When preparing to take a software platform or application into new markets, companies tend to focus on localising the user interface (UX) and the key pieces of marketing material such as landing pages, social media ads or google ads. These are key to launching international campaigns and selling licences and subscriptions. 

However, it is easy to forget that the new customers in these regions will require support and help in their native language, especially at the beginning of the learning curve. Truth be told, software companies that thrive globally – the Slacks and HubSpots of this world – offer much more than just FAQs as their product documentation. From user manuals to knowledge bases and e-learning courses, these companies produce, maintain and localise a wide array of online and printable materials to help their users get started, learn new features, manage their accounts and preferences, and search for topics of interest.  

Research by Garner shows that having a knowledge management strategy in place for customer service will impact efficiency, customer satisfaction and revenue growth. When you combine this fact with research from Common Sense Advisory research stating that 76% of the world prefers products that come with information in their own language, the message is clear: if you want to conquer new markets and get ahead of your competition, one of the best ways to do this is to enhance knowledge distribution and localise your support documentation. 

What is support documentation? 

  • User guides 
  • Help centres  
  • Manuals 
  • Knowledge base articles 
  • Technical documentation 
  • FAQs 
  • e-learning courses 
  • Policies 

What users prefer 

Unless your users are extremely tech-savvy and autodidactic, they turn to support documentation when they need to customise a specific setting or figure out how to use a complex feature. And just like you, they get frustrated if they can’t find the information fast enough or can’t find any help at all in a language they can easily understand.  

Although fewer than 12% of the countries in the world have high level of English proficiency, English content dominates the web and many companies publish their content only in English. Some of your clients or potential audience may be comfortable reading technical documentation in English, but there will always be some who feel left out. 

What languages should be catered for? 

A well-executed localisation strategy is driven by data, especially when it comes to figuring out which languages to cover first. Here are three factors to take into consideration when making that decision: 

👥 Existing user base

Analysing how your existing users are distributed by country is essential for determining the languages of your support documentation. If 25% of your customers are located in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, this should motivate you to publish your materials in the Scandinavian languages. 

📥 Support queries

Another source of data is your support queries. Where do they come from and which topics are regularly raised by customers in specific regions? Match the topics raised with the articles in your support documentation to determine which ones to translate first into which language. 

📊 Website traffic

If all your support documentation is in English, you can run a location report in Google Analytics to see whether your help pages are being read by people in non-English-speaking countries. Shortlist the most visited pages in each of your main markets and start by translating those. 

What’s important when localising support documentation? 

Compared to software localisation, translating support documentation is a straightforward process. There’s no need to check that menus, buttons, dropdowns and other interactive elements work across a range of translated functions. However, the absence of an effective strategy can still have an impact, both on the cost and the speed of the product rollout. 

🗂️ Leverage previously translated content 

Support documents are technical and full of repetitions. A phrase like “enter your username and password” could be found hundreds of times across your help pages. If your language service provider works with translation memories, once you have translated this sentence once, you won’t need to do it again in the future. 

Translation memories help eliminate repeat costs, but also reduce the volume of work for the translator, leading to faster project turnaround times. If you have never localised before, you will see the benefits of translation memories the moment you release new updates. 

📚 Agree on terminology 

Before you start translating support documents, make sure you and your language service provider are on the same page regarding terminology. Make a list of important words that are repeated throughout your documents and provide specific instructions on how you would like those specific terms translated. This guarantees that feature names and functionalities that are specific to your product are consistently localised across each language. 

🖼️ Check visual elements 

Support documentation often complements text with visual elements such as screenshots, tables, graphics and images. As you translate your content for new languages, it’s important to check that those visual elements are adapted as well. Images with embedded text need to be recreated, and tables containing units of measurement such as currency or time must be converted to the new regional format. 

🌎 Remember regional adaptation 

Technical documents that are translated into one language such as Spanish or Swedish can be used in multiple geographical regions where that language is spoken. Unless you want to invest in different regional versions, support your language services partner in making the translation as neutral as possible.

The benefits of localised support documentation 

👍 Customer satisfaction 

With the complexity and spread of data in software companies, it is taking longer for both employees and customers to find the information they search for. Well-curated knowledge repositories empower your support teams and accelerate their response times when answering queries by between 20% and 80%. If you are able to launch a multilingual knowledge management strategy, it can do wonders in the retention phase of the customer journey, helping customers across different countries and languages convert from being regular users to promoters of your product.  

📉 Support costs 

When you take your products into new markets, your technical support team can quickly become a cost centre. Localising your support documentation is a smart alternative to having an army of support agents. According to Gartner, it is possible to reduce support costs by more than 25%. Every answer that your users find in your help centre or e-learning materials means one less email or call to your support desk.  

📈 Increased sales 

Potential customers are used to searching for information before making a purchase. They want to know about the features and available integrations. Localised support documentation can make a difference to what they find and in turn swing their decision. 

Software localisation