These are five integral best practices taken from our ebook, The Developer’s Dozen: 12 Best Practices for Software Localization. To learn more about software localization and see additional requirements for global success, download the free ebook here.
Localization is complex work—involving not just translation, but many other processes for adapting content to linguistic and cultural conventions—which by no means happens overnight. Nevertheless, Gartner predicts that mobile apps alone will generate more than 268 billion downloads and $77 billion worldwide this year. Clearly, the effort needed to go global pays off.
If you’re reading this before writing your software, great. The most economical way to approach the project is to plan for localization from the very beginning. If you intend to take existing software global, on the other hand, its source language and UI may require some groundwork. All you need are the right tools to simplify the process.
First up: knowing how to approach localization, plan smart, and avoid functional failures. The following software localization best practices are a good starting point.
What is localization?
Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. Creating “global-ready” software ensures that key functional features—interface, metric units, graphics, and navigation, for example—were designed specifically for the target market, regardless of language, culture, or location.
In short, localization is a key factor for user satisfaction.
The Standish Group estimates that:
- User involvement is 23% of the true cost of an IT project
- 20% of features and functions provide the true value of the project
In today’s competitive software landscape, localizing increases market relevance, delivers greater value to more users, and improves ROI without added risk.
The global software market is valued at almost half a trillion dollars and growing across all sectors.
Key localization elements
A number of considerations come under the localization umbrella—some of which might not be top of mind. Yet, each is just as important as the next.
- Adapting graphics to meet target markets
- Modifying content to suit the tastes and consumption habits of other markets
- Adapting design and layout to properly display translated text
- Converting to local requirements (such as currencies and units of measure)
- Using proper local formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
- Addressing local regulations and legal requirements
The basics: 5 best practices for global-ready software
1. Design with localization in mind.
To minimize schedule delays and cost overruns, develop a localization-friendly design from the start. Your design should feature source code and structure that helps prevent common localization and translation errors.
2. Plan for text expansion.
When translated into other languages, words and phrases can grow longer (English – German) or shrink (English – Asian languages). At a minimum, plan for 30% expansion.
3. Use icons with care.
Icons require less translation and can reduce cost. However, not all symbols are universal or neutral. For example, a U.S.-style mailbox doesn’t translate to many other cultures.
4. Test your software’s localizability.
Pseudo-localization is a localizability testing technique that replaces localizable text with automatically generated “dummy” translations. This helps to reveal potential problems before you invest in translation services.
5. When in doubt, ask an expert.
Your localization service provider (LSP) can provide you with insights and optimized processes that will save you time, money, and rework. Reach out with questions early in the process to ensure your development is localization-ready.
From the simplest mobile app to complex multi-user systems, all software can benefit from the fundamentals of localization. But there are a few additional details every developer should know before getting a strategy started.
For more useful software localization tips and best practices—as well as a key term glossary, a breakdown of language considerations, and an actionable checklist—download the complete ebook, The Developer’s Dozen: 12 Best Practices for Software Localization.