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Successful software localization is important for companies who want their applications to be accessible for new target markets. For companies that develop software and are looking to start the localization process, the primary focus must be on the implementation of localized source code, or how easily it can be adapted for local markets with minimal changes to the code. If you wait until the end of the process to start adapting your software for international users, it will be too late and likely very expensive to fix any serious bugs. Ideally, you will work with a localization expert who will anticipate any language issues from the very initial software development stages.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind during the software localization process:
Even if you are only translating your software into a single language, you still need to confirm your target dialect. For example, if you are localizing your software into Spanish, you need to know if the intended audience is for users in Spain, or users in Mexico. The same goes for the English language; are your intended users in the United States or the United Kingdom? The dialects and terminology will vary and sound unnatural if this hasn’t been accounted for. Don’t forget to address the range of other language nuances. The translators will rely on software developers to provide extensive commenting and contextual information. Terms can be mistranslated if linguists are not provided context and reference files.
Most software programs include visual elements to enhance the user experience. Remember that when you localize into a new language, the text on your visuals may expand. You must account for this by altering the text or the layout so that it can fit appropriately. It’s safe to assume that the translation will be 30-40% longer than the English source text, so leave enough space to account for this. If possible, consider using icons or images instead of text, for greater flexibility.
Your software likely has a corresponding manual or set of user instructions. In order for users in a new area to access this information, be sure that the supplementary materials are also correctly translated and localized.
Adequate testing is an absolute requirement for any successful software localization endeavor. Even if you think your localization project is nearly finished, you should test the software for bugs. Ideally, you will have a professional linguist or localization expert perform the testing. Remember to be agile-friendly during pre-release programming and testing sprints. Also, be sure to test your translated strings for truncations. An excellent method for catching bugs and problems before the translation is with pseudo-localization. This replaces the source language with “dummy text” to see how the software will appear in another language, before investing the time and money required for full localization.
Given the complexities involved in software localization, many companies turn to localization specialists for guidance. If you are going to work with a localization provider, make sure they are experienced, technically adept, and can deliver in a timely fashion. Following this advice will prepare you to effectively localize your software for global users!
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