Software localization best practice

Software localization best practice

Software localization best practice 1920 1465 Bartosz Budzynski

Sooner or later, software needs to be localized. Well, let’s rephrase that… In order to successfully enter new markets, software needs to be localized. But what does this mean? And how do you go about it?

Back to basics: what is software localization?

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page here. What is the meaning of localization? Software localization means adapting software for a specific locale or market. It often involves translation, but not necessarily (for example, think of US English vs UK English). In fact, in some ways it goes further than translation, since images, icons, or symbols may need to be swapped, content re-positioned, currencies updated… the list goes on.

Why is software localization important?

Globalization vs localization? Yes, the world is more globalized now than ever before. But consumers are also increasingly savvy. A one-size-fits-all approach to software no longer cuts the mustard. Just as marketers now advocate a ‘glocal’ approach to marketing, software companies need to adopt a proper localization strategy. We’d like to think it goes without saying, but this doesn’t mean choosing just anyone to do this, or leaving it in the hands of machine translation…

Never underestimate the importance of well-localized software. Poorly localized software or apps can lead to negative customer experience at best and unusable software at worst. If an app has just entered a new market but doesn’t cater to local address formats, it could be dead in the water. So it’s worth investing in high-quality localization.

How is software localized?

What does the actual localization process look like? Traditionally, localization takes place after the software or app has launched in one specific target market. In this linear approach, there are five main stages of software localization:

  1. Preparing the content for localization
  2. Localizing the content
  3. Reviewing the content
  4. Importing the localized content to the software
  5. Testing

But these days, many companies opt for agile localization workflows. In this approach, localization takes place as the software is being developed so that all the different localized versions are ready for launch at the same time. This involves delivering small pieces of localized content very quickly and regularly transferring content between developers and localizers.

Who is responsible for software localization?

Companies vary widely in how they allocate responsibility for software localization. Within a software publishing company, there might be a software localization linguist who leads on localization matters. They could employ localizers or linguists directly, or work with a translation or localization company to manage the project and vendor sourcing.

Regardless of how things are set up, developers and QA teams will both be involved in various stages. Developers will need to export the strings, and re-import the localization content. QA teams need to test the software to make sure it all works as it should.

Best practice: build localization-friendly software

Even if you’re not planning on localizing your software or app right away, it’s best to think about this stage from the outset. Build your software in a way that it is easily localizable. During the localization process, beyond the obvious text that may need translating and adapting, there are plenty of other things that may need to change, like date formats, currencies, units of measurement, address, and telephone number formats. Make sure you don’t hard code these strings so this content can be easily localized.

It’s also important to bear in mind that some languages need more space than others to deliver the same message. So if you’re able to be a little less stringent with character counts, your localizers will thank you for it! Plus, don’t forget, if you’re translating into languages that read right to left rather than left to right, you’ll need to make sure your software is built to adapt to that too.

How XTRF supports software localization workflows

XTRF integrates with industry-leading CAT Tools which help ensure terms are localized consistently across a project. It’s also a big time-saver. When it comes to a linear localization strategy, XTRF can help by streamlining workflows, and automating certain stages of the process, meaning you can deliver faster. And it also supports agile localization workflows with their regular transfers of content between developers and localizers. In fact, XTRF uses the agile methodology to develop our own software, so we know just what this means, and how to help.


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Bartosz Budzynski

Bartosz Budzynski

Responsible for Professional Services at XTRF. A strong supporter of the open-source movement, sharing economy enthusiast, and a passionate developer. His greatest superpower is transforming business needs into technical requirements.

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