To conquer the overseas market, a business needs to do more than just translating texts and interfaces into other languages: it needs to adapt its product to meet the circumstances of each region, taking account of particular characteristics such as— currency units, systems of measurement, dates, even traditions and details of religion. Some firms do all this for themselves, others hire translators (ideally native speakers), and some make use of professional localization platforms. One such service, offering automation and management of translations, is Lokalise. Experts from the popular international photo and video bank Depositphotos have shared their experience of integrating it: they are localization manager Tatiana Grebenyuk and web developer Roman Drogolov. The conversation is summarized in two parts: firstly referring to the technical aspects of developing and integrating Lokalise in the product environment, and secondly dealing directly with matters of translation and of collaborating with translators.
Depositphotos is an international photo and video bank founded in 2009 by the Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Sergeev. The company has attracted substantial investments on several occasions, from TMT Investments and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Today the Depositphotos file collection includes more than 67 million images and videos, and the company itself is present in about twenty markets around the world.
Depositphotos has already been localized into twenty languages, and work is underway on another two languages and project versions: Thai and Indonesian. The photo bank team decided to go over to an automated translation system about two years ago, and since then five internal projects have been managed using Lokalise: the site itself, photo bank mobile apps, the Crello online graphical editor, the Lightfield photo studio portal, and social media publications.
Before going over to Lokalise, the team used an SQL database that had grown to include 120,000 keys. Many of them were no longer required, but they could not be deleted because separating the keys that were still needed from the ones that were not, amid such a mass of lines of data, was an unmanageable task. Roman Drogolov notes that after adopting Lokalise they saw the size of the database shrink more than 25-fold (to about 5,000 keys), meaning the data could now easily be brought into order and filtered according to the proper parameters. “When we needed to transfer the key base into Lokalise, we built in logging of used lines and looked at which keys had been used in production over the preceding two months. We then put them into Lokalise,” recalls the developer. Of course, according to Drogolov, situations did arise where a key that was needed and used turned out not to have been transferred to Lokalise—but these cases were few and far between, and the intuitive nature of the platform meant that any forgotten key could quickly and easily be transferred manually.
The transition to the automated service itself took about a week. During this time, scripts were written that would look after interactions with the new database on the Lokalise side, and in addition the project’s cache layer was slightly amended. After this, the service was fully integrated into Depositphotos’ workflow.
Roman notes that one of the main advantages of Lokalise for him is the integration of web hooks into the project, together with the fact that his team could adapt some of them to suit their needs. For instance, the Slack web hook was modified to log changes to localization keys. “Lokalise is pretty good at enabling you to use the same keys for iOS, Android, and the web simultaneously. Our mobile developers make active use of this functionality,” he says.
Difficulties and Support
The developer tells us he has encountered practically zero conflicts with frameworks while working with Lokalise. The team uses the Phalcon framework, but only in a very limited way, and prefers its own hand-written tools. “On the whole, I’d say that Lokalise has a very good and convenient API. Yes, there are some options missing when it comes to filtering keys, but on the whole I’m happy with how it works,” Roman Drogolov comments. He adds that there were some problems, too, but that they were quickly resolved.
On one occasion, Depositphotos had a problem relating to introducing restricted API requests into Lokalise. The team were “slightly” surprised when a number of scripts started operating incorrectly. “Both in testing and on our production servers, several cache scripts could be launched at once, pulling in new translations. Since requests were coming only half a second to a second apart, the API would block them and we’d have to wait for the next automated launch before we could take on the new localization,” Roman remembers. However, spacing the requests in time helped us overcome this inconvenience.
“In general, I would say that the Lokalise support team work impeccably. They respond very rapidly to your questions—literally within an hour or an hour and a half—and they explain in quite a lot of detail how to solve whatever problem you’ve got, and they always try to find the way of doing it that’s most convenient for us. It’s usually Nick Ustinov who deals with questions I have,” recounts Roman Drogolov (at the time of our conversation Roman Drogolov did not know that Nick Ustinov is the CEO of Lokalise—ed.).
The Depositphotos Localization Manager’s View
Tatiana Grebenyuk, Depositphotos’ localization manager, also shared her experience of collaborating with Lokalise. She notes that Depositphotos went over to Lokalise in the hope that it would make the localization procedure simpler for all participants, and also that it would make it fast and efficient. “We needed to be able to use translation memory, and limit third-party access to the admin and to the database of keys. Of course, I did most of the database work, but sometimes—especially when the task was an urgent one—we needed to provide the translators with database access: as you will understand, this can lead to all kinds of problems,” recalls Tatiana. She says that today, when translators have access to the localization system without there being any risk they will accidentally “break” it, work has become much easier for everyone: localizers, developers, and translators.
The actual idea of using Lokalise arose when Depositphotos’ CEO read about the platform and found it interesting. Tatiana points out that the desire for a new, integrated localization system coincided remarkably closely with what they found out about Lokalise, while the service’s price quote was entirely satisfactory.
Localization Work: The Specifics
Depositphotos has its own team of translators, built up ever since the project was first launched. According to Tatiana, the company has already been working with these people for more than five years and 70% of them have been working for Depositphotos ever since it began to be localized into their languages. “These are people who know all the specifics of the project, and it is only in the most extreme circumstances that I would let them go,” she adds. After the transition to the new system, the time spent working on localization was cut in half. If one language had previously taken of the order of four months’ unbroken work, now it could be done in two to two and a half months. “This reduction was made possible by the fact that translators could work directly on the translation platform itself, and I no longer had to extract each key for them separately,” remarks Tatiana.
Today Depositphotos’ projects have been localized into twenty languages, and work is underway on two more: Thai and Indonesian. “Our work is organized like this: the translators receive access to Lokalise, where they translate the main version into their own languages. After this, we upload the translations to our test server and also give them access to see the finished version of their work, leave comments, and refine their translations if need be,” according to Tatiana. She also observes that translations are checked after testing, still in Lokalise, by using other online translators and independent experts who are native speakers of the target language.
The Strong Points of Lokalise and What Is Missing
The Depositphotos manager regards the main advantages of Lokalise as being its ease of use, the ability to calmly give translators access to the database, the translation history feature, and also the ability to filter by keys. “It’s convenient that you can write comments and attach screenshots, so as to provide translators with some context for a particular key. Another thing that was very important for me was the fact that I could calmly hide some language if work on it wasn’t finished yet,” recalls Tatiana.
At the same time, she would like to be able to configure the key filtering more precisely, and she wishes the translation memory were more flexible. “Considering the scale of our projects, the translators often get a bit confused about how to translate some particular word. It wouldn’t be bad if they got more than just one version of the translation as a hint, but all the versions that have been used in the current project,” the Depositphotos localization manager observes. In addition, she thinks the service does not provide enough functionality for creating special “personalized” lists of keys relating to particular tasks.
But, even though there are a few imperfections in the platform, Depositphotos does not use any other localization platform and is not planning to transfer away from Lokalise. “As a project manager I do of course get offers from other companies, but basically they are not platforms for working with our own translators: they’re just more translation services using freelance translators. For a project like ours, that isn’t a good fit. There are many things that an outside just can’t understand, and we certainly wouldn’t be satisfied with a translation by just anybody,” says Tatiana.