slowing down, either: the market is on-target to deliver over $3 trillion annually by 2026. But how does IoT and its global, border-leaping connectivity affect localization and translation?

IoT’s evolution is affecting localization on a global scale

The Internet of Things is always evolving, making it tough to decide what needs to be translated and what is superfluous. Add a product’s ever-changing lifecycle into the mix, and localization for global markets can quickly become overwhelming.

One of the first questions to consider is what will your device interact with: do your headphones rely on Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa? Do those services support your markets — if not, do you localize your content in anticipation of those services catching up in that particular language? Make sure to consider the timeline for future updates of your product and resolution of any mismatch of language availability to ensure a positive user experience.

IoT requires fast, accurate translations

The need for speed in terms of device and UX interaction directly impacts translation, with a crucial need for consistency to ensure that the devices are compatible. For example, how can Alexa play a song through a smart headset if the voice prompts are incorrect? Cloud-based products like Alexa are developed at such a pace that manufacturers of 3rd-party devices have to scramble to keep up with language updates and additions.

IoT’s constant evolution is also changing the product development cycle. This quick delivery of digital information means that Global Content Partners are having to become more agile, and their tools more automated to keep up with the ecosystem’s time-critical translation workflows. Thanks to the collaboration of industry professionals, translation technology has developed apace with the world of AI and IoT. Expert knowledge of how to leverage TMS, CAT tools, and machine translation (MT) is essential for tackling the volume and speed of IoT development. In addition, localization technology like automated translation can save time and money throughout a product’s lifecycle by populating text with pre-existing translations. This targeted automation also gives your linguists the time they need to focus on the more demanding, high-level localization tasks.

Strategic planning

A further solution to meeting quick turnaround times is to integrate your localization process into the development cycle from the beginning. By doing so, translators, engineers, and other stakeholders can analyze the product’s requirements, advise on the way forward, and align with your Translation Management System (TMS).

Businesses would do well to bring their Global Content Partners into the fold early-on for advice and guidance. Early collaboration opens the channels of communication necessary for iterative localization throughout the product’s lifecycle.

Localization is more than just translation. It’s a strategic foundation from which to deploy critical, targeted translations to your global markets. And just as localization is more than translation, a trusted Global Content Partner is more than an LSP. An experienced Global Content Partner like Rubric will analyze your organization’s global markets and content, and then advise on a localization strategy to achieve your global goals.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog below to get the latest updates on translation, localization and how things like IoT can affect your business’ strategy.


Rebecca Metcalf
May 14, 2019
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Technical writing invariably involves a great deal of content reuse. If you’ve ever authored technical documents across multiple products and projects for the same organization, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself repeating elements of text and style many times over.

Streamlining this content reuse can be one of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your authoring and localization processes. And, with the right tools and strategy, it’s easier than you might think.

The Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is an open standard, XML-based architecture for writing and publishing technical documents, and it was built from the ground up to support content reuse. DITA encourages a modular approach to technical writing where topics – the basic units of information within DITA – are capable of standing alone and being reused in many different documents. The focus is on content rather than layout, with the goal of maximizing reuse to save time and resources.

DITA was originally developed by IBM almost 20 years ago. It has received numerous updates since then, and it is experiencing a renaissance with the release of new tools and Lightweight DITA – a simplified version for those that do not require the full feature set, or prefer to work in HTML5 or Markdown.

Switching from traditional word editors to DITA can seem like a daunting prospect, but if used correctly, DITA is an invaluable tool that drives effective writing and localization. That’s why we’ve put together this article to give you some tips on how to get started.

 

The right tools

The first stage in any DITA implementation is choosing your tooling. If you’re new to the architecture and looking to explore its potential, the DITA Open Toolkit is an excellent starting point for experimentation. It’s a free, open-source publishing engine, and it actually serves as the foundation for much of the DITA software ecosystem – including many of the most popular, proprietary authoring and content management applications.

Oxygen XML Editor 21.0 interface
Oxygen XML Editor 21.0 interface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re ready to implement DITA in earnest, tools such as Oxygen XML Editor are the natural next step. This kind of software provides an easy-to-use visual interface for creating and editing technical documentation, much like a typical word processor. But unlike a word processor, these tools come with built-in DITA support, enabling writers to manage their modular content units and effortlessly reuse them via content references.

Content References can be used to pull a huge variety of previously-created content into a new project. This can range from a single phrase, to a topic, to an entire collection of connected content.

 

Don’t let localization be an afterthought

The benefits of DITA aren’t limited to the initial authoring process – it can also significantly streamline localization. The key here is to make sure that you factor in localization right from the outset.

Content created in DITA can be easily converted to XLIFF for translation. But before you get to that point, there are a number of things you can do to make your content more localization-friendly:

  • Write in International English rather than American or British English. Avoid colloquial expressions, idioms, and overly complex sentences.
  • Determine whether there is anything that should not be translated, such as lists of parameters and part numbers. Most DITA tools will give you the option to flag this content for exclusion, which can make a huge difference to localization costs by reducing the scope of work.
  • In cases where you need to customize your content for different products within a range – or for different outputs for the same product (e.g. PDF manual vs online help manual) – use DITA’s conditional text feature to clearly indicate which content should vary, and in what way.
  • Develop a glossary to precisely define terms, especially acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Consider using a controlled language (for instance, Simplified Technical English) with a limited vocabulary and fixed style guidelines. This will improve the consistency of your content and minimize the risk of ambiguity for localization service providers.
  • Use the SVG format for images that include annotations or callout text. SVG graphics are the easiest to edit with computer-assisted translation tools.

Following these suggestions from the start of a project will enable you to move seamlessly from the initial content creation to localization. And once the localization is complete, you will be able to use a DITA publishing engine to generate deliverables for each of your target languages with just a few simple commands. Authors simply have to create and follow well-defined layout rules, and DITA takes care of the rest.

An additional advantage to using DITA for localization is that after a topic has been translated once, it does not have to be translated again – reducing both cost and turnaround times in localization when content is reused.

 

Leverage the experts

Working with experienced specialists is the best way to guarantee a smooth DITA adoption and avoid localization complications. At Rubric, our experts know DITA inside and out, and they are ready to provide their best practice expertise to help you plan your DITA implementation strategy.

Send us some of your own collateral and we can advise on DITA best practices! After clicking, attach some of your source documents to your email and Ian Henderson, our CTO, will reach out with some tips and guidance to help you embed structured authoring and simplify your content management.

Stay tuned for the next couple of weeks as we cover Content Authoring, Product Information Management (PIM) systems and other topics that can help drive your localization strategy.


Rebecca Metcalf
April 26, 2019
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Whether you’re dealing with an aircraft, an industrial robot, or a pump, when it comes to configuring and maintaining machinery there is no room for error. Mistakes during installation or servicing can lead to equipment failure, accidents, and even fatalities. That’s why it’s so important for technical documentation to be clear and concise, with no room for misunderstanding.

But achieving this level of clarity can be a major challenge, especially when you factor in language barriers: even though English is the prevailing language for technical documentation, engineers and end-users are not always native speakers.

Standardize and simplify

The proven solution to this problem is Simplified Technical English (STE). Originally developed for the aerospace industry, STE is a controlled language that utilizes a limited vocabulary where each word has a single, clearly defined meaning. By keeping word usage and linguistic construction simple and consistent, STE minimizes the potential for misunderstandings.

Today, STE is seeing growing popularity outside of aviation. In the manufacturing sector in particular, businesses and technical communicators are increasingly seeing the advantages of employing a preexisting, standardized framework for their technical writing. Internal style guides and glossaries are not new concepts, but developing them from scratch and keeping them up-to-date can be immensely time-consuming. In contrast, STE is a premade and proven system, and organizations can easily adopt it with just minor customizations to suit their industry.

But how can you tell if STE is right for your business? Well, consider this question: Is proper understanding of your installation and maintenance documentation critical to safety? If your answer is “yes”, then STE is almost certainly a good fit.

From simplified English to simplified translation

STE is an excellent way to make your technical documentation more consistent and easier to understand for non-native English speakers, but it isn’t always enough on its own. Sometimes you will need to go one step further and translate your content.

Target audience is the biggest factor here. If your end user doesn’t speak English at a high enough level, or at all, then translation is obviously the best option. This situation is especially common in B2C scenarios where the customer base is wider and potentially more varied.

When localizing technical documentation, STE still offers the ideal starting point, since the benefits of STE (reduced ambiguity, improved clarity and consistency) are passed on to the localized content.

By localizing your existing STE style guide and glossary for each of your target languages, you can maintain the same degree of clarity in your translations as you have in your source content. This approach reduces ambiguity from the localization process, minimizing the risk of misunderstanding or error and resulting in a higher quality, easy-to-use end product.

Additionally, authoring source content in a concise and standardized way will enable you to make the best use of translation memory (TM) technology. TM systems automatically provide suggestions to translators by remembering past translations. And when sentence construction, word usage and grammar are kept consistent in the source language, the potential for TM leveraging – and the resulting time and cost savings – goes up significantly.

Benefits for writers, readers, and businesses

Improved end-user safety is the main reason for adopting STE and standardized translations, but it is far from the only benefit. The approach we have described in this blog can make life easier for technical writers, translators, and customers, while also delivering considerable savings to your business., using the same controlled language across all projects makes content creation much more straightforward. With this methodology, technical communicators typically make fewer errors, spend less time worrying about word choice, and gain more benefit from TM systems – all of which help them to work more effectively and productively.

  • For writers, using the same controlled language across all projects makes content creation much more straightforward. With this methodology, technical communicators typically make fewer errors, spend less time worrying about word choice, and gain more benefit from TM systems – all of which help them to work more effectively and productively.
  • From the business perspective, STE keeps content concise and wordcount low. This leads to lower translation volumes and lower costs, especially when combined with improved TM system utilization.
  • Last but not least, implementing these standards will greatly enhance the consistency of technical documentation across your company as a whole. When instructions are always written in the same way, repeat customers will have a far easier time safely getting to grips with new products.
Partnering for success

Adopting STE principles in other languages can seem daunting, but that’s where Rubric comes in. Our expert team will work with you to develop bespoke localization style guides and advise on how to embed best practice terminology processes into your business.

