Everything you need to know about software localization!
With the sheer amount of work that goes into developing a new software, it’s no surprise that developers don’t want to limit its use to just one country. It’s a company’s dream to have their app or website become a household name, but to do that, you have to roll it out around the world. So, how do you develop with globalization in mind? Well, software localization is your answer!
What is software localization?
Just like any other form of localization, software localization is the process of adapting software so it fits with a country’s language, culture, images, and legal requirements. For software developers, this means you should design your software with a localization user-interface, and make sure you abstract all the localizable elements from the source code and making them available to your translation team.
How to handle the localization process
There’s no right and wrong way to handle your software localization. After all, every piece of software is different and requires an individual approach. However, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you handle the localization process as best as possible. They are:
- Think of localization as part of the development process
It makes things a lot easier if you think of software localization from the very beginning. It’ll save you a mad rush at the end of development trying to get the translation done, ensuring you don’t have to worry about costly delays in launching, for example.
- Keep your source language simple
Making your software overly complicated will not only cause UX issues for your local users, but it’ll also make the localization process more difficult, too. That’s why it’s best to keep your source language simple so that you don’t complicate things in the long run.
- Focus on strings
From a developer perspective, make sure that you never hard code strings and that you avoid concatenated strings, too. This will be a great help for your localization team.
- Use a developer-specific localization platform
There are a number of localization platforms out there, but it’s best to go for one that’s built for developers. It’ll have a greater number of customizable features available, plus it’ll integrate with some useful developer tools, too.
The two phases of software localization
While there are a number of different steps you have to take when it comes to software localization, there are really only two main phases – internationalization, and then the actual localization part.
To begin with, what you have to do is adapt your software for the international market, which means implementing design and development practices that make the localization aspect run smoother. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Review your application framework to ensure that it can actually support your localization efforts.
- Remember that text in other languages can be longer, shorter and that it won’t fit in the same way the original does.
- Code with localization in mind by using Unicode/UTF-8, unless you’re working with Asian languages which are when you’ll need UTF-16.
- Just as we mentioned before, externalize your strings so they can be easily translated.
Next, you’ll be able to move on to the actual software localization part of your project!
Thank goodness we’re not having to copy and paste everything out of the source and then send it to each individual translator! Luckily, software localization has developed no end, which is why there’s now set workflows available that aim to get rid of all the manual labor once needed. Although every project is different, here’s a sample workflow that should fit the needs of the majority of software developers out there:
- Extract your source files for translation. Some providers require XLIFF files, others don’t – so make sure you ask so you know what to prepare.
- Translate. It’s vital you choose a team that’s used to dealing with the nuances of software localization. It may be a little more expensive, but their expertise will be worth their weight in gold!
- Review. Make sure you get someone to review the translations. In the greater scheme of things, it really won’t take up much extra time and it’ll ensure that your translations are the best quality they can possibly be.
- Import back into your code structure. Next, it’s time to import all the text back into your code structure so that you can deploy your software.
- Test. The final piece of the puzzle is testing. You’ll not only need to test your software from an IT perspective, but you should also test from a linguistic perspective, too, so that you can ensure all of the translated text is exactly where it needs to be, without any errors.
And…that is software localization in a nutshell! As you’ve probably gathered, it’s a pretty complex process which needs a professional team. So, if you’ve got a project looming and you need a helping hand, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help!