Before launching your software or app into a global market, it has to undergo localization testing.
There are two main reasons to invest in software localization:
- Market growth. The team at Tumult recently localized Hype, an OS X app for creating animated and interactive HTML5 web content without coding. “Localizing Hype opens up markets which we couldn’t reach earlier – namely, people who don’t speak English,” says Ryan Nielsen, the company’s founder. “Every business wants to address the largest possible market, and localizing an app is a straightforward way to make that app usable and appealing to more people.”
- Customer satisfaction. Software release testing examines the language and functional elements of the translated solution to ensure the product works properly and that documentation is accurate for users in all languages and markets. “Not doing that–or not doing it right–can damage the reputation of the company, and break the trust customers have with us,” explains Thierry Menard, a Paris-based software QA manager with a multinational mass media and information company that offers products localized for multiple languages.
How does I10n work?
After the text strings have been translated and the build completed, software release testing assures the quality of all language, appearance and functional elements. This process enables you to externalize translatable or location-specific strings, identify fixed elements that allow text expansion and uncover issues with word order and grammar in concatenation. There are three types of software testing:
- Language testing confirms the translation is correct. Name, date and time formats must be localized, as do icons, currency symbols and colors. “Someone can say that a small typo in a label should not be seen as a quality issue compared to a functionality not working correctly,” Menard says. “My experience…shows the contrary. Those customers are really looking to get a working product which includes a correct translation.”
- Cosmetic testing identifies visual problems with the layout. This includes things like fonts and font sizes that are unreadable in the target language character set, images with text that isn’t translated or localized, or strings that are longer in the target language and become visible to users. “As strings in the user interface change during localization, the XIBs themselves need to be updated to accommodate the longer or shorter strings,” Nielsen notes.
- Functional testing ensures the translated product behaves just as the source-language product does. “Testing catches bugs and regressions that would frustrate or anger people if they’re not fixed before you ship,” Nielsen explains. “By testing and localizing, you’re taking important and crucial steps down the path of building a good reputation. If you company has a good reputation, people are far more likely to recommend your apps…, to review your apps, and to buy upgrades to your existing apps or copies of new apps you ship.” The same goes for software-as-a-service, too.
Who performs software testing?
Localization testing typically involves both internal and external specialists. Function testing is often handled in-house. “We do most of it internally to ensure we use people who know our product really well,” Menard says. External experts frequently provide additional QA testing for functionality, however. Cosmetic and language testing are best outsourced to a vendor experienced in local languages, cultural preferences and the localization process.
Tumult outsources most translation and localization work out of necessity. “We simply don’t have the expertise to translate from English into our various supported languages,” says Nielsen. “I wish I were fluent in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish! Thus, we rely on external translation services to both translate and verify those translations. Also, as with testing, we rely on non-English speakers in our beta test team to double check our translations.”
The bottom line
After you translate software, investing in rigorous software release testing is good business.
“A good reputation takes a lifetime to build, but can be destroyed in an instant,” Nielsen warns. “If [users] encounter bugs, bad translations, or a poorly laid out user interface, they attribute all of that to the company. If you’re not minding the details…and aren’t getting the best translations, fine-tuning your user interface, and testing to make sure everything works as expected, people will notice. Taking the time and effort to localize your apps shows people that you care, and has the nice side-effect of making your app more appealing to a larger market.”