Software Localization – Not so Much a Case of “Should We?” as “How Do We?”

The global enterprise software market is projected to exceed $500 billion by 2021, according to Gartner. As such, software localization provides significant opportunities for any businesses striving to enter new global markets. By localizing software to suit a specific region, companies can reap many benefits, including attracting new customers, improving international sales, and gaining a competitive edge. To help you navigate through the process of software localization, here are seven best practices to consider:

1. Think about the Necessary Text Space

Since numerous languages require at least 30 percent more space than English, including the 60 percent additional space that is necessary for Japanese, it is important to allow for text expansion when designing the software. In addition, some languages require less room; Thai, for example, might need 15 percent less space than English. As a result of potential complications with text expansion or contraction, software testing should include a check to ensure that the content fits correctly following its localization.

2. Pay Attention to Icons

During the localization process, using icons might seem like a viable way to diminish some of the text translation, while adding visual elements to the program. Since many symbols do not translate to other countries, it is important to use icons that are recognizable on a global scale. As an example, a U.S. mailbox does not translate well in other regions of the world. In addition, developers should keep a close eye on whether icons are culturally acceptable With 72.4 percent of consumers being more apt to purchase a product in their language, according to Common Sense Advisory, ensuring that icons send the correct message in the native language is critical.

3. Create External Resource Files

To help with localization, all text that will be visible to users, such as titles and error messages, should be placed into external resource files, instead of embedded into the software’s code. As each text string receives a unique name and translation value, the result will be having translated files for every region the business plans to tap into. Taking this step will save a significant amount of time as companies are localizing software for different regions.

4. Develop an Information Library for Each Region

Another important step in the software localization process is to create a library for each region’s unique elements, including currency, times, dates, and numbers. Instead of hard-coding these elements, you can store them in a library in an ISO format, allowing translators to figure out what format is associated with a specific language. With 180 currencies across the globe, taking this step could be critical to an efficient localization process.

5. Implement Agile Localization

Making a decision to use an agile-based approach could help the software localization process become more efficient. As a team-driven method, the concept of agile localization focuses on completing sprint cycles, which require a set of deliverables to be met in a defined timeframe. During agile localization, the customer can regularly review and evaluate the localized software throughout the development process.  By using an agile approach, the localization process becomes flexible, quick, and automated, allowing the software to be completed with iterations to follow.

6. Continuously Test the Software

Since localization is a fast growing industry, with $25 gained for every dollar spent, quality assurance is vital to success. Because of the level of detail required in software localization, regularly testing your product will help ensure that you have a successful launch. In addition to checking for errors in coding and functionality, pay particular attention to inconsistencies, grammatical mistakes, and problems with the localization. To ensure your software is meeting the unique needs of a region, it will be important to have your program tested by a native speaker of the language.

When surveyed by Common Sense Advisory, 56.2 percent of consumers expressed that the price of a product is less important to them than receiving information in their language. With customers clearly wanting localized products, the remaining question from a corporate strategy perspective, isn’t about whether or not to do it but more about strategizing with your Language Service Provider what regions of the world and the determined approach is most fitting to your organization’s short and long term goals.

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