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Reducing Translation Costs Part 3 of 3: A Technical Translation Use Case

This is our third and final article in a series of blogs about authoring in XML. In our first blog post, we covered what XML is and use cases for it, as well as advantages and tools needed. In our second blog post, we described how authoring in XML can help reduce your technical translation costs by eliminating costly and time-consuming desktop publishing (DTP) while also offering more opportunities to reduce per-word charges.

In this last blog post, I interviewed Julie Walker, a former technical communications manager for a global manufacturing company, about her experience with authoring in XML. Julie’s team of technical writers switched from authoring content in FrameMaker to a topic-based authoring strategy using XML.

Thanks for joining us today, Julie. Can you start off by sharing a little bit about your team and your authoring process?

Sure! I managed a team of technical writers at my previous company for more than 12 years. We created installation manuals, configuration manuals, product data sheets and more. We authored our content in unstructured FrameMaker and we translated our manuals in up to 24 languages. We managed over 1300 pieces of documentation, so we were always busy editing or creating new documents.

What were some of the challenges that you faced?

Our process was labor-intensive and linear, meaning everything was manual and we couldn’t get the translation process started until the entire document was finished, which was often right before the product release. Based on the product roadmap, we knew we had a tremendous amount of work to do and we weren’t going to be able to keep up with it with the current process, so we needed a way to speed up our process.

Another big challenge was that we needed to keep our technical translation costs under control while continuing to support our global customers. We had a lot of new product releases and updates on the roadmap, and since we were going to introduce the products to global markets, we needed to have translations.

How did you address these challenges?

We knew we had a lot of similar content across our product document sets, so we did a content analysis to determine exactly how much content we reused. In general, we reused at least 50% of our content, and in some cases, it was as high as 90%. This meant that we had a great business case to switch from authoring in FrameMaker to a topic-based authoring and publishing system using XML and the DITA architecture because we could take advantage of the “write once, translate once and reuse many times” concept. This strategy would enable us to mix and match our library of topics to create our documents without having to recreate and translate content. We knew we had the potential to save a lot on translation costs while also reducing our authoring and review time.

How did you get started?

We knew it was going to be a big undertaking to make the conversion, so we did a beta test first with our installation manual set to make sure we could do it and prove our return on investment (ROI). The types of content we had in these manuals (e.g., mounting, wiring and grounding) were basically the same across all six installation manuals. Here’s what we found when we did the content analysis:

  • The six manuals had 85% of the same content.
  • We decided to use our Product A manual as the foundation for the other five manuals since it had the most comprehensive set of content.
  • 85% of the content in Product B’s manual was identical to Product A’s content so we’d only have to send the other 15% to translation.

We developed the content for the two manuals in XML and then sent the content to translation.

What were the results of the beta test?

The conversion process was definitely challenging, but we learned a lot and tweaked the process to make improvements. Here’s what we found.

  • We realized a significant translation cost savings:
    • With the old process, it would’ve cost us around $10,000 to translate the two manuals.
    • With the new process, it cost $5,300, which is about half the cost.
    • Our Product A manual, which had the most content, cost $4,500. Our Product B manual, with only 15% new content, cost $800. So, we had about an 80% cost reduction with the Product B manuals as a result of sending fewer topics to translation.
  • The time to market increased after the initial translation since we sent fewer topics to translation.
  • It took less authoring time (which made me happy!) and review time (which made everyone happy!).
  • We improved the documents’ usability by having consistent content, an improved look and feel including color, and more visual aids like graphics. As a result, we had very positive feedback from our customers.

It sounds like you had a great case to use XML and reaped many benefits from it. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Localization Evolution in Documentation: Managing Technical Documentation Localization

As you can see from Julie’s experience, authoring in XML can help you save on translation costs, improve time to market and increase customer satisfaction. For additional information, tips and best practices about content authoring and localization in general, I also invite you to view an hour-long online discussion which features Julie and Maxwell Hoffmann, former Technical Communications Evangelist at Adobe Systems, Inc.

Julie and Max discussed the following topics and more:

  • Evolve or Perish: How to Build and Manage a Nimble Technical Communications Department – How to build an effective team to manage, create, implement and evolve your company’s content strategy; project management; evolving processes and workflows to adapt to rapid change.
  • The Intersection of Content Creation and Localization – From multiple authoring platforms to single sourcing; streamlining source content (e.g. Simplified English), content management systems (CMS); authoring systems that reduce 50-90% of translation costs; terminology management and more.
  • Relevant and Useful Tools – Developing a top-notch Localization Kit; using FrameMaker, RoboHelp, AuthorIT, and other tools to help in the budgeting process; and how to streamline processes and reduce costs.


As a technical translation company, Net-Translators works with many businesses who author in XML. Net-Translators and our partners can help you find ways to reduce translation costs and shorten time to market by moving to an XML or another type of authoring tool, implementing a different content management system (CMS) or making other process improvements. Please contact us and we’ll have one of our localization consultants get in touch with you.

We also offer tools that make the technical translation process easier, such as Net-Connect, our cloud-based software that automates sending and receiving content from your content management system, and Net-Cloud, our one-stop translation and localization project management system. If you have any questions about translating technical documents, we’re here to help you.

Shmuel Duan

For many years I was on the clients’ side, gaining years of experience in the world of software development. Back then localization wasn’t always on my mind... Here at Net-Translators, as the Director of Technology, I discovered the world of localization and found out that this is one of the most interesting phases in the life of a product! With the knowledge of developing software and websites I’m eager to find ways to improve the process and support our clients worldwide by better understanding their needs, making their process smoother, more efficient and finding the best ways to deliver. Being our clients’ partners, I see the added value in helping them, even before we start the localization process, advising them which tools/systems to work with, the best practices and how to make their product "localization friendly". Together with a great team that loves the challenge our clients bring, we enjoy the process of finding the best solutions for each one, tracking emerging technologies and trends, industry standards, and searching for better ways to localize it. In this blog I’ll share tips and tricks on how to do it better! Stay tuned ;-)

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