Introduction to terminology management

Terminology, what's the problem?
Why should we worry about terminology? Don't we have enough real challenges in developing global products or applications? Things like code pages, locales, localization packs, and unfamiliar markets? We use words; we translate them. What's the problem?

Well, without controls, inconsistent and inappropriate terms infiltrate product user interfaces, documentation, packaging, marketing materials, and support Web sites. This reduces product usability, increases service calls, weakens the brand, and escalates translation costs. Some terminology errors can even cause products to malfunction. Even if you find these errors before your customer does, fixing them can add time to your testing cycle, which delays getting your product to market.

The environment for developing global applications can accentuate the problems. Cross-product solutions or 'suites,' plug-ins of vendor applications, multiple development sites, the pressures to release simultaneously in multiple markets, and the on-demand revolution add further complexity to the challenge of terminology consistency.

A survey conducted by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) confirmed that actively managing terminology should be part of any global product development strategy. Eighty-eight percent of respondents who actively manage terminology reported an increase in product quality, while 74 percent reported an increase in productivity, 62 percent saved costs, and 56 percent felt it increased their company's competitive edge.

Properly managed terminology data can also be used to enhance the end-to-end product globalization process and its related tools: authoring, translation (human, machine, and machine-assisted), content management, localization, and so forth.

Through the use of innovative technologies and structured data, terminology can benefit a wide range of applications and processes used for developing global products. But in addition to having tools and data, ensuring consistent use of terminology needs to become a part of corporate culture. Consistent terminology contributes to presenting an integrated look and feel across products, and it ensures that service, support, marketing, and development all speak the same language, a language users can learn to understand.