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What do you think the future of UX localization is?

I'm an early adopter at heart, so more than anything, I'm curious to see what the future brings.

But while we can find any number of predictions for the future of localization in general (ranging from: "the robots are coming, run for your lives" to "ignore the doomsday prophecies and carry on'"), I think UX localization just might take a different path than the rest of its loc siblings.


First of all, the metrics we use (or should be using, ehm), to measure success are different in UX. It's not all accuracy and correct punctuation. It's emotion and engagement and experience. And if what we define as "success" is different, it's likely we'll also go about achieving it in different ways.

But the ingredients for success are different too. Think about it: To do many types of localization, you need proper context, subject matter knowledge, and a good grasp of the source and target languages. But that's not enough to create a good user experience.

UX localizers – just like UX writers – need to understand the flow of information, design principles, and development constraints, just to name a few.

elmo fainting

Yes, it's a lot. And most of all it means that as UX localizers, we need to make our own predictions about what's going to happen.

To satisfy my curiosity and my incessant need to always be prepared (not a girl scout but will take the cookies if offered), I've been walking around and asking people what they think will happen. I've gotten a bunch of interesting replies, and thought I'd share them with you.

The doomsday approach

Time to find a new career, but no rush

No need to expand on this one, I think. Some think this is the end of human linguists in localization, UX included. Despite that, even the most pessimistic of them agree the robots will take longer to gobble up UX localization jobs, compared to other translation niches. That's because companies still hesitate to use MT for their UI copy.

If you're a linguist, this means you'll have longer to find your bearings in your new profession. If you're a buyer, it means you still have time to get a feel of the land and find the best MT-based workflow for you.

The happy medium approach

It's adapt or die, but you can definitely adapt

Others think humans will always have a role in UX localization, but the focus might shift. I agree with this one the most. I think in a decade, we'll have a hard time remembering how we've ever created UX copy (in any language) without the help of AI tools. But that being said, we'll always be there in some form or another:

🦾 To train and fine-tune the models.

🦾 To curate and direct the results.

🦾 To run some QA and a sanity check.

That is especially true for UX localization, for the reasons mentioned above. Experiences are heavily based on culture and emotions, and those shift and change and evolve constantly. Without retraining and fine-tuning, we won't be able to stay up-to-date with current language trends. That is until the flow of information becomes dramatically, futuristically fast (and that should still take a while).

The ostrich approach

Nothing is happening and nothing needs to change

Sorry if it's judgy, but there are still some who say it's all a storm in a teacup. A beautiful yet non-realistic expression, in this case.

Here are some claims I've heard:

🐦 "Linguists have been saying that robots are coming for their work for decades. It hasn't happened yet." To this, I say: Have you looked at the going rate for translation these days?

🐦 "There will always be work for good linguists out there". True. But the way the industry defines "a good linguist" is changing. To be considered, you still need to adapt and upskill.

🐦 "Technology will never get good enough to replace me. Look at this ridiculous Google-translated line I've just randomly encountered". But the fact that free machine translation is bad does not indicate that gated, b2b-oriented services are bad. And the fact that it's even remotely usable today is proof of how fast it'll get to human-like content creation.

Which approach do you agree with? Are you a doomsdayer 🙀, a balanced middler-grounder 🦾, or an ostrich 🐦? Let's discuss!

Heads up 🚨

The UX writing course for localizers is opening for enrollment real soon. This time we'll meet in the mornings (CET) and it's a rare opportunity to see me less tired and in daylight (exciting, I know). I expect this cohort to be in high demand, as there are quite a few people already listed to enroll. So if you're planning on joining, stay tuned to learn when enrollment opens!

The future of UX localization [7/12/23 newsletter]

While we can find any number of predictions for the future of localization in general I think UX localization just might be different.

Michal Kessel Shitrit



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