Customer success is something we consider our priority, but do we actually have to translate every single app to our native language? Or a better question: Are we building a product that is truly helpful to our audience?
A few months ago, my colleague Jakub posted something like “There’s an awesome new app on our platform. If you have a few spare minutes, help me translate it into the Czech language.” on our Slack.
Let me tell you something about the Czech language first. It’s the official language of the Czech Republic. A small country with just about 10 million people. Our home. We Czechs are used to read books and watch movies translated and dubbed in our language. The state owned TV station (not kind of propaganda based, normal TV station) is required by law to dub all movies to our language. And all other TV stations in our country do too. Why? Because people here are used to consume media in their native language.
Our country is a nice example of how you can get more customers if you localize your app to their language. Hence why we help our users to translate their apps to the Czech language. It has several positive impacts - they can reach a whole new market, and they see how our system works and its benefits.
Back to the original story. I jumped in and started translating one of our users apps. Soon, I got to a “cover art” phrase. I wondered what the best way to translate it was. What if someone else already translated the phrase? Part of the app was localized to the Czech language before I jumped in. So, I looked at existing translations, and indeed, there was an existing translation for the sentence with a similar term, and it was different from how I would translate it.
I immediately realized that if the translator is unwilling to examine existing translations, the same phrase can be translated in a completely different manner. Also, even if the translator is doing their job with quality in mind, it’s not right for them to spend so much time looking for existing translations.
Two weeks after this “incident”, we introduced the similar phrases functionality providing extra context information by matching the current phrase with all other uses in the same app. Awesome!
The outcome? Helping our users to translate their apps to our language allows us to taste our dog food - the so-called dogfooding. It’s actually one of the things I really like about JetBrains and their approach to developing IntelliJ IDEA. I’m happy that we are working on a product that allows us to employ the very same approach.
And the story continues… A few weeks ago, Jan, our product manager, responsible for the front-end experience, tasted what he helped to cook. As I did, he jumped in and helped another of our users to translate their app, and the similar phrases functionality was there, ready to assist him. Except that it didn’t…
He was the first to translate the app, so there were no prior translations and no preset standards. Have you ever tried to translate 200 different phrases? You easily forget the exact way you translate the very first phrase. You have to think about it, spend time… or to put it in a better way - waste time. Our similar phrases functionality took into account only the approved translations and thus was useless for this particular situation.
Long story short: The similar phrases feature is now offering approved translations and your previous translation suggestions that are still waiting for review.
I am sure you understand why I went with these two real examples to demonstrate the dogfooding benefits and how it can help evolve the product. But there were numerous similar situations where getting our hands dirty has helped us push Localazy forward.
I think it’s not only about making the product better but about the product’s long-term sustainability….
During my professional IT career, which is now about 17 years long if I’m counting it from the moment I was able to do it legally - from the moment I reached the legal age for running a business - I succeeded, and I failed many times.
I built a lot of different products, and looking back, I can now see why some of them were successful and some of them not. The common denominator: Products that I used personally and that made my life easier were those that achieved some level of success. Might it have been because of me understanding the need and thus making me able to design the products the right way? Passion was always involved where I saw the value for myself first.
However, my hobby mobile app, the precursor to the Localazy journey, was and is still the most successful one of its kind on Google Play. And even now after 7 years from its very start, I’m still an active user! I eat my dog food daily!
From this point of view, my previous venture (Effortix) is a stellar example of this concept. It’s a no-code solution for building mobile apps initially developed for the tourism industry - building mobile tourism guides was my primary job for several years. Soon after we released the first version of Effortix, I realized that there are more fields where such a solution would be useful. And so we started to add feature after feature trying to step into unknown lands. Guess what?
Effortix is now officially on life support and only available to existing customers - all of them are from the tourism industry, all of them are still willing to pay for it, all of them love the product, all of them count on it for years to come… And while it never took off in any other field, it’s still the standard for mobile tourism guides. And as I don’t have enough time to keep it up-to-date, I’m now able to pass the whole product to another company interested in keeping it running and maybe resurrecting it.
It’s a single product - half dead, half more than alive. The part of it where I got my hands dirty and where my passion was has worked and still works. The part I didn’t understand died…
Build what you love, follow your passion, and build products that you would love to use. Even if you can’t use your own product, you should always be 100% sure that anytime there is a need for it, you wouldn’t hesitate a second, and it would be your first and only choice. If your own product is not your first choice, why should it be for others?