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Don't Lose Your International Customers: How to Conduct Software Localization

What is software localization?

Software localization means translating a process of adapting software interface and messages to particular languages, cultures and desired local look and feel. It is a complex process. According to Susan Armstrong, simple translation implies terminology research, editing, proofreading and page layout. Localization, in addition, tends to involve additional activities, such as: Multilingual project management, Advice on translation strategy, Conversion of file formats in which material is held, Alignment and maintenance of translation memories, Software and online help engineering and testing, multilingual product support. Software localization, in essence is making versions of software products available in multiple languages, so it can be used by consumers internationally. Localization is often a substantially more complex issue.

It can entail customization related to:
Numeric, date and time formats;
Use of currency;
Keyboard usage;
Collation and sorting;
Symbols, icons and colors;
Text and graphics containing references to objects, actions or ideas which, in a given culture, may be subject to misinterpretation or viewed as insensitive;
Varying legal requirements and many more.

The importance of being localized

A recent study by Gartner shows that over 268 billion downloads worldwide will generate $77 billion worth of revenue by 2017. The best way to cater to global markets and customers is to offer your software in your customers’ native language. There is also a survey recently by Common Sense Advisory, they found that more than half of global consumers only buy products from websites that provide information in their own languages. And more than half of the countries on the top 10 list for application download and revenue are non-English speaking countries from Europe and East Asia. Numbers always tell the simple truth, which is your software needs to be localized, it’s now or never. But don’t panic, here are some crucial elements you should think clearly and take proper actions, as soon as possible.

Consult a localization expert

As you have already realized the importance of localizing your software, set up a consultation with a localization expert who will be able to analyze the specific requirements your product will need before starting your localization projects. And you will have to work with engineers to analyze the source code and identify the content you want to be translated and other formats to be localized.

This is not just text translation

First and foremost, software localization is more than just text translation. The word translation is fairly literal; “word to word”. Localization is a more involved process and it can apply to any type of content based on what your business objectives are. The key point is that your target-language version will often not be a literal translation. For instance, if you want to convey the phrase "Like father, like son" in Chinese, it would read as something like "Tigers do not breed dogs." Although this doesn't match up with the source content, it has the same connotation in the target culture. What’s more, localization affects more, and it can drive customers’ action. Or you can say, localization is more marketing oriented.

Plan ahead

For years, companies still believe that software localization work can be completed in the last minute before the release of their products. Yes, you can still do that only there won’t be much effect as you have wished. Why? As technologies grow, localization is becoming more and more labor-intensive just like the process of developing software. All works including localization should be planned ahead to produce a quality product.

Your developing and marketing works will proceed much more fluently with a well-planned localization schedule. First you will need to determine the release dates for your software before the localization work start. Developers also need to set the further development dates before localization. If you want all the target languages to be released together, the localization engineers can provide you an accurate agenda.

Never forget your test plans

Test plans are usually updated to reflect the changes. It’s a record of previous discussions and agreements between the testers and the rest of the project team. So, never forget to re-use your base language test plan during the localization process with the local languages to ensure the same level of end product Quality.

By taking the points above to heart, you will have your software with multiple language versions in no time. Investing care and thought into the execution will guarantee your software a good start and successful cycle in the international market.