Do’s And Don’ts When Localizing Art

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet many companies balk at the cost of localizing art work, despite the fact that each one costs far less than translating a thousand words. It is common knowledge that art file localization adds substantially to the localization cost of manuals, documents and help files. The following are principles you can follow to help minimize these costs.

Do use art only when necessary. Often (particularly with online help), the user is running software simultaneously to the help file. Having dialog box bitmaps displayed in the online help is redundant, since the software is already displaying that dialog box. By minimizing the use of dialog box art, recapture in all necessary languages is minimized, as is the associated cost.

Don’t incorporate unnecessary information (into the art files), that could change with each release. More specifically:

Remove the product’s version number or name from the dialog box header and body.

Avoid using special Windows themes. Stick to standard ones (Windows XP style vs. Classic style). Making dialog boxes independent of the version of your software or Windows will enable you to reuse them as-is in future updates of your software.

Only capture the part of the dialog that is pertinent to the context, as opposed to the entire dialog. This will minimize the chance of change and subsequent recapture.

Do save all necessary files and steps used to create artwork. If you are generating dialog boxes from your software, make sure you archive all the necessary project files that are used in the process. If there is a way to also record a macro, do so. You are more familiar with your requirements and software than the person who will be tasked with generating localized art. Making all the initial project files available will simplify the recapture process, reducing its time and cost.

Don’t embed graphics in the documents. Art should always be linked to the main document. Although this creates more files to manage, it also gives each art file its own identity, enabling easy reuse in future updates. Furthermore, this will make the main document size much smaller and manageable by translation memory tools that process it during localization.

Do use callouts whenever possible outside the graphics. Art that does not contain text may require no localization efforts at all. Culture-sensitive art is the exception, but this is not often found in technical manuals or software help. Minimizing text in a graphic will reduce the localization cost. Callouts can be easily translated with the rest of the document.

Don’t mix art you are localizing with art common to all languages. Separate art files into two folders, “localizable” and “common”. This will optimize disk space, since only localizable art will be duplicated for each language. Also, apply a time stamp to art files to indicate their release dates. Having files separated and stamped will facilitate reuse of localized art from previous releases. It will also reduce the time needed for sorting and generating work estimates.

With the advent of all-in-one image analysis applications, localization specialists can now load and browse all localizable art files in one interface. The files can then be grouped by function: translation, capture, animation, and complex categories; text extraction for translation; report generation to guide the localization process; and QA of the source and target graphics in one interface.

Don’t discard source files where sophisticated art has been created in vectorized formats (such as EPS, AI, WMF, etc.), and then saved in bitmap formats (GIF, BMP, JPG, etc.). When text is embedded in bitmap files with complex background colors or graphics, it is often impossible to replace source text with target text, without disturbing the background graphics. Having the vectorized format files available will preserve all background information, and enable simple replacement of the text with the necessary translations.

Do use art where necessary, to facilitate the user’s understanding and use of your product. After all, it is the end-user you are ultimately tasked to communicate with, not your localization service provider.

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