Many businesses strive to localize their online, desktop, or client-server products globally. However, due to a lack of proper preparation and planning, most software localization initiatives fail after the product is built:
- The encoding does not look correct.
- The text is damaged.
- Sentences are chopped off.
- The software does not perform as intended.
To succeed, you need to work with professional localization services that understand your product, your industry, your target market’s culture and language preferences, and the continuous localization technology required for quick releases.
In this article, we will look at the best software localization practices companies can use to localize their software products for a global audience successfully.
What Exactly is Software Localization?
The practice of tailoring a web or mobile app to the culture and language of consumers in a target market is known as software localization. Along with translation, it comprises localizing date and time formats, monetary symbols, and maybe text direction.
Because a successful user experience is determined by how quickly a user understands and interacts with a specific page, window, or screen, the more context and cultural familiarity you can supply, the higher the value of your product.
Software localization is adapting internationalized software to various languages and areas. On the other hand, localization refers to translating that separated content into a specific language, which usually happens after internationalization.
Best Practices for Software Localization
Software localization can be complicated, but if you keep these tips in mind, you can ensure that what you’re producing can be easily and rapidly localized.
1. Assess the Situation and Make a Plan
An essential phase in software localization is analyzing the situation and planning. This entails assessing the target market’s cultural subtleties and linguistic requirements. Businesses may ensure that localized software matches the target audience’s expectations by understanding cultural differences. Setting particular goals for the localization process, such as the desired level of language proficiency, cultural adaptability, or user experience, is also critical. This allows firms to monitor progress and ensure the localization process fulfills their needs.
2. Allow for Text Expansion
Most translated texts occupy up to 30% more space than the original English content. Allow for growth on your layout or incorporate dynamic UI expansion into your app. If any strings cannot be longer than a specific length, insert comments in the resource file for those items.
3. Purchase a Glossary and Style Guide
The style guide sets the style, vocabulary, and conventions from the start, ensuring consistency in style and formatting across your product and documentation. It enhances translation quality, reduces inconsistencies, adds professionalism to your work, and saves time and money.
4. Concurrently Localize Help (UA) and Software (UI)
Many non-English users worldwide have noted that the software wording differs when Help or a User Guide instructs them to click on a button. To ensure consistency, try to localize the user’s manual, online help files, and graphical user interface (GUI) simultaneously.
5. Make all Translatable Content External
The first step toward a properly internationalized program is to remove the text from the code and place it in resource files. Separating the text to be localized from the code prevents code duplication and allows translators and engineers to work on revisions concurrently. It also eliminates the danger of causing code damage during software localization.
6. Recognize Translation Tools
Learning more about how translation tools function will allow you to make the most of this technology. Translation memory is a tool that saves all translations into a database while the translator works. To assist translators, this database maintains “segments,” which can be phrases, paragraphs, or sentence-like items (headings, titles, or elements in a list) that have already been translated. These segments can be reused when the same section is repeated elsewhere in the project or updates. These tools significantly reduce the time and expense of software localization.
7. Internationalize Dates, Numbers, etc.
This phase is critical because it allows people worldwide to see dates, numbers, and other region-specific data in a familiar format. Such information may differ even among regions that speak the same language. Engineers should never forget when writing code that different countries may use different date and time formats, calendar systems, time zones with a partial-hour offset, currencies, phone number formats, and measurement systems.
8. Use Unicode/UTF-8 String Encoding
Always use Unicode/UTF-8 encoding when sourcing string tables or software resources. These character sets are designed to accommodate any written language in the world. Having only one method for processing text minimizes development and support expenses, helps to avoid superfluous conversion processes, increases time-to-market, and enables a single source code version.
9. Make Suggestions for Software Resources
Using comments in software resources can be highly beneficial to translators since understanding the context and application of specific strings can help them choose the proper translation. Most translation programs allow translators to see these remarks as they translate.
10. Avoid Concatenation and the Excessive Usage of Single Strings
The syntax and word order of most languages differ from those of English. Concatenated strings and strings used in various contexts result in problematic grammatical formulations and issues with gender agreement.
Concatenation is only effective when the content is written in a certain language. Regarding software localization, concatenation makes things tough, if not impossible, in some circumstances.
11. Put Your Software to the Test
The translation procedure includes testing the software before it is released. Trained localization QA professionals should carry it out and will aid in the discovery of potential technical issues such as UI sizing, text truncation, hard-coded strings, and character corruption. This final phase also allows the linguist to see the localization in its entirety, which frequently results in essential revisions.
Companies That Have Succeeded in Software Localization
Google has a specialized team of localization experts whose objective is to deliver a diversified user experience appropriate for every language and culture. They work across more than 30 countries to ensure that all Google products are enjoyable and simple to use in 70+ languages—and that they sound natural to consumers everywhere, including in lesser-known languages like Welsh and Basque.
Localization is a critical component in supporting Airbnb’s vision of belonging everywhere. They just enhanced their cutting-edge translation system to incorporate reviews. Guests may now quickly read through automatically translated reviews in their selected language without having to click on each translation, saving time and reducing misinterpretation.
Dropbox’s localization team translates the Dropbox experience for everyone’s enjoyment; it now supports 20 languages in 180 countries across the world. Localization Project Manager Melissa Wheeler explains that they accomplish this by “translating everything user-facing at Dropbox into other languages.”
Localizing software is a complex process requiring a methodical approach to ensure its success. Software localization provides that your product will appeal to users in various locations. It enables you to localize and optimize the user experience depending on consumer preferences and cultural conventions.
Working with a professional translation localization services provider is one of the software localization best practices that is highly advised to ensure accurate and effective localization. A localization service will have the knowledge and resources to handle all areas of the localization process, from content translation through software engineering and testing.