Technical Documentation Checklist for Translation

Translating your technical documentation can help establish you as a market leader wherever you sell your products and services. It can also increase your revenue, decrease the amount you spend on call centers and other forms of one-on-one customer help, and improve your brand image.

Any time you make a move into a new market, there are many types of documentation that you may need to translate. In this article, we will explore several types, including customer-facing documentation; marketing collateral and other sales documentation; patents and other legal documents; and corporate communications.

Each of these types of technical documentation plays a vital role in your company’s success in a new market, and they require subject-matter expertise for a good translation. 

You can help your translation agency by providing them with any supporting documents you have, from glossaries and style guides to previously translated content.

Types of Technical Documentation to Translate

Customer-Facing Technical Documentation

1. User Manuals

When we think about translating technical documentation, the first document that comes to mind is the user manual. 

Whether you are selling toys or cars, the user manual serves more than one role: it explains how to use the product, offers troubleshooting tips, and provides key safety warnings. Accurate user manual translation can reduce customer support costs, avoid backlash and bad reviews from users who do not understand how to use a product, and also protect your company from potential lawsuits. 

2. Packaging and Inserts

If you intend to export a physical product, you will likely need to translate the packaging as well as any inserts that accompany it. For example, the European Union requires that labels include information in the official language of the EU country where they are marketed.

Similarly, any product sold in Quebec must have a French copy on its packaging, and its user manual and warranty information must also include a French translation. Failure to comply can result in fines.

The examples above are the minimum required to adhere to local regulations for technical documentation. Your legal department may recommend that you go above and beyond local requirements to avoid liability issues. For example, while the EPA does not currently require pesticides to be labelled in both English and Spanish to be sold in the United States, many manufacturers opt for bilingual labelling to improve safety and reduce liability. 

3. Product Descriptions

Translating product descriptions is key to your success in new markets, whether you sell products to buyers directly through your website, or they need to contact a sales representative.

Recent research has shown that 40% of consumers will never buy from a website that is not in their own language, and 76% of shoppers prefer to buy products that offer information in their language. 

Translated product descriptions will also enhance your website’s SEO for the target language.

4. Help Files

The same study cited above also showed that 75% of shoppers are likelier to repurchase from a brand if they have access to customer support in their native language.

To build brand loyalty and give customers easy access to the support they need, translate your technical documentation, such as quick-start guides, FAQ pages, and how-to guides. Context-sensitive help, such as tooltips and pop-ups, should also be translated to help new users feel at ease.

5. Software Documentation

When launching in a new market, you will want to think carefully about who will use the product and how, then determine what technical documentation to translate.

If your focus is a B2C software product, you should translate user guides as well as troubleshooting documentation and FAQ pages. If you are using chatbots to help users find the answers to their questions, you may also want to localize the chatbot for each market that you serve.

For software intended to be used by small-to-medium businesses or enterprises, in addition to software localization, you may also need to translate programmer guides, system admin guides, and even API documentation so that developers can ensure the software works in tandem with other products they use. You will also need to translate eLearning and other user-facing documents, such as quick start guides designed to help employees transition to a new software program.

As you release new versions and patches, you will also want to translate release notes for each target market where you do business additionally to other software supporting technical documentation.

6. Training Materials and eLearning Content

Technical Documentation Checklist for Translation

Training materials translation also boosts revenue generation and decreases churn. Translating content such as LMS platforms, webinars, training manuals, and other educational content allows users in your target market to better understand your product.

Since users often show a preference for companies that offer customer help in their native language, translating your training materials can also help you increase market share or become a household name in new markets.

Technical Documentation for Marketing and Sales

1. Marketing Collateral and Sales Funnels

Translating your marketing collateral should be a key part of your go-to-market plan. If you engage in direct mail campaigns or go to trade fairs, you may need to translate material such as pamphlets, traditional catalogues, and mailers. You may even want a translated text for your signage.

Likewise, content that is part of your inbound marketing efforts—such as white papers, eBooks, and marketing emails—may also need translation. If you have sales representatives working within that language, you may want to provide them with translated sales enablement material as well.

Additionally, you will want to have a high-quality translated version of your website for each market you are targeting.

If you are committed to a fully translated sales funnel, you can also consider top-of-funnel content such as blog posts as well as bottom-of-funnel content such as case studies.

2. Requests for Proposal

As you look to grow your business, you may want to utilize RFP translation for your response to requests for proposals (RFPs) or requests for quotes (RFQs) in your target market. To win new business, you will need to translate supporting documentation, such as datasheets and technical brochures, as well as answers to specific RFP questions. 

Suppose the RFP was initially issued in a language other than English. In that case, you may first need to translate the RFP into English so that subject-matter experts can weigh in, then translate their responses back into the target language.

Other Common Types of Technical Documentation

1. Intellectual Property

Technical Documentation

There are several types of technical documentation you may need to translate to protect your intellectual property rights in a new market.

Patent applications are a critical piece of documentation and one that often requires the expertise of a translator who specializes in patents. You may also need to translate supporting documentation, such as diagrams and drawings, as part of the application. 

As you launch your product or service in different countries, you may also want to translate technical documentation related to trademarks so that you can apply to protect your trademark in each new market.   

2. Corporate Communications

It is easy to exclude corporate communications documents from the category of “technical documentation,” but in reality, they require similar expertise and knowledge. 

Annual reports demand the expert touch of a financial translator who understands the ins and outs of corporate finance. They should be able to accurately convey your financial results and outlook, given that the words they choose could impact your performance in local stock exchanges.

Similarly, press releases should be handled by an industry-specific translator who understands public relations and how to communicate both positive and negative news. At the same time, the translator also needs to have an excellent grasp of your industry and your product.

3. Internal Communications

As you expand your company globally, additionally to other types of technical documentation, you may need to translate internal communications. 

For example, if you have recently opened a corporate office in Tokyo, you will need to translate reports and executive summaries into Japanese. Memos written by Japan-based staff require translation into English for the team at headquarters. You may also need to translate training manuals and eLearning content so that office staff in Japan can learn to use the same tools as those in Toronto or London.

If your company develops software or similar products, you may also find that you need to translate user requirements documents or market requirements documents crafted by in-country teams.

You may also find that you need to translate eLearning content for internal purposes. For example, if you introduce a new procedure for time tracking in all offices, you will get the best results with your employees based in Japan when you translate the slide show from the source language into Japanese. 

How Art One Can Help You with Your Technical Translation Checklist

Art One Translations has years of experience translating documents for companies that sell complex products and services. Our expert translators are native speakers of over 90 languages. They can handle a wide range of file types for technical document translation, including product manuals, operating procedures, and user guides, among others.

We can also translate documents that require both technical knowledge and marketing skill, including eBooks and white papers, press releases, memos, and websites.

Our clients include companies in sectors such as telecom, engineering, and machinery, as well as many technology and software companies. We pride ourselves on responsiveness and flexibility with every project we complete.

If you want your technical translations to satisfy your target audience and improve your KPIs, contact us today. Our team is here to help you with your technical documentation translation project.

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