"In Italy there’s always an accursed moment where reactions turn from ‘here’s a promising fella’ to ‘not this shmuck again’. Only a lucky few then age into a more dignified ‘always a pleasure, dear master’" - Alberto Arbasino
This year will mark three important dates for me: four years as IGDA Localization SIG chair/co-chair, ten years as team GLOC, and forty years on this planet.
And while it’s true that "An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half" (Karl Kraus) I do feel it’s time to adjust my online presence and wear some age-appropriate "shmuck" clothes. (And that’s it, I do hope civilization will never reach the point where "master" is ever applied to videogame translators).
Needless to say, I don’t have the budget for a corporate-sized rebranding. On one hand, this means way more work for me. On the other, the slow process of trying, failing and iterating things myself should lead to truly personal results. And that’s vital.
Interestingly for a website called "L10N people" those… aren’t my people.
Out of 11 professions listed, only three are likely to ever touch the text: "Linguistic Staff", "Technical Staff" and "Project Managers". Everything else is sales and management.
It’s a sales operation, to the point that if you replace those three professions it could be any other field, from oil extraction to life insurance. Nothing wrong with that, sales are essential for any large-scale operation, but it’s not my job.
And most importantly, it’s not what I’m good at. I simply cannot compete with people that deploy 7 different specialists just to cover the bit where I say "That’s my card and, uh, give me a shout if you need translations".
No matter how polished and studied and convincing the presentation will be, I must be myself, a freelance translator - just shaved and hair-combed.
So, let’s start small and iterate
How small? A two-page site with my business pitch, an online resume answering the core questions: who I am, what I sell and how much does it cost
With time, we will will gradually review my whole presentation, both online and offline, but let’s start with this first, minimal element
And let’s be clear: it will not be design, at least for now. As eloquently summarized here, here and here, it should be design to serve the message, not the other way around. It took me 10 years to understand it, but that’s the core reason why 10 USD template-built "professional" themes always stink: you need to start with the message (well, you need that and the time for it and a budget over 10 USD)
Where do we start? From the most basic but also the most understandable guideline I could find about building good sites: the Digital Services Playbook from the US Digital Service. Really, it might sound like a joke (how many times do I say that in a week?) but it’s brilliant
Okay, we might not be able to cover all the points in this checklist, but a few are very useful and viable. For example spending time with current and prospective users of the service. So I reached out a few industry contacts I know in order to get their views on how translators get chosen. Long story short, here are the conclusions
A lot! First of all, I’ll be hearing from the Marketing Guy, which is the one who… well, knows something about marketing, and study a general plan with him.
Then we might prepare a prototype site and collect more feedback about it (probably through a form to save time) in order to follow the path of the mighty Digital Service Playbook -I wonder if anyone else might be interested… Maybe a raffle?-
All the while, I’ll look into how to tweak PicoCMS. First of all, I would like all links to external sites to open as new tabs ("target _blank"): it’s hard to follow a post AND its links if they all open in the same tab
I also want to see if I can implement some A/B testing, which is a crafty way to improve websites: prepare two slightly different versions of the same site (for example one that ends with a button and one the ends with a link) and have a system swap them randomly and record which one was more popular over time. The great thing of using a minimalist platform like PicoCMS is that I can probably build a plugin for phpA/B test myself
Will I keep writing about it all? Maybe. I’ll not deny that this mostly helps me think about goals and plans, but a surprising amount of people seem to have actually gone and read this post. Also, it falls in line with what I’ve been doing for years: blatantly stealing ideas from Patrick McKenzie after briefly meeting him at Gengo (I guess I should blog about it one day)