The three things I learned doing global launches

by Rita Nguyen

One of the first accomplishments I had at EA was to launch a website in over a dozen languages simultaneously. Prior to this they used to launch a North American site and then eventually roll out a few pages in localized sites, if at all. The Need for Speed ProStreet site built in 2007 was the first time that we centralized one full site build globally and eventually, I was managing up to 26 fully localized sites for this franchise. For the next few years, this became the trend for the larger EA titles. Here are a few of the lessons I learned during that time.

1. QA is a pain in the ass and absolutely critical

This is pretty much true of all technology you’re going to build however, there’s another layer to this when you are dealing with multiple languages. While my centralized QA resources could catch the obvious things like design flaws or placeholder content, it was really critical that the territory managers who spoke the languages natively also did a full QA pass so you could avoid embarrassing translations like the MacDonald’s case from late last year.

2. Use your words!

They say a picture is worth a thousands words. I guess so but when it comes to building websites, those pictures can become a massive pain. Take for example, buttons that tell you to “sign up”. Now if you build that as an image, including the text then someone’s gotta go in and edit the image with a tool like Illustrator then upload the image separately to your CMS or CDN. When you’re dealing with over 2 dozen people world wide with varying technical chops, it’s critical to keep things as simple as possible. By making the copy on your promos and buttons text that can be translated into a CMS you not only ensure that the translation is easier to deal with, you also get a bit more SEO juice. Bonus.

Also, this seems obvious, but make sure your CMS can handle all your various languages. Cyrillic and Asian languages are particularly fun to support.

3. Centralize, centralize, centralize

While I’m all about making sure that the territories are accountable for their websites, the reality is that our priorities weren’t always aligned. Added to that, they had far less resources than I did and usually it was one guy who had to manage 20 different franchise/product sites so they were rarely able to keep up with all the content we were throwing at them. More often than not, I had to make sure that all the major content updates and certainly, any updates around major beats like E3 were centrally managed.

This goes double for social media channels. When Facebook and Twitter became hot topics, every territory wanted their own channels! This was a complete mess as the territories simply didn’t have the manpower to keep these channels updated, let alone engaging. Then there is the embarrassment of having a franchise like Need for Speed, which used to sell over 10 million units with a FB fan base of less than 200 in some of these territories. Absurd. Now that FB handles languages and segmentation better, this has pretty much gone away.

These years taught me so many other painful little lessons but these are the three key things I encourage anyone to consider if they are even thinking of launching a site in more than one language. One final thing, remember to build in a lot of extra buffer time, which you’ll need when dealing with decentralized resources in multiple time zones and misaligned priorities. Good luck!