If you’re just starting to explore the possibility of new markets, you may be asking, “How does localization work?” To really understand the value of the process, it helps to peek at the history.
In the early days of development, it was rare for creators to consider how their code would translate to new international markets. As a result, when they wanted to expand, they needed to almost recreate their products. Proactive localization works to simplify that process. It makes it easier to translate the complexities of software for new markets by enabling adaptability from the get-go.
As it is such an involved process, it has become its own science. Many companies now offer localization as a service. For developers without previous experience, it can be difficult to recognize good localization options from those that are sub-par. As there are no fully established standards, it’s often up to business owners to understand how localization is supposed to work to ensure they get the best possible service.
Challenges to Software Localization
Software localization is far more complex than translating a basic document. In order to tackle this process, you’re going to have to deal with a number of additional questions:
- How are you going to protect the code? Showing your source code to a third party and allowing them to work inside of it is a big risk. Mistakes could threaten the structural integrity of the application and, possibly, the intellectual property rights of the owner.
- How are you going to keep necessary variables intact? There may be certain variables that should not be translated—perhaps in order for the UI to function or for branding purposes. Keeping these key strings intact is vital.
- How are you going to adjust for unique time and date settings? Some locales run on a 24-hour clock, others on 12. Some put the date first, followed by the month; others are the opposite. Preparing for all these eventualities isn’t easy.
- How are you going to adjust for character encoding? Support for different alphanumerical coding isn’t universal. It’s very possible to overlook the characters necessary to translate one language to another.
Aside from these issues, you have to consider how color and other stylistic choices will translate to a new market. You want your software to be brand accurate, so proper localization is vital to protect the integrity of your image. Bottom line: there’s a lot to keep in mind.
How Does Localization Work?
There are four main components to the software localization process: asset review, workflow review, linguistics, and continuous improvement. These steps break down a fairly complex system into manageable chunks.
- Asset review: The first stage involves reviewing all the assets to be translated. That includes assessing where they live, how they’re encoded, and if they are localization friendly. If not localization-ready, this stage should also involve bringing them up to the minimally acceptable standard.
- Workflow review: Once your assets are in order, you need to consider how you’ll send them back and forth during the translation project. This involves looking at your current workflows. At this stage, if you’re relying on emails or messaging, you’re not prepared to control the in- and output of all the different files you’ll need to manage. There must be a clear, end-to-end workflow process in place to ensure a seamless transition.
- Linguistics: At the linguistic review stage, you need to better understand the lexicon of your organization. How are you going to select verbiage that accurately reflects your brand identity across several markets? This stage involves building a translation memory, corporate lexicon, and term bases that will direct the translation of all future content. Of course, these assets will continue to evolve with your content.
- Continuous improvement: This part involves going back and looking at how you can do things better. Roadblocks you discover in the initial process should be mapped and understood so you can work around them in the future. It’s all about repackaging the framework you just built to make it easier the next time you want to expand into a new market.
Understanding how does localization work is a key part of reaching a new market. By reviewing all that goes into creating software in a foreign language, you’ll be better prepared to overcome issues as they arise and ensure a seamless experience for all involved.
In such a challenging environment, it’s wise to have a partner on your side to aid in the localization process. Look for a comprehensive localization management platform that can integrate with your existing systems to minimize much of the back and forth that translation entails. This strategy ensures a seamless transition to a new market that helps you stay true to your brand.