Getting Your Software Ready for Localization: Checklist
Preparing software for a successful launch in international markets takes planning, focus, and specific language and cultural expertise. Whether you are in the early development phase or ready to launch an existing product in a new language market, preparing software releases or updates for an international launch requires more than just translated text to achieve foreign market acceptance – it needs software localization.
Today’s post covers everything you need to know about preparing software for international localization. We’ll discuss why software localization is vital to acceptance in new language markets, review software localization best practices, and provide an easy-to-follow checklist to follow when preparing for the process.
What is Software Localization?
Software localization is the process of adapting a software application’s language and other UI aspects, including character sets, script direction, color schemes, monetary systems, and imagery, for use and adaptation in foreign-language markets.
The result is software that looks more authentic and provides a better, seamless user experience for targeted audiences in new language markets, thereby ensuring a successful adaptation free from language or cultural hurdles.
Software Localization Best Practices
Software localization can be a complex process with many critical steps, but with adequate planning and the right partnerships, you can minimize the challenges. This section outlines the best practices for a seamless software localization process. Consistent and thorough application of these best practices throughout the software localization process provides many benefits, including attracting a wider audience, increasing reach, and gaining user acceptance in expanded global markets.
Evaluate Localization Needs & Define Scope of Work
The first step is evaluating your software localization translation needs to determine the scope of work involved, which requires establishing the target market and thoroughly getting to know their culture, financial habits, and language preferences. This evaluation will uncover which aspects of the software need adapting to make the application “feel local” to the target audience. This evaluation will also help determine how much time and which areas of expertise the software localization will require.
Allow Space for Translation
Languages are extremely diverse, especially regarding how much space is necessary to accommodate written forms. For example, a phrase in an English version of a software application may require more character space to say the same thing in Japanese because the Japanese language requires fewer characters to relay the same information.
Therefore, it’s best to plan for about 50% more text expansion or contraction space to accommodate software localization. Failure to include space to accommodate translated text may result in text strings overlapping other controls and compromising UI and adaption.
Approach Coding with Localization in Mind
It’s always a good idea to approach software development with localization in mind, especially during coding. As already mentioned above, preparing space for word growth and contraction is critical to seamless software UI. Also, don’t use hard-coded text strings, as this will impede automatic, continuous localization efforts in the future. And finally, avoid using duplicate strings in different contexts, as a word’s meaning can change depending on the context.
Simply put, it’s critical to build in flexibility for language and content translations throughout the coding process, as there will inevitably be many adjustments necessary to correctly align the content and UI to feel native to users in global markets.
Internationalize Your Software from the Start
Software internationalization refers specifically to the design and development of an application, so that it can be localized for target audiences in different cultures, regions, or languages.
Software internationalization typically involves extracting text for translation from the software code, i.e., moving all the strings containing the elements that will be visible to the users, and that need translation, to external resource files and giving them special names for easy identification. Resource files are most commonly formatted in JSON, XML, or YAML, but there may be others. Therefore, when the translation is completed, there will be separate translated resource versions for each language that the code can accommodate.
Localize Your Marketing Campaigns
A software application launch will include many assets aside from the application itself, such as advertising, marketing, and PR materials. Each of these pieces will need translation and localization to support the software launch campaign in foreign markets. Localizing marketing campaigns also includes any materials the sales team will need, such as sales scripts, white papers, product data, and email sales funnels. Basically, the marketing needs to speak the same “language” to align with the software application itself.
Prepare Graphics and Symbols
It’s common to use symbols or graphics in place of text to communicate with fewer words, especially in software applications and these elements are the Graphic User Interface or GUI. However, not all symbols, pictures, and other types of visual content have the same meaning from one culture to the next. For example, the thumbs-up commonly signifies “liking” content in America; however, the gesture is considered rude in some countries, similar to using the middle finger in America.
Therefore, the GUI elements require localization to ensure all images, text within graphics, and symbols are culturally appropriate for the intended market.
Software Localization Checklist
These best practices will help ensure a seamless software localization process, especially if they are implemented as early in the software development as possible. Whether you attempt this process with an internal team or with the help of professional software localization services, it helps to understand everything involved in the process, so you can plan accordingly from day one of development.
In addition to best practices around this process, we’ve compiled an easy-to-follow checklist for reference when preparing software for the localization process.
Step 1: Code your software with localization in mind from day one. This will make the process much simpler in the long run.
Step 2: Determine your intended target locales. This includes not just pinpointing the language but the country of origin as well. Languages, such as Spanish, differ in vocabulary and grammar depending on the region of origin. For example, there are distinctive nuances between Spanish spoken in Columbia and Spain, and those nuances may affect the software’s UI if not addressed.
Step 3: Identify who will help with the software localization services and build your project team. Especially with complex projects, a language services provider who specializes in your target language(s) will be instrumental in streamlining the process by coordinating language specialists, quality assurance, QA testing, and overall project management.
Step 4: Internationalize your software. This will ensure it will work for users in different countries, independent of their language preferences. Software internationalization involves aligning date and text formats, currency, images, and sorted material (to name a few) to resonate with users in different languages and cultures.
Step 5: Run a pseudo-translation step. A pseudo-translation is an automated process that replaces the source translation with fake text so developers can identify any layout issues, functionality problems, or encoding issues.
Step 6: Develop a Multilingual Glossary. This step complements step three, as the project team will benefit from a robust multi-lingual glossary of terms used throughout the software, as well as identifying which terms should not be translated, such as brand-specific terms.
Step 7: Develop/Implement test plans and use cases. Creating test plans that address product use and typical localization complications will ensure your software goals are clear and challenges overcome. Develop test plans early so the use cases can be created and modified as needed before actual testing begins. There are three areas to cover when developing the test plans: linguistics, cosmetics, and functionality. There should be a use case for every scenario the software offers and everywhere text appears, including text input, error messages, etc.
Step 8: Prepare in-language user support. This includes localizing any customer support materials, FAQs, product videos, or other support communications in the chosen target languages and cultures. This also includes any technical support materials or legal documents.
Step 10: Translation and testing. Once all of the previous steps are met, the language service provider can begin the actual translation and testing. For best results, the language service provider should be native speakers of the target language and have subject matter expertise in your industry.
These software localization best practices and steps for implementation will make the process easier to manage from start to finish, allowing a faster product launch. The more prepared you are for the work that accompanies the process, the easier the overall execution. Whether you are just beginning the development of a new software product or planning to release new-language updates for an existing product, selecting the right partners for the process will ensure seamless execution.
For over 30 years, Dynamic Language has helped organizations worldwide overcome language barriers and confidently communicate in today’s fast-paced global economy. From translation services to comprehensive software localization solutions, we have the linguistic and subject matter experts, cutting-edge technology, and top-notch customer service to ensure the highest quality results. We’re the highly experienced software localization partner you need to take your software overseas successfully.