Aleksa Krstic
Aleksa Krstic
March 24, 2022
6 min read
March 24, 2022
6 min read

Internationalization vs Localization: What is the difference?


While developing your product or service of any kind, are you imagining that many people will use it and that it will serve them well?  You need localization and internationalization for this.

With this guide, we will explore in detail the words localization and internationalization. We will focus on the differences between the concepts of localization and internationalization. 

What are the benefits of localization and internationalization? Why it is most beneficial to consider them during the early stages of the development process?

Let's start our localization vs internationalization journey and find out some answers 🙂

Definition of localization (l10n)

Adapting your product or service to the local market of your choice is localization.

Localization originates from the word "locale", we use the abbreviation for localization - l10n.

Localization means that the creator of the product or service is trying to remove all the potential barriers between you and your understanding of the product or service. It aims to be intuitive while keeping in mind different cultural backgrounds.

Steps to check for successful localization:

  • Translating and proofreading
  • Visuals
  • Currencies
  • Local regulations
  • Local market data surveys and statistics
  • Time and date formats

The localization phase sometimes requires a localization manager position. A localization manager is usually the person from that particular region who understands the culture and preferences specific to that region. 

Definition of internationalization (i18n)

The term internationalization is the action or process of making something international. We can internalize every product or service. 

Internationalization is designing a product in such a way that considers future expansion to many markets. The abbreviation for internationalization is i18n

In the Software as a Service industry common places where you need internationalization are:

  • Product design,
  • Development and
  • Quality assurance

Some of the design challenges in internationalization are texts within graphics.

In software development, you would need to neutralize the code, so that you can add right to left languages or double-byte languages if needed without much hard-coding. Right to left language like Arabic, and double-byte language like Japanese. How to neutralize the code depends on the programming language or framework that you use.

For more information on how to neutralize the code in internationalization - check the tutorials for next.js internationalization, angular internationalization, django internationalization, react internationalization

In quality assurance you would need to adopt to testing based on local culture, also there will be some challenges in selection of QA tools.

Internationalization is the first stage of globalization.

Internationalization vs Localization

Localization and internationalization are processes that will enable your business to get in front of a new audience. They will expand your reach, brand identity and get you a high return on investment - ROI. 

This means that, as you develop your products or services, you should take into account international data to cover more than one market. Localization, on the other hand, is adapting to a particular market.

Internationalization is more focused on structure and development, while localization is more intended for the specific end-user.

Infrastructure that facilitates internationalization is essential to localization. Localization and internationalization are not opposites, they are often combined for better business results.

The technical impact of product internationalization is enhanced quality and code architecture. This will maximize the benefits of both localization and internationalization.

In product development, internationalization is important for reducing the time for implementation cycles. While localization is that fine touch that makes a difference and finds its way to a specific user faster, and more often with a level of unique relevance tailored to their needs.

Abbreviation for localization is L10n or l10n, and for internationalization is i18n. These kinds of abbreviations with numbers are so-called numeronym.

i18n vs l10n difference

Standard Software Localization Process

Let us take language localization as an example. During the language localization process you need to include:

  • Developer
  • Translator
  • Project manager/Localization manager
  • Designer

Some companies have a person in charge of leading this whole process, which can tell you how complex this can be. The role for localizing the product or service is localization manager.

Software localization process

To localize an app and to update it in every language it takes a system or platform which can navigate and organize that process. Check Localizely for this. For example, if you have different versions of an app, you need to have an exact version for each one or so-called branch. 

Example of a standard software localization process:

  1. Gathering all the materials and evaluation of the tools and resources required for localization to happen
  2. Cultural differences, technical (such as coding requirements), and linguistic
  3. Terminology glossaries - structure and regular updating
  4. Translation to the local language
  5. User interface adaptation, resizing of forms and dialogs, where required
  6. Localization of statistical data to the specific market
  7. Compilation and build of the localized files for testing
  8. Translation and quality assurance testing
  9. Project delivery

Localization processes vary from company to company, but most of these steps are difficult to exclude.

Who needs l10n and i18n and when?

As mentioned internationalization is the first phase of globalization. Every company that wants to reach out to a global market should start with the internationalization process, and in order to be successful in the specific markets to do the localization.

In the Software As a Service industry, you can get started with the internationalization phase while you are still in the start-up stage! Now, that is even necessary for many start-ups to thrive.

To reap all the benefits of i18n and l10n you need to include them in the early stages of your business.

L10n and i18n market benefits

Some of the benefits of localization:

  1. Will give you a competitive advantage
  2. Will serve well for branding your business
  3. Will increase your revenue, people are more likely to buy something that is in their language
  4. Customer satisfaction and loyalty will also increase

Some of the benefits of internationalization:

  1. New markets
  2. Diversification
  3. Independence from one market
  4. Foreign investment opportunities
  5. Faster implementation cycles
  6. Bigger talent pool

L10n and i18n examples

An excellent example of localization is Airbnb. Airbnb website and app are available in 62 different languages. How impressive is that? They did not finish their localization there. On the Airbnb website, you can find content about the countries where people are booking their apartments. There is almost a sense of a private tour. They create content for local purposes too.

Businesses can consider their internationalization process successful once they have learned how to localize, and there is not a lot of hard coding involved. This is what happens when the localization framework is considered from the very beginning.

The intuitive features of the user interface are almost everywhere universal. This user interface (UI) design occurs during the internationalization process.

Conclusions: Internationalization vs Localization

Today, localization and internationalization complement each other and they are ongoing processes in most companies.  

Internationalization will help you build a good structure for your product so that you can thrive faster in many countries.

Localization considers the specific requirements of the country. Good localization will lead to increased sales and brand loyalty.

Their combined impact on your business success will help you optimize your resources and give you that competitive edge you need.

In Localizely we thought about your software localization process. Check out our translation management platform where your whole team can collaborate and go that extra mile in your business a lot faster. Try it for free for 15 days, no card is needed. 

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Aleksa Krstic
Aleksa Krstic

Aleksa is a Software Engineer at Localizely. Over the past few years, Aleksa has been working in the field of software localization. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar and writing tech posts.

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