After operating for years as “Allergy Translation”, it was a real thrill to relaunch our company and products under the “Equal Eats” banner in 2020. It was definitely time for refresh and upgrade absolutely everything. My team and I are really excited to share more about our future vision of how we can help people with food allergy and dietary restrictions eat safely at home and away.
I am really proud of our new product offering, specifically:
- 36 pre-set cards
- 500 allergens available for customized cards
- 50 languages
As much as we are proud of these products, it’s the process that went into them that truly sets them above and beyond in terms of clarity, effectiveness and accuracy.
In total, we had around 1,700 words that needed to translated. Did we use Google Translate? Absolutely not. My food allergies are life-threatening and I take them incredibly seriously. I would never have full peace of mind by putting my life in the hands of an automated online translator. But before hiring a professional translation company, there were many other steps needed first.
Step 1 – Research
We surveyed our existing customers and learned so much valuable information on what they would like to see included on their dream allergy translation card.
Step 2 – Assemble the team
We started an “A-Team” consisting of customers, trusted advisors and others who wanted to provide higher level feedback as the project rolled on. These people are the true reason why the cards are what they are. We debated on big things, and the very smallest details. It helped me realize that there is no black and white “right way” to convey things that will satisfy everyone, but we can create something that is the most effective in all settings, for most people.
Step 3 – Prototyping & feedback
Many versions of the dietary translation cards were created with the help of a professional product designer. Receiving feedback was enlightening as we found customers and foodservice industry workers met in the middle on a lot of things, but with a clear priority to focus on essential information.
Step 4 – Finalize in English
Once we had the overall design ready, we needed to finalize the message to a tee. We did another survey where we sought input from people with various dietary restrictions to help ensure we didn’t miss a thing. We learned so much at this stage about the concerns of people with specific allergies, and other diets. After countless revisions and approvals, we finally nailed down the overall language. This was then reviewed by a professional editor to smooth out any communication issues.
Step 5 – Professional Translations
Finally, right! That’s how we felt too after months and months of planning and prototyping. We used a professional translation agency and deliberately ordered their “premium” service to ensure top accuracy.
Step 6 – Professional Proofreading
As part of the premium service, a professional proofreader verified the accuracy of all translations for each of the 50 languages ordered.
CROSSROAD ALERT – at this point, many people would be satisfied with the accuracy of the cards. Given that these products are being used to convey life-threatening food allergies, I decided to add in a few more steps to be safe.
Step 7 – Review by native language speakers
We tapped into an incredible network within the food allergy community that volunteered to review the translations for their native language. I loved working with people from all over the world who truly “get” food allergies, and have a first-hand grip on the true everyday spoken language. They found that the translations were fantastic, but could be smoothed out even further to ensure that they are understood in more places. Some thought language needed to be simplified, or expanded upon. It was an incredible team of caring people who I am forever thankful to.
Step 8 – Professional proofreading (again)
This was a classic “Hey….it’s me again…” email where I’m certain they thought this project was over. As much as I trust my native speaking reviewers, I wanted to have a professional simply double check that these recommendations are in fact accurate. They happily obliged (amazing customer service!) and mostly agreed on everything. I was put in the middle of a couple proofreader vs. native speaker debates, and we managed to find optimal solutions.
Step 9 – Layout
Now that the translations were accurate and complete, it was time to start laying out the pre-set cards. Certain languages have very unfamiliar characters and line breaks (picture a steady row of Asian characters, would you know where to press “enter” for a line break that also doesn’t alter the meaning? Me either!) So, we hired a team of native language speaking Photoshop experts to lay out the cards in their respective languages. This step ensured the overall readability and clarity of the cards.
Step 10 – Layout review
We also asked the native language speaking volunteers to review the layout of the cards to ensure the information was in fact entered correctly. This was a formality, but unsurfaced a few small corrections. At this point, we felt incredibly confident about the accuracy of the cards and that the process was well worth it.
Even though we went through this lengthy process and believe we’ve created a gold standard in dietary communication cards, we have an ongoing commitment to improving our cards. If you ever have ideas or suggestions to improve them, please reach out!
It feels good to know that we’ve gone through a process that truly brings both sides of the product into consideration – the user and the foodservice industry. Often these tools have been one-sided in the past. It’s important that you are speaking the foodservice language, and if abroad, in their language! We placed equal weight on both sides in terms of what people want to convey, and what the industry needs to hear.
I'm so proud of our products.
I'm so proud of our process.
I'm so proud of the people that made it all happen.
This is the first version of our new products and only the beginning. We will continue to refine our cards, expand our process and create more innovative solutions to help our community stay safe, and enjoy food.