Globalization has made the world a smaller place. Now, it is possible to manufacture a product in the eastern nations of Asia, and sell them on the western coast of Europe, all in a matter of days. As such, the need for having a global presence of your business has increased and is a must if you want your product or service to be successful on a global scale. Software localization becomes an essential component in this regard.
What is software localization?
Software localization involves the process of localizing or adapting any software to the technical, cultural, and linguistic requirements of various target markets. This is a labor intensive process and usually needs substantial time and effort from the developers.
Software localization is quite different from translation. It involves the process of translating and adapting a web product or software, and every other documentation related to the product. Translation barely translates the document without any reference to the local cultural and linguistic traditions. Software localization often runs parallel to the source product development and enables the manufacturer to simultaneously ship the product in different language versions. For instance, software strings translation may generally begin even when the product is going through the beta phase. Translation is simply one of the steps in the software localization process; completing this step doesn’t mean the product is ready for the market yet.
Tips for localizing your software
Many organizations are now actively seeking localization of their software offerings for different markets throughout the world. In this endeavor, many attempts on software localization are met with frustration after the software has been developed. The fonts may not be exact, the text may be garbled, and the encoding might be off, sentences may not come in an aesthetic format, or the overall design may not look as expected. The tips given below will guide you to successfully localize your software for specific markets.
Plan in advance: Proper scheduling must be done for localizing your software for different markets. Most companies tend to rush localization just before the actual software release, which compromises on the quality of the localization.
Test the software: Localized software should go through the same rigorous testing as the original product. The awareness resulting from looking at a different language “in context” inside your product is irreplaceable.
Leave sufficient space for expansion of text in foreign language: There are many languages which, on average, take up 30% more space than English. In case you have designed a software where English text just about fits in the space, it is likely you will face problems later on. As such, leave sufficient space when designing your product for compensations later on.
Localization-friendly string encoding: Wherever possible, you should source software resources or string tables in Unicode/UTF-8 format. This avoids garbled text, debugging, and unnecessary conversion steps.
Remove hard-coded strings through “pseudo localization”: In temporary branches, you can use general expression to take the place of all letters inside the text, with one repeated text like “XXXX”. Create the product, and all hard-coded text will throw up on the screen, showing IDs which aren’t given in string tables.
Avoid overusing single strings and concatenation: The structure of a sentence in English may not be followed in some other language. Strings used in different contexts, and concatenated strings will have gender and grammar agreement issues. Be generous with memory while localizing your software.
Overall, software localization has become an important step in the process of adapting your product for specific markets, and can potentially decide the success of your product in those markets. As such, you should make sure to perform localization in the best possible manner.