Complex localization made smooth
The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) faced a challenge. To meet the needs of its global player community, Pokémon wanted to offer their flagship website in five languages: UK English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. The challenge was that pokemon.com is a tightly integrated system of Flash games, dynamic Content Management System pages, and business applications. This complexity, combined with the site’s sheer size (thousands of image assets alone required translation), meant the localization of pokémon.com involved far more than simply swapping out English text for other languages. Secondly, the effort to “localize” the site had to occur concurrently with dozens of interdependent enhancement and maintenance projects. Furthermore, the new site had to scale as further languages were added in the future.
Coming off the heels of OpenRoad’s successful re-design of Pokémon Global Play, Pokémon asked us to tackle their problem. OpenRoad dove in, partnering with our friends at Mod7 to help with the visual elements of the site.
OpenRoad began by conducting a thorough review of the entire pokemon.com system to analyze and inventory the impacts of localization piece by piece. Some components of the system were identified as incompatible with localization. These were redesigned and redeveloped. OpenRoad then extended Pokémon’s Content Management System (CMS) to support further languages, allowing them to be added as required.
On the content and user interface side, “quick win” areas of the application were targeted for translation. Knowing that long words with many characters in the German language often present challenges for the interface, German was the first language tackled. This decision simplified the effort for subsequent languages, requiring only small tweaks rather than drastic revisions to the user interface.
As translated content became available, OpenRoad created automated import and export tools to bring localized content in and out of the system efficiently. A complete content inventory contained not only the thousands of content assets but also defined who was responsible for each. This ensured that not one asset was missed as content creation and development occurred simultaneously. Pokémon hired a dedicated localization content manager for the duration of the project, backed by their existing content team. Finally, all localized content underwent two rounds of review. Translated content was reviewed to ensure it made sense in context and required changes were made.
OpenRoad actively managed the schedule and projects risks. An Agile project methodology was used that included 8 three week “sprints”, each with defined goals. This ensured that the project team quickly responded to issues and changes while keeping Pokémon fully involved with progress. From the third sprint forward the site was functional, fully tested, and production-ready — meaning that Pokémon could flip the switch and launch at any time. Strict build management practices were used to control interdependencies between the localization project and dozens of concurrent enhancement and maintenance projects.
The project launched smoothly in January 2011 and Pokémon is thrilled with the result. Web traffic to pokémon.com doubled in the three months following launch and continues to grow.