Our experts can also help inform your decisions on the tooling and architecture used in your localization process. These choices will have a major, multiplicative effect on the quality of your content and the efficiency of your processes – so the earlier you involve us, the better!

If you’d like to learn more about STE or our localization services, we’ll be at the STC 2019 Technical Communication Summit & Expo in Denver, CO next week. Come visit us at Booth #304 from May 5th-8th – we’d love to meet you! If you aren’t in the Denver area, be sure to follow us on social media for the latest updates.


Dominic Spurling
April 24, 2019
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From a software engineering perspective, the localization process can be an entropy-increasing stage in your devops pipeline.

Localization tools need to extract a snapshot of the user experience, usually from resource files, and generate translated equivalents without adversely affecting the integrity of the application. User interface strings must be unpicked from (sometimes deeply nested) mark-up and presented to translators, who prepare target language strings, which must be ready to nest back into place within identically structured mark-up.

The tendency for small inconsistencies in the source to become large ones in target language files and for non-breaking anomalies to become breaking ones – this is entropy in UI projects.

At Rubric, we use a mix of automated tests and manual checks by both linguists and engineers, to help minimize this effect. Below I’ll work through a typical example to show how you can help your global content partner by minimizing entropy at the start of the process. (Look out for the inconsistencies in the original source.)

An example resource file

The following XML is based on a typical resource file for an Android app:

<strings>
	<check_mobile_devices_wifi>
		<![CDATA[Check your mobile device’s Wi-Fi settings and make sure your mobile device is connected to your home network##REPLACE_WITH_HOME_NETWORK##.<br /><br />Or, if you still can't connect, click START OVER.]]>
	</check_mobile_devices_wifi>
	<we_are_here_to_help>
		<![CDATA[We&rsquo;re here to help]]>
	</we_are_here_to_help>
	<firmware_system_setup>
		<![CDATA[How would you like to connect your speaker to your network?]]>
	</firmware_system_setup>
</strings>

 

Step 1 – Identify content type and unwrap nested formats

The file is first put through an Android Strings XML parser to extract the value of each key. Content type within CDATA sections (HTML) is identified and handed off to a secondary parser

  • Note: there are two right single quotation marks, highlighted in yellow. One of them is HTML encoded as &rsquo; but the other is a literal character. This is an example of an inconsistency, which could lead to problems down the line.

Step 2 – Parse HTML and protect tags and placeholders

Here the Entities are decoded (second key) and HTML tags and application-specific placeholders are protected.

Step 3 – Present translatable strings to translators

Translations are pre-populated from translation memory where possible and the translator fills any gaps which remain. The placeholders shown in purple cannot be altered by the translator but may be re-arranged if required by the sentence structure of the target language.

Step 4 – Write out target files

This is often the most technically complex part of the process where inconsistencies in the source can become amplified. The translated segments are processed (through each of the above steps in reverse), eventually reconstituting the original format.

First, placeholders and tags are re-injected and special characters are re-encoded or escaped:

The escaped single quote will probably not do any harm if it is decoded at right points down the line in your devops pipeline. However, if the structure source is internally consistent (less entropy!) this kind of ambiguity can be avoided.

Finally, the translated strings are re-injected into the original markup:

<strings>
  <check_mobile_devices_wifi>
    <![CDATA[Vérifiez les paramètres Wi-Fi de votre périphérique mobile pour vous assurer que ce dernier est connecté à votre réseau domestique##REPLACE_WITH_HOME_NETWORK##.<br /><br />Si vous ne pouvez toujours pas vous connecter, cliquez sur RECOMMENCER.]]>
  </check_mobile_devices_wifi>  
  <we_are_here_to_help>
    <![CDATA[Nous sommes là pour vous aider]]>
  </we_are_here_to_help>
  <firmware_system_setup>
    <![CDATA[Comment souhaitez-vous connecter l&rsquo;enceinte à votre réseau?]]>
  </firmware_system_setup>  
</strings>

 

How you can help your Global Content partner

As well as providing source files which are structured in a consistent way, there are a couple of other ways in which you can help optimize the localization process and enhance the quality of the end product:

  • Provide a complete set of files with every localization request

    At Rubric, we typically run diff reports at the end of every localization project in order to review changes in the English source and compare those against changes in the target files. This helps us to pick up any unexpected changes (for example, escaped characters introduced in error). Working with a complete set of files for each revision simplifies the diff process and makes reports easier to analyze.

  • Say something when you find anomalies

    If you find that you are having to apply fixes to localized resource files, please tell your Global Content partner, as this will enable them to correct any misconfigurations.

*first image of a black hole courtesy of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) network.


Françoise Henderson
September 7, 2018
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The fourth industrial revolution is here and organizations need to make some pretty fundamental changes to remain competitive. Manufacturing 4.0 is the name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It’s taking automation to the next level with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where vast amounts of information is collected and shared across a multitude of devices. Frankly, it’s a gamechanger for not just the industry, but the world too.


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