Your product’s readiness for internationalization is going to play a significant role in its success. The software market is a heavily targeted industry worth an estimated $456 billion. Anyone vying for the same level of success as tech giants must prioritize internationalization early on, keeping their eyes on the global market rather than just focusing on the U.S.
Most companies focus on domestic markets first and then approach global expansion as an afterthought. The issue with this sequence of events is the buildup of content that will need translating by the time they’re finally ready to globalize. Ensuring a product’s readiness for internationalization isn’t just about making compatibility adjustments to the app to better suit a particular foreign market; it’s about designing with a global audience in mind, whether you’re working on your first language or your hundredth.
Tips for Ensuring Product Readiness for Internationalization
Before you start translating your product into new languages, you need to perform a complete audit of your original version. This relates back to a fundamental coding concept: garbage in, garbage out. If the product isn’t ready in the English language, it’s certainly not going to fare any better once translated. You need to review:
- Consistency in the source language: Bad content equals bad code. If the original version of a product is not perfect, any imperfections are magnified by translation. Unfortunately, it’s just not possible (yet) to internationalize varying content styles. All the original-version content should be consistent in tone, grammatically correct, and branded appropriately.
- Code management: This is more so in reference to the technical aspects of code management. Is it in several different repositories, or is there a single location? You need to have a well-established process for version management from the start. The same goes for assets used in translation, including term bases, translation memories, and glossaries—all these key elements must be in a central location and consistently maintained to be truly useful.
- Key usage: Keys are essential triggers for how content will work in instances where a single word can have different meanings. “Home” is a good example. That may mean the homepage of the app, something on the navigation bar, or it may refer to the user’s home address. All multi-use words must be defined through proper key management to ensure they are accurate in a new language.
- Variable management: The consistent use of variables is a vital factor in determining how they will translate and if they’re used enough. This is why it’s critical to evaluate the code for flexibility. If someone is referring to “dollars” in structured text, it will confuse foreign audiences with different monetary standards. There must be enough variables in place to allow both the content and the experience to adapt to international markets.
While this isn’t an all-encompassing list of checkpoints that will impact your product’s readiness for internationalization, they are some of the most common culprits of failed projects. By heading them off at the pass, you’ll be far closer to creating a successful global program.
Cutting Off Potential Issues in Internationalization
During the audit of your code, you’ll probably notice some common issues that require resolution before internationalization. There are a few strategies for effectively managing these roadblocks in such a way that you don’t come across them again:
- Have the original version reviewed and standardized: A thorough review of the underlying content may seem like a major endeavor, but it’s one that will pay dividends once you understand how it significantly improves upon the consistency and reliability of translations. This review also provides an opportunity to set specific corporate glossaries and lexicons that linguists can use to ensure they’re not just translating your content but also your company culture.
- Choose the right person for the job: It can be tempting to have your coders quickly throw down a few lines of text rather than outsource that work to your copywriters. When you go this route over and over again, though, it can add up and eventually create an inconsistent voice for your product. Copywriters should write copy; coders should write code. By keeping those jobs segmented, you’ll save yourself and your team a lot of headaches down the road.
- Establish clear standards: Variable and key treatment should not be a matter of individual coder preference; it should be a clearly established protocol that every single person who touches the code follows. From day one, new hires should be fully aware of project-specific coding preferences and standards.
- Use a collaborative platform: A reliable localization management platform will ensure seamless interdepartmental communication, eliminating information silos that can lead to inconsistent work. Ideally, the workflow should allow you to review projects in real-time. That way, if someone isn’t following standards or fails to use appropriate branded language, you’ll know before it ripples through the entire system and causes a significant issue.
With these strategies in place, your product’s readiness for internationalization is all but guaranteed. When you’re internationalizing content, every tiny mistake can turn into a large catastrophe. By getting all stakeholders on the same page and transparently managing content, you can grow the popularity of your product on a global basis while simultaneously minimizing translation-related roadblocks and issues.