The software industry moves fast. That has always been the case, and with the advent of agile development, that pace has picked up even more. This increases the pressure to localize too, giving you more to do to keep up with your product’s development—never mind expanding your markets.
In this high-pressure environment, localization is at risk of being swept under the rug as developers concentrate intensively on the tasks immediately in front of them. While it’s understandable, this kind of procrastination will set you far behind the competition. To counterbalance this stagnation, there are software localization best practices that will help you build a firm foundation for manageable growth into global markets.
Software Localization Best Practices
Not to oversimplify things—but software is basically words on a screen. You can pretty much be guaranteed, in our increasingly global economy, that you’ll be localizing one way or another. So, don’t fool yourself into thinking that maybe we’ll just deal with it down the road. Your long-term success depends on forward thinking and planning.
1 – Start planning yesterday—or at least early on
Even if you’re not going to expand globally right away, you should plan for the eventuality. When the time comes, you will want to be able to expedite localization of that product you’ve perfected. Why wait when you discover waiting markets?
Create a placeholder by making sure that all of the existing and future resources are ready to connect to a centralized localization platform. If you do not provide the space for that to happen, your system will become badly siloed, and you’ll waste time and resources retroactively putting the possibilities in place.
2 – Find a cutting-edge platform
Of course, you take yourself seriously as a software company; why would you look for anything less than a new-generation localization platform that allows you to integrate and automate your product adaptation and updates? For busy developers and product managers, taking on localization is definitely too big of a project. That’s why localization management platforms exist: to pave the way with minimal to no management needed.
You need to have a plan to efficiently extract localizable content, translate it, and replace it so that localization complements your software development cycles—with minimal human intervention to capture new content and launch translation work. Early planning with cutting-edge localization technology ensures that you are able to maximize your opportunities for automation and your localization ROI.
3 – Identify the necessary steps for internationalization
At its best, internationalization happens during development. Localization encompasses so much more than just translation of words, and your product needs to be ready for the complexities of adaptation. A checklist of internationalization (i18n) tasks readies your software and helps you avoid problems later on. This approach increases your product’s flexibility to facilitate LTR and RTL languages, diacritics, double-byte characters, diverse payment methods, address and other formats. And it’s best to confer with an expert to make sure you’re covering all of your bases effectively.
4 – Have a plan for testing
Internationalization and testing go hand-in-hand in a proactive localization strategy. For all of those i18n checklist items, there is an easy way of testing their viability. Pseudo-localization allows you to plug machine translations into your UI or other software field to assess the functionality for different languages. In this way, you’ll discover opportunities for adjustment before they ever become problems or delays.
Of course, you’ll probably also have to plan for some manual forms of testing since localization carries such important cultural weight. But here, too, there is a straightforward solution: the same linguists who spend time adapting your content can do test runs to navigate your product as if they are within a local-market context. This kind of careful localization testing can go a long way toward achieving worthwhile translations and avoiding brand damage.
5 – Find the problems that need solving
Your pseudo-localization dry run may uncover problems with functionality and real estate—problems that are easy to fix during development and much, much harder to fix once localization is moving at full speed. These early tests may clue you into critical maximum character limits that you can set from the start with translators. And you’ll come to understand any inflexibilities you need to work around with certain local adaptations.
We can tell you right now that you need a centralized space where you can maintain your translation memories, term bases, and other fundamental resources—a single source of truth that enables consistency and brand and product integrity across languages and locales. The effort you invest in building this repository will reward you manyfold and help to set your localized product above the competition.
6 – Use data to maintain a smart strategy
One of the challenges of globalization is figuring out where to take your product next. When much of the world is a potential stage for your marketing efforts, you take highly intentional steps. You can tease an amazing amount of useful information out of your user statistics.
A data-driven approach allows you to prioritize those markets that are likely to deliver the highest ROI. It also leads you to think critically about exactly what content is worth translating for each market audience. In some cases, for example, you might get away with translating only the tutorial, empowering foreign users to navigate your app and preserving your resources to expand into even more markets sooner. But the data is instrumental in mapping out the best course for your localization strategy and activities.
Get Software Localization Right from the Start
The time to think about localization is before you launch. After that, introducing localization is an uphill journey. But this sense of urgency can leave you susceptible to offers from language service providers (LSPs) that may not be providing the best possible service but simply making empty promises of fast and easy translation.
Consider it a fundamental best practice to work with a localization partner that is committed to transparency, ultimate efficiency, and quality by your highest standards.
Bureau Works provides automated continuous localization services through API/CLI integration with our modern centralized platform. Contact our team to find out more about how we can make localizing your software efficient from the get-go.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.