Usability: How much is too much?

In our last post on usability, we briefly touched on Machine Translation’s role in the matter and the tools that can be useful to achieve a desired final product. This time, we will focus more on the types of contents or contexts  in which machine translation (MT) is more appropriate and effective standing fornent the human element, which is a factor that cannot yet be ignored.

Although some of us are still in shock, Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is a technology that has been around for a while now, and its development has produced very interesting results in the name of usability.

New platforms come into the arena based on this technology. For instance, Amazon enters the landscape as the rising titan wishing to contest Google’s current place in the sun, currently developing a highly functional translation engine that has been readily integrated into worldwide used CAT tools such as Memsource or Memo-Q.

However, before inserting any text into any of these tools, another  key factor must be analyzed: the type of material you’ll be working with.

It’s not the same to use unsupervised MT for poetry as it is for a standard employee handbook or a company guideline booklet. Texts are always different in nature and some carry more subtleties than others. For some of them MT isn’t yet mature enough to be able to discern the right terms by itself.

Which brings us to another useful piece of advice: Never neglect the human element.

Machine translation has come a long way, but it has an even longer way to go. Rely on the specialists if you can afford it, because they will always know how to make your output material sound more organic. Why? Simply because they ARE! (organic, that is : P ).

Have actual capable users test the usability of the material. It’s not always just about template consistency and structural layout. It’s mostly about the meaning coming across intact, because gibberish and nonsense is never usable.

MT and Professional Post-Edited material can go a long way. Just make sure to pick the best options available and you’ll be heading in the right direction with good odds filling up your sails.

So, if you’re going to try and pitch “usability” in your next fancy board meeting to try and justify a poor quality output to your shareholders and superiors, please remember to think of the users first and how you will proceed to actually achieve it. Because a poorly done job is a job you’ll probably have to do (and pay for) twice.