TIPS FOR DEVELOPERS
Avoiding Common Issues in Your Russian Localization From the Start: Part 1
While these tips may seem obvious, they will help you avoid the common issues I come across in almost every project I work on.

In part 1 of my Tips for Developers series, I show how important visual references and context can be and highlight some key points you should consider before localizing your product
1.1. Visual References
So, you've created your product. Congratulations! You've poured tons of time and energy into it, you've collaborated closely with designers and artists, and you know every pixel in intimate detail. You can see the entire visual picture: UI, characters, locations, vehicles, levels, buttons, settings, menus, reward icons, and everything else.

So far, so good. Next, you export your text and send it to your translator(s). Here's where things start to get off track. Unable to see the parts of the interface in which their translations will be used, translators have to resort to researching your product online (which won't necessarily help) or simply working blindfolded. This is one of the main issues I come across in localization!

The best way to avoid this hiccup is to give your translation team access to your build/application/website along with the files to be translated. Show them screenshots, record walk-through videos for them — in a nutshell, give them as many visual references as possible. That way, your translator can get familiar with the ins and outs of the concept, design, and functionality of your product before they start their work.
1.2. Nods to That Famous Movie
Working on something with a hidden reference to that famous movie from the 90s, that 80s hit single, or that popular cartoon character's well-known catchphrase? You don't need to mention those to your translator, right? Just let them guess! And if they get it wrong, don't worry, you can be sure someone on an online forum or on YouTube will catch their mistake later...

In the screenshot below, the two characters playing chess are discussing "those bald-headed Mexican dudes". Of course, there wasn't a single mention of those "dudes" in the reference materials. Having never seen the series in question, I was only able to work out who they were through this review by HS Top and hope, in the absence of the necessary guidance from my client, that my translation was correct.
As well as nods to movies, cartoons, and iconic video games, references can also relate to specific jokes, plot points, or character traits from within the text itself. Sometimes, such references are peppered throughout large volumes of text.

It's happened to me more than once when working on a large project that I'll deliver one big batch of text, only to realize when I start the next one that I missed references and failed to make connections between the two batches because I was lacking sufficient overall context.

If you're sending your translator a large project, always include the background information they need to make informed translation decisions: summaries of plot points and story arcs, character backstories, key relationships, etc. Let your translation team focus on translating your creative ideas rather than having to guess at hidden meanings in your work.
1.3. In-Game Dialogue
Context is especially relevant when it comes to in-game dialogue.

In Russian, it's essential to know who's speaking (are they male or female? One or many?) and to whom (One man? One woman? An object? Or multiple entities?) because this information affects which grammatical constructions to be used when translating. Taking the time to note these details for your translator can save you a headache in the long run.

I once worked on a challenging project (30k+ words) that contained piles of dialogue between a diverse array of characters. When, at the end of the project, the client finally sent us a reference file specifying the genders of all the in-game NPCs, the handsome AI in the screenshot below (a central NPC who guides players through the game) had already been voiced as female...
Another common issue that crops up with in-game dialogue is when, after the whole translation has already been signed, sealed, delivered, and implemented, the client decides to change something...

Whenever you need to have your in-game dialogue revised or updated, it's a good idea to provide your translator(s) with the necessary context by sending them the full script (source text and translation) along with the text to be revised.
1.4. Order of Strings in a File
It always pays to remember that translators don't translate words — we translate meaning and ideas.

When creating translatable files, it's much more helpful to group your strings as they appear in context, rather than sorting them alphabetically, by length, etc.

Here's an example of the kinds of files I sometimes receive from my clients:
Grouping the strings in alphabetical order here serves no purpose, and what's worse, any translator working on the file is liable to miss things, as they're being forced to jump around from one segment to another. Again, it also deprives the translator of that much-needed context.

Incidentally, this particular project also ran into issues involving variable elements that required changes to the code. While this client did spend time and money on localization, if they'd been smart enough to provide their strings in-context, I might have been able to add a link to their live product here...
1.5. Length Restrictions
Words in different languages vary in length. That's pretty obvious, right? It's something you probably know if you've ever learned a foreign language.

When it comes to creating user interfaces, developers tend to follow a maxim of "the shorter the better" and will craft their UI to fit the source language as tightly as possible.

For localization into Russian, however, this rule requires some adjustment. This is because, as a rule of thumb, any Russian text will be at least thirty percent larger by volume than its English source text.

A good solution to this issue is to opt for scrolling text or a dynamically adjustable interface.

Translated text can also be made to fit character limits by allowing your translator to paraphrase the target text, use appropriate synonyms, or shorten strings which will still be understood from their context, though in this last case, it's especially important to let your translator see the UI.
You can also allow more space for the translated text, provide visual references, or let your translators see what their work looks like in the final version of your product so that they can make adjustments before you go live.

Alternatively, you can check the final version yourself and let your translators know if you spot any issues.
If you like this article, feel free to comment or share it with your colleagues.

In the meantime, be sure to check out my other articles on what to consider when localizing your game or app:
You can also find out more about some of the projects I've worked on in the past:
If you have questions, comments, or a project that needs localizing, get in touch!