Crowdsourcing Internationalization

Crowdsourcing Internationalization

One thing that was clear from the start was that we would never be able to successfully maintain multiple languages. Even though we have as many languages in the office as we have people, translation is a very specific talent and one that is a very daunting challenge for any business wanting to branch out internationally. While we were still looking for ideas on how to implement internationalization many of our current Shopify users kindly volunteered to translate text for us if we required. This got us onto a path that has led us to some late nights of coding and into our segue to introduce our secret weapon: Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is defined as follows:

Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.

Here’s how we used it:

  • Shopify brings the crowdsourcing concept to the internationalization problem. Any Shopify user can create their own language templates, apply to help edit other language templates, or simply utilize other translated language templates. The original creator of a translation will lead the translation team. He or she can accept and decline assistance and will be notified of any new language strings that come online with new content that affects the checkout process or the PDF order receipts.

Crowdsourcing Internationalization

  • While doing the translation work, you will be shown a percentage indicating how much of the work remains to be done. This percentage is also visible to all other Shopify account holders so they can see what’s coming. Once the language is approx. 90% complete the language will become available to all Shopify users for their own shops.

  • From an end user perspective, it will take a while for the benefits of the new internationalization to manifest itself. The jadedPixel team will monitor well maintained and highly used translations and elevate them to endorsed status. Endorsed translations will then be selectable by customers of Shopify stores who wish to view their checkout process in another language.
  • The beauty of it all is that everyone has their own dialect, their own spin on language, their own flavour to their shop, and now they can even carry that through to the final checkout process. For a demonstration of this fact you need look no further than the languages submitted to us by people from all over the world. A few intrepid users stayed up all night to bring us German, Quebec French, French, Brazilian Portugese, and Swedish. By Sunday we had Spanish in three flavors (including Mexico-Informal!), Czech, Dutch and a note that Cornish was in the works. How cool is that?!

The first two years of work on Shopify were spent making sure that each of our users’ shops would have its own space and would never interfere with any of the others. The next two years will be spent bringing them back together. Internationalization is the first feature which displays an obvious advantage to our users in being part of Shopify instead of a lone ecommerce store. Shopify is more than many thousand small and secluded ecommerce stores.



  • Robert Simon
    Robert Simon
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    Genius. Simply inspired lateral thinking on the part of Shopify.

  • Bob Aman
    Bob Aman
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    Yeah, I’d suggested this strategy before, but this is one of the first times I’ve actually seen someone (other than Google) actually do this. Very nice implementation by the way. Kudos. I wish more people did this.

  • Dave
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    Interesting approach. Am I wrong in interpreting the Shopify Internationalization as being limited to Unilingual websites, since inventory is unilingual? Not trying to sound critical of the effort, just curious.

    If I can have access to templates in N languages, and checkout in N languages, but my inventory in 1 language.. it seems strangely limited.

    Great for Unilingual sites of course.. but still weird when modern web sites can effortlessly switch language (assuming i18n was implemented).

  • Tim Lucas
    Tim Lucas
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    Minor nitpick: Segue, not Segway (unless you want to ride down the street looking like a tool)

    I really like what you’ve done with the internationalisation though.

  • @Shopify tobi
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    Dave: Thats correct. Unilingual was the first goal. It solves the issue for the vast majority of customers.

    True and full internationalization is something which might make it to Shopify in the future but is not on the roadmap yet. It also really depends on our experience with the partial internationalization which has so far been stellar.

    Tim Lucas: haha!
  • Jim Greer
    Jim Greer
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    I’m very glad to hear this is working out for you guys – I’d been thinking of doing it for Kongregate. I first saw it on Wikipedia, haven’t seen a commerical site do it yet.

  • Chris
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    I agree with the comment above, by Dave.

    >Great for Unilingual sites of course.. but still
    >weird when modern web sites can effortlessly
    >switch language (assuming i18n was implemented).

    I have a dilemna with a client who requires french/english for two shopify sites.

    what am I to do? create duplicate sites for each language?? messy.

    I hope that i18n is on Shopify’s radar.

  • Lionel
    September 04 2006, 09:00AM

    We have launched a new crowdsourcing project for designing new innvoative electronic product. Look at our blog We have scheduled the launch of an offical web site by the mid of october

  • Tessa
    May 21 2013, 09:31AM

    I am also using a crowd-sourcing tool for my localization needs and I am very happy that this area of products is developing so fast. After trying a few tools, I have settled in with because it has a clean and simple interface that makes you feel cozy when working with other translators.

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