5 Tips when getting started with software localization
Imagine you are walking in the French countryside. Lavender fields and greenery all around you. You greet every person passing with a “Good day, how are you?” or “Good morning everyone, isn’t the weather lovely today?” To your surprise, you only receive puzzled frowns, confused head tilts and incomprehensible French phrases like “Parlez vous français?” thrown at you. This is what your software is like when you are trying to reach a new target market in a foreign country. Localization (abbreviated as l10n) will not only help you avoid awkward situations like these but will give your software the boost it needs to accelerate growth in an international market and gain global relevance. If your software is only available in one language, you are limiting your potential customer base. Today, for example, there are more than 1 billion English speakers. That means your English product is reaching approximately 17% of the world population, keeping the rest out of the loop. If you understand the importance of localization, but find it to be unfamiliar territory, here are 5 tips to get you started.
Table of Content
- Implement localization from the beginning.
- Plan for multicultural differences.
- Code with the end in mind.
- Test your localized software.
- Find a localization platform.
Implement localization from the beginning.
Ideally, localization support should form part of the product development process. Even if localization is not the aim right now, you might want to step in the multi-lingual direction in the future. Start off with internationalization (abbreviated as i18n) to ensure that your software can be adapted for localization when needed. These two concepts can be compared to building a house. Internationalization is where you set up the foundation and localization is where you start laying bricks.
Plan for multicultural differences.
Yes, talking to users in their native language will improve sales, but remember that not all languages and cultures are the same. Some aspects to take into consideration are:
- Alphabet and writing direction
- Time and date formats
- Currency formats
- Measurement system
- Text size and expansion
- Locale associations and connotations
Aim for simple, straight forward text that is easily translatable. Certain phrases and words will not bring about the same response throughout all target markets. Sometimes you will have to modify content to suit the new target market’s habits and context.
Code with the end in mind.
This is expert advice from Stephen R. Covey to keep in mind when it comes to your localization vision. You do not want to rebuild your strings every time you add a new language. Bypass future effort and debugging by using code that can be adapted for localization. In this case, concatenated and hard-coded strings should be avoided. Rather opt for Unicode/UTF-8 encoding and localization text class wrappers.
Test your localized software.
To determine if your software is localized successfully, you should test it within the target market. Proper localization gives the impression that the software was originally intended for the localized market. Testing gives you the opportunity to review and enhance your software to effectively engage with users in their native language and therefore gain user trust. Pseudo-localization can help you determine to what extent your product is localized.
Find a localization platform.
Adapting your software to embrace different languages, cultures and legal requirements can be a daunting task. Luckily, companies like Transifex, Lokalise and Crowdin can help carry your localization baggage. These SaaS companies create platforms where you can store, manage, create, and translate your content in one place, a.k.a. translation management. No need to send a bunch of files back and forth. Localization platforms will enhance an efficient and productive workflow.
Engaging with potential users in a language they feel comfortable with and adhering to cultural and legal norms ensures more possibilities for your software to truly go global. Software localization should not be a tedious, time-consuming task. By integrating translation management software, localization is made easy. Open your software’s international borders and gain foreign appeal.