Website localization

Problem / Goal
Back in 2005, Skyscanner was a start-up (3 founders and 3 employees) and could not afford a costly localization system. At the same time there was a strong belief that the product offered by the company should be available across many international markets. Initially, translations were done in just 4 languages, either by friends or using machine translation. The whole translation process was also cumbersome and any changes to the website required renewed localization efforts.

The poor process resulted in missing translations, while the overall poor quality of localization discouraged foreign users from using the website.

Our actions were arranged into several stages:

  • extraction of localizable resources from source code,
  • creation of central repository for localizable data from various sources,
  • development of automatic text localization process, and
  • establishing cooperation with translators and translation agencies.

After a few weeks of planning and learning the existing code, the implementation of a new system started. At first all the database texts were extracted. We then added the texts from the web application source code, and later also from other systems (e.g. the customer queries handling tool). These tasks required website code modifications as well as the creation of a separate database and text import/export modules.

At the same time we started cooperation with a group of 10 or so experienced translators. The process of sending texts to translation and an application for checking translation quality were developed.

Once all the texts were managed from a single system we were able to deploy automatic generation of files with new and changed texts. These were sent to translators. Translations were loaded through a quality assurance tool, and new files with localized resources were created automatically. The localized versions of software were tested (mostly automatically) on particular instances of the web application as part of a continuous delivery process.

With the system built, we started to localize the website into the next 5 languages. Once this stage proved to be a success (substantial traffic increase on other than UK markets), we were localizing the site into another 3 languages every 3 months. In the end, we reached a total of 24 languages.

After a period of direct cooperation with translators, we recommended the use of professional translation agencies to Skyscanner. Skyscanner’s partners were Lionbridge, Applied Languages and Skrivanek.

We developed an innovative localisation solution on a global scale for Skyscanner, which allows for creating translations that preserve proper grammar forms. This solution was first implemented in Polish and partially in Italian and French. Later it was introduced into many other languages. It was one of the major contributors to growth of SEO traffic in the localized languages.
The Skyscanner site is now visited by more than 40 million users a month (2015), the majority of which use one of over 30 languages other than English. Skyscanner is no longer solely British, but an international company employing some 50 nationalities. In 2008 a Polish branch was officially established. In June 2011, due to high traffic growth in Asia, a decision was made to open the Singapore branch. Offices in China, USA, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary opened in later years.


Wit Więch
Co-founder and CEO
Robert Pelczarski
Co-founder and Senior Developer
Tomasz Marcinek
Co-founder and Software Architect
Małgorzata Marek
Co-founder and QA Manager