Streamlining Zendesk Content Translation with Paligo and Phrase

October 13, 2023
image shows person using translation software

Company overview

Phrase is a global leader in cloud-based localization solutions that enables organizations of all sizes to open the door to global business through advanced automation, a broad variety of integrations, and cutting-edge AI features.

The Phrase localization Suite is equipped with the leading translation management system, a specialized platform for software and digital products, and it supports 500+ languages, 50+ file types, 30+ machine translation engines, and 50+ integrations.

The enterprise-grade suite enables users to drive growth with a connected ecosystem of tools. Organizations like Uber, Shopify, Volkswagen, and thousands of others trust in Phrase and accelerate their global growth by giving people the content they need, in the language they speak.

A Better Way to Manage Documentation

Mike McGuffie was the first technical writer Phrase hired. Prior to his joining the company four years ago, technical content at Phrase was created and managed by the marketing, development and support teams.

The company realized its process for managing technical content needed to be improved, and it needed to bring in someone with experience to build a more efficient and effective process.

Why Paligo?

When McGuffie joined the company, Phrase was using Zendesk as its component content management system (CCMS) and Help Center. It was creating help content as flat files, and the only way to export content from it was in raw HTML, which doesn’t make it reusable elsewhere. McGuffie knew they needed a better solution.

Phrase chose Paligo as its CCMS to get the single-sourcing and content control it needed. Reuse was key. By moving content into the CCMS, the content had more value. It was also easier to maintain, and if they wanted to leave Zendesk, they would still have their content. Also, Paligo outputs content as XML, which McGuffie said gives the content much more value because it can easily be published to multiple channels and in multiple formats.

McGuffie had previously worked for companies that used MadCap Flare, but he wanted an alternative that wasn’t proprietary. He’s referring to how ‌content is stored in the application.

MapCap Flare stores content in a proprietary format (content uses file extensions like flprj, .fltoc, .fltxt, .flsnp), whereas Paligo stores content as XML, an open standard commonly used by the technical documentation industry.

When you store content using open standards, it’s much easier to export the raw content, as opposed to being locked into only publishing the content in formats defined by the application.

“I don’t want to be locked into anything. Just as Phrase is not proprietary, our value does not come from locking customers into proprietary formats.”

Phrase also needed an authoring solution that was cloud-based. There are two members of the documentation team, McGuffie, and another technical writer based out of Italy, so they needed the flexibility to work anywhere. Plus, Phrase is increasingly scaling internationally, and they needed a CCMS that could support that growth.

Another reason Paligo was chosen was for its value in terms of price compared to functionality and performance. “The price was great compared to the functionality Paligo provided.”

Paligo is a cloud-based application, which was important for us because our team is spread across the globe, and we needed the flexibility to work with Paligo anywhere.

Working with Paligo

McGuffie rewrote the entire Phrase documentation set in Paligo, chunking up the content and focusing on topic-based authoring. Then, when Phrase experienced an acquisition, he did the same thing for the new content acquired.

In the case of the acquisition, help content was being created and managed in both Zendesk and HubSpot. McGuffie said it was extremely challenging to manage two separate platforms, and exporting it wasn’t practically possible. He said that although they could have exported the content into raw HTML, you might as well have rewritten it by the time you managed to get your text out of the HTML. Ultimately, they stopped using HubSpot entirely for the help center and have migrated the content to Zendesk and Paligo.

Automating Phrase Content Localization with Paligo’s Help

Phrase wanted to translate its help content inside Zendesk. To do that, they would have needed to create the languages they would use inside Zendesk and publish content in each language. Every time they needed to make a translation, either to a new piece of content or an update to existing content, they would have to manually apply the translation to Zendesk.

McGuffie wanted to automate the process and found that they could do that by using the taxonomy features in Paligo.

Localization of our content would not have been possible without Paligo. It would have been completely manual and a nightmare to manage.

Every article has a taxonomy tag of 2bTR (to be translated) in Paligo. It is applied to everything that was published to Zendesk, and would not appear as a label someone would search for. The Phrase Connector to Zendesk continually looks for content with that label; when it sees it, it translates the content. Once the content is translated, the Connector deletes the label. It then continues to look for the label again, so if a piece of content is updated in Paligo and published to Zendesk, it will see the label and translate the content.

With this new process, Phrase has translated its content into ten languages using its own products, including raw machine translation.

Easy to Learn and Use

McGuffie said learning how to use Paligo was easy because he had previous experience with topic-based authoring. When they brought in an additional technical writer with no experience with topic-based authoring, the Paligo training program enabled her to get up to speed quickly.

As a technical writer, McGuffie spends all his time in Paligo, constantly updating documentation. Phrase is continually bringing new products online that require documentation; he has even accessed Paligo via a tablet to publish content.

But McGuffie doesn’t work in a silo, and Paligo’s collaborative features come in handy. The review features and simple editor are regularly used, and the support team uses the contributor function to make small changes to documentation. For example, if a support team member finds something that needs to be changed or requires clarification, McGuffie assigns the article to them in Paligo. They update the article, and then McGuffie verifies and publishes the update.

Known For Great Documentation

McGuffie jokes that thanks to Paligo, he’s not overworked. His team of two manages documentation for five products, amounting to 206,000 words.

He’s also very proud of the quality of Phrase’s documentation. The industry deflection rate for the Help Center is usually about 22:1, meaning for every 22 times a customer looks at a Help Center, only one ticket is submitted. For Phrase, this rate is 38:1. And if you look at Phrase’s reviews on G2, you see a lot of positive feedback on its documentation.

I’m trying to get other teams to use Paligo as well. I want my content to be used by marketing teams. I want it to be used by training teams. I want it to be used by sales teams. Our business is text, and we should maximize how we use our own text. Paligo will let me do that.

Spreading the Word on Paligo for Content Management

McGuffie is also in the process of getting other teams to use Paligo. He wants the content his team creates to be used by teams like marketing, training, and sales. But he also wants other teams to understand the benefits of topic-based authoring and content reuse.

“Our business is text. We should be maximizing how we use our own text.”

For example, Phrase recently renamed a couple of products. McGuffie made the change in Paligo and published it in five minutes. The marketing team, whose content is published in formats such as MS Word, PDF, and so on, had a much more difficult time trying to find every place they needed to make the change and then perform it. Paligo’s ability to publish content to many channels and formats is a huge benefit.

Phrase has grown quickly, and McGuffie wants to help prevent content silos. He advocates for cross-team collaboration and spends time helping others understand how they can leverage other team’s content. To him, Paligo is infrastructure, and the company should use it for more than one type of content.

“Officially, I am a tech writer. But there’s a lot more going on than that because I run the infrastructure, too. So I want to see my infrastructure used in a better way.”

A Mutual Partnership for Content Translation

Phrase not only uses Paligo to help it manage its technical documentation; it also directly integrates with Paligo to provide translation management services for Paligo customers. The seamless integration between Paligo and Phrase enables translation jobs to be sent to and received from Phrase without translation packages and zip files. This means that translations happen without ever leaving the Paligo CCMS, making the translation and localization process more efficient and faster.