by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp — all-in-one help authoring tool

Product manuals could be of different volumes and levels of complexity. But when your company goes global any user manual should be accessible and easy to understand for your international customers the same way as for local users. And for that, you need the same high-quality materials in other languages.

Regardless of what product you are developing, there’s a constant and continuous need for translating product manuals.

When selecting a translator for the job, remember that a good translator should be experienced in the required field, take professional training in technical translation, and have a deep understanding of the specific language pair. Here’s what to take into account when preparing your content for translation:

  • If the manual is for a nonexpert, ensure that the translation also doesn’t have expert terms. If, wise versa, the original content is for an expert in the field, check that the same is true for the translated manual. Otherwise, it might come out as superior and simplistic, or it can end up being too complicated and repel the customer.
  • Surely the translator should know the subject, but they should also be familiar with the manual. Therefore, the translator should scrutinize the entire manual a few times and understand the flow of the content and the vocabulary.
  • Give your translators the reference materials. This will help meet your expectations since any clarification needed or any mistakes to remove will be promptly made.
  • Make sure that your translation company uses CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools. They help streamline the whole project’s workflow, manage the database, cut the time in half. With the Translation Memory, you can save more than 30% on your content translation.
  • Remember about your interface. There might be some requirements specific to your products. In this case, you will need an exact translation. If you complete your interface translation before the manual translation, you can share it with your translators and ensure that the manual and the interface match. Otherwise, it may create inconsistencies, and your translation cost might increase, causing you to lose valuable time and money.
  • Pictures are more effective compared to text. When you use diagrams and other visuals, it is easier for users to understand a long and hard-to-grasp text. For example, the Swedish company, IKEA. They are experts in creating user-friendly manuals that expertly use visuals to express what words might not. Their entire furniture assembly manuals follow this pattern and are popular among users.
  • Ensure that the texts are not an integral part of the pictures and other visuals in order to be effectively handled and translated. Depending on your style guide, you can leave numbers or letters and leave space for graphics or the reference table.
  • Leave a lot of blank space around your text as well as your visuals. Because the dense text is hard to understand and perceive. It is also great for the translation process. It makes it faster, easier, and cost-effective.
  • Make sure that the text you provide is in a file format that is common and easy to use. This can influence the translation cost.

Make sure to ask about the resources your translation company uses; how they select the linguists that will work on your content and if they have a well-established vendor management process. Except when you choose to work with freelance translators, then these questions don’t apply.

For example, you need to translate a manual about operating a piece of equipment into French. If the translator doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of the subject, they could miss important details or fail to add something they should. It is even more complicated with a safety-related manual; it could result in injuries or death.

Follow these simple tips when getting to know the translation field, and your translated user manuals will be as great as the original ones.

Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice, Content Manager at — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors

Content Manager at 👈. I write about web design, web development and technical writing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook