Software Localization: Ultimate Checklist for Success

We’re living in the era of globalization.

This means that for every software developing business trying to go global, there are no excuses to ignore product localization.


Why?

Technology is also a means of global communication. And you know that there is no effective communication without proper understanding.

To convince you to invest in software localization, let’s consider a few more reasons.

Why Does Your Software Need Localization?

Let us guide you through a few stats.

There are 7,000 languages in the world, and only 23 of them are mother tongues to 4 billion people, which is more than half of the world’s population today.

However, from the infographic below you can see that English is no longer the dominant language in the world if you consider the number of native speakers.

You can explain the growing prevalence of other languages, like Chinese and Spanish, with the economic growth of the countries, where these languages are dominant.

From the standpoint of growing your business, you cannot leave millions of dollars’ worth of profit by ignoring the needs of these growing markets.

Hence, here’s the reason for the growing demand for localization.

But what about software localization?

We already mentioned that the globalization process changes the way, how businesses conquer global markets.

However, if we’re talking about software localization as a means that will take your business to the foreign market, we should also consider its importance from the standpoint of your consumer.

Globalization has changed the way people consume information.

If earlier, English was considered enough for the international community to interact, now, more and more local languages are starting to break this pattern.

Here’s an example for you.

In India, where the population is over 1.3 billion, desi (indigenous) languages have trumped English in internet usage.

As more and more Indians start using the internet, Hindi and its local dialects now dominate the online world. This is not a surprise, considering that only 200 million Indians speak English.

From here, the formula is simple.

The rise of desi languages sparks the production of regional content. People read about technology in their native language or dialect, and when they get their hands on it, they expect it to be in their language.

As a part of the software development industry, you know that technology spreads very quickly. This also means that the number of your competitors in the foreign markets will also rapidly grow.

Imagine if they get to those consumers first?

Most likely, no one will even consider using your software if it’s not localized.

What Do You Need to Localize Your Software?

Now you see that software localization is the investment worth making.

However, this is not an easy journey.

You will have to do a lot of research and analysis, including the evaluation of your own localization needs and measuring results, as your localized software goes through testing.

Sounds too difficult?

Don’t worry, we will guide you through it.

Here’s our complete software localization checklist.

1. Plan the Localization Process

Every journey starts with preparation, and software localization is no exception.

Indeed, the secret of high quality and usability of localized software is in preparing a plan that allows the efficiency of the localization process.

Here are a few things to consider when planning the software localization process.

  • Scheduling the localization process

So, let’s say you have planned to expand to a new market by November 2021, and the release date of the localized version of your software is November 1st 2021.

Taking these dates into consideration, you should launch the localization process in November 2020, thus, giving you a year to finish it.

Why do you need so much time?

The software localization process doesn’t only include translation. It involves several time-consuming phases that we will talk about a bit later.

Moreover, if you start localizing software immediately before the release date, you risk delaying shipping procedures, which will result in additional costs.

  • Outsourcing software localization

International expansion of a business always presupposes a collaboration with an expert in foreign markets.

The same with localization – you cannot do proper localization without someone, who is a native speaker of the target language.

Why a native speaker?

  • They know how to avoid cultural mishaps. Native speakers can notice cultural inconsistencies where other translators can’t because this culture has become their identity.
  • They are well-familiar with the market. A native speaker knows what works for their local market and what doesn’t. Having an insider helps better understand the needs of your foreign audience, which is an important factor to consider during software localization.

On top of that, outsourcing software localization simply saves you a lot of time. Your localization provider can engage a group of people to work on the project.

Moreover, if your provider uses a localization software, they can add you as a contributor through the feature of collaborative translation, so you can observe the process.

If you don’t know how to decide, which software localization provider fits your needs best, here’s a short checklist of the main features to help you choose.

If not planned correctly, software localization can cost your business a lot of money. So pay attention to the preparation process to avoid costly mistakes and localization mishaps.

2. Analyze Market for Localization

We could add this point to the previous section, but we think it deserves special attention.

A bit earlier we talked about how getting a native localization professional can help you learn more about the target market.

Their help, however, is more about providing you with additional details. The preliminary market research is entirely your responsibility.

But don’t get discouraged. This process looks similar to what you have done before releasing software in your local market.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide.

Step #1: Revisit your initial buyer persona

If you’ve been on your local market for a while, you might already have a number of regular customers.

When it comes to internationalizing your business, you will have to go back a few months or years and do what you started with – identifying a buyer persona.

Luckily, you don’t have to invent the wheel here.

All information that you need is already available to you.

While creating a buyer persona from a foreign market, make sure you include the following points:

  • Demographics
  • Location, language (dialect, if applicable)
  • Occupation and salary
  • Primary channels of communication, through which they get information

If you sell software to B2B companies, you also need to consider:

  • The state of your target industry on a foreign market
  • The average staff size of a company in this industry
  • Average income that companies make in this industry

All this buyer persona information can be relevant during the localization process. It might help you determine to localize only some features of your software if necessary.

Besides, it will help your marketing strategy a lot.

For example, if you plan on entering the Chinese market, you should keep in mind that traditional social media platforms don’t work there. Thus, you will have to target other platforms to reach out to your foreign audience.

Here’s a checklist for you to quickly create a buyer persona.

Step #2: Do competitor analysis

If you decide to enter a foreign market, there are chances that your software will face some competition.

That’s why, during the planning phase, do a thorough competitor analysis.

Here’s a set of questions to ask to help you learn more about your competitors:

  • How long are your competitors on the market?
  • Who is their target audience?
  • What is the pricing for my competitor’s software?
  • What does their sales process look like?
  • What differentiates my business and software from my competitors?

To organize your research, you can also use this competitor analysis framework.

How else can this information help you?

In the process of software localization, you will have to create a test group to check the performance of localized software.

The details collected in a sample of your international buyer persona will help you find the right consumers for the test group.

Apart from that, the information about your competitors on the foreign market will help set objectives for the performance review of your localized software.

3. Prepare Software for Localization

Before the team of professionals starts working on localizing your software, you need to prepare it for localization.

This is the most time-consuming part and might take you a month or two depending on the size and the number of features in your software.

The preparation process is also one of the reasons why you shouldn’t delay software localization.

Here’s the checklist of what you need to consider to prepare your software for localization.

Step #1: Separate text from code

If you’re outsourcing the localization of your software, you need to give the team a text free from code.

This is called creating source files, i.e. files containing text in the source language.

To separate text from code, you can use a resource called Online Text Tools, which will give you a raw unformatted text.

To further organize this text and prepare it for localization, we recommend you to break it down into the following files:

  • Properties files
  • Files with localizable.strings or strings.xml
  • Resource files with additional language-specific components

You can also make the categorization less technical. “Localization specialists mainly work with the content attributed to a certain purpose,” says Helene Cue, a translator and content editor at Essay Supply and BestWritingAdvisor.com.

This means that you should categorize all the text according to the function that it will define in the localized software. You will make it easier for the localization team to understand the purpose of the text.

Step #2: Make sure there are no ‘broken’ characters

By ‘broken’, we mean the lack of Unicode support.

If some of the strings in your source code are using the type of data that doesn’t support Unicode, your localization team will have a hard time processing the text.

As a result, if your server is in English, and your international audience is browsing in Arabic, the characters in the localized text will be corrupted.

What should you do?

To avoid this issue, make sure you use UTF-8 (Unicode Transformation Format 8-bit) on every layer of code, from HTML and HTTPS to your server.

Step #3: Consider text direction

Depending on the language of localization, you might pay special attention to the direction, in which the text will be placed in the final product.

So, if you’re localizing your software to Arabic, keep in mind that the text will be in the right to left direction.

The direction of the text affects the user interface of your software.

Just take a look at how the UI looks in two different languages of IKEA’s website:

Image source: IKEA U.S.
Image source: IKEA U.S.
Image source: IKEA Israel
Image source: IKEA Israel

The direction of writing can also be vertical. Languages like Chinese and Mongolian use the vertical writing system, which is one of the biggest struggles for our localization clients.

What can you do here?

Before your localization team starts working on the source files, discuss with them, how you want the UI in the final product to look like and how the text direction will impact the UI.

It will give both you and them a clear picture of how to work with the text to make it serve its purpose.

Localized Software Ready? Run a Test to Check It!

Before you do a trial run of your localized software, you need to go through the target text to detect possible mistakes and inconsistencies to make edits and approve the final version.

Here’s the list of points you should consider:

This checklist can also serve as the outline for the KPIs of the entire localization projects, which can help you trace and measure the results.

Over to You

As you can see, although our checklist has only 3 steps, there are quite a few sub-points you need to consider during the software localization process.

The key to successful software localization is proper planning.

Give the localization process time to make sure that it is completed successfully. Spend this time researching your foreign audience, identifying your international buyer persona, and studying your competitors.

Apart from that, software preparation plays a crucial role in ensuring the success of software localization.

So, take the time to prepare the text properly to help your localization team do a proper job.

Following our checklist will help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes, which may affect the success of your localized software. Step-by-step instructions will help you make sure that you don’t miss key factors that can impact the success of software localization.

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