August 31, 2022localization

Everything you need to know about software localization

Software localization

The software will work fine for everyone when the user interface is in English. This is one of the biggest misconceptions we've normalized with globalization.

Anglo-centrism became a golden standard in the tech industry during its development. But we're witnessing the rise of localization.

The Tech industry is developing at high speed in markets all over the world. The digitalization of all industries in almost every country is following, with more than 80% of businesses having running strategies to become digital-first businesses.

However, understanding the user interface in a foreign language is easy for everyone.

A language is not the only thing that needs to be adapted in software- otherwise, you'd need a simple software translation.

Why is software localization important?

Not everyone masters English. Not everyone is fond of using this language either.

Let's think about the following example.

Your target customers are accountants in a country where English is not a native or working language. They're working with domestic companies only.

On this occasion, it's highly probable accountants won't have a high level of English language.

If you want your CRM for accountants to get adopted, you'll need to have a user interface in the accountants' native language.

Product adoption depends on users

An additional obstacle to software adoption in nontech niches is low digital literacy among workers.

In the EU, just 54% of the population that's fit to work have basic digital skills, while in LATAM countries, more than 60% of the population is without it.

Considering all this, it's not shocking to hear that 70% of buyers prefer to buy a product or service that offers all information about it in their native language.

So when you're entering a new market, consider cultural preferences and context.

Some may be fine with English. Yet, most will need not only the user interface in their mother tongue but also documentation and training sessions.

What exactly is a software localization

Software localization is a process of adaptation of the software to the new local market. This localization process takes into consideration linguistics, cultural and market context.

If needed, sometimes certain features can be created for a specific market.

The software localization process includes:

☞ translation of all text inside the user interface and

☞ adaptation of design if needed.

Software localization examples

Netflix

Netflix localization example

One of the best-known examples of successful software localization is Netflix.

This streaming platform is available in more than 27 countries. In every country they entered, they went through a localization process.

They adapt dubs, subtitles offering, and a user interface for maximized user experience. However, this is what most streaming services offer in every country.

Creating local content actually differentiates Netflix from other streaming services in every local market.

In Netflix's case, it means creating series and movies in every entered country with local resources within the local culture.

Yes, they make the content popular in the country of origin, but they also gradually place it in other country markets. This means they have more interesting and mixed content than any other streaming platform.

This localization strategy brought them steady growth of 33% per year.

Spotify

Spotify localization example

Another streaming platform that conquered the global market with a software localization strategy is Spotify.

Localization of content, in their case music, thematic playlists, and software translation, is a huge stack in Spotify's global success.

They define it as "Designing for Belonging". As their design manager, Nora Ahlenius, says that by localizing images, we can help people feel that they belong and that Spotify is a better choice.

The idea is the following: when a user sees an image and name of the playlist in its own language and local cultural context, it'll feel seen and validated.

In practice, it means there would be a Happy Hits playlist everywhere, in every country. However, it'll contain a different choice of songs and visuals to represent that feeling in every country.

The benefit for Spotify and Netflix comes from local users finding familiar content on their platforms, while at the same time, global users are finding new content they would have never found without them.

Myself included. For example, I would never casually stumble upon series and movies from Peru and Chile on any streaming service in Balkan.

These examples show that software localization is far more than a basic translation of the content inside the user interface.

It needs to feel like it is created from locals to locals.

How's software localization done

Software localization is a complex process. It includes various departments and processes.

A business decision about localization includes an understanding of market conditions, cultural and sometimes political context.

You'll need to develop the best possible strategy for the whole project and a localization strategy for every department.

Once that's solved, the focus goes to the product department.

Internationalization

Internationalize software

It sounds like a paradox, but the first step to localization is actually the internationalization of the product.

Internationalization is a part of the process that stands for the separation of the source code from localizing elements.

Those localizing elements will depend from niche to niche, but it usually includes buttons, logins, payments, dates, etc.

Translation

Translate all elements

Once you have the entering strategy, the budget, the time frame, and internationalized software, you're ready actually to do the translation part.

You can choose to form a separate localization department for every language. Or you can hire a software localization service.

Either way, these should be the roles that participate in the localization process:

1. developer, preferably a localization engineer

2. designer, preferably UX/UI specialist

3. translator, preferably native in both languages, or at least at a bilingual level. If you're localizing in multiple languages, be sure to hire a separate translator for every translation project.

4. an editor, a native one. This one must be a native speaker from the country you're localizing to. Otherwise, real linguistic testing could happen after the launch and cause a lot of damage to adoption.

5. Unite them all with a good localization project manager in one place - on the translation management system.

Having all departments work on the translation management platform will ease localization and meet everyone's needs.

Developers don't have a lot of manual work. They need to upload the resource file with all information that needs to be translated.

The project manager assigns strings to translators. They can add translators they found by themselves or hire translation services directly on the platform.

Translators will be able to see how translation looks directly in the design. They could get some help from machine translation if there's a lot of material for bulk translation. Also, they'll have useful features like translation memory that can help them go through every translation project faster.

Designers will see what the current design looks like with translated content.

This means everything will go faster.

All sides can adapt and work towards the best possible user interface and user experience inside the software product.

Once everyone is done with their work, a developer can download the localization file that's updated with the translated text and pull it back to the app. No additional coding is needed.

Usually, there are native integrations with GitLab and GitHub, which can make the finishing touches of software localization even easier.

Localization testing

Don't forget to test localized software or app in-house, as well with the small portion of the local market, before releasing the product fully.

When should you localize your software?

Plan localization

The time of software localization depends on the timing of market penetration, software launching, budgets, and people you're disposing of.

These are some of the options that are connected to product development.

After the main software is launched

This one is, more or less, the only option for the already existing software.

It can be costly, but it's a good practice for those who want a sustainable expansion - market by market.

If the product is already launched and you're doing localization of the software or app localization afterward, pay special attention to design.

Use the localization tool to double-check if the user interface is damaged during the translation process before pulling the localization file into the app or software.

Often the target language is shorter or longer than the sourced one, which can cause many problems with the design.

Even if you're launching localized software afterward, you'll often have to go back to the design stage and go through the product development process all over again, increasing costs.

During the design and development stage

This is the most ideal option - running the localization project at the same time as we have the product in the design or development stage. However, this one is not always possible.

You should have a budget prepared for simultaneous software development and software localization projects for every target language if you're doing an app development and mobile app localization as well, it's an additional budget overload.

Even if you use a localization tool and do the best project management, different languages will demand different changes and adaptations to the product be sure to hire enough people to handle localization software projects.

Continuous localization

If continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment are what you swear by, this is the right approach for you.

This approach takes the best from the previous two.

Every string is ready for translation and deployment before development goes to the next stage.

IT ideally starts at the design stage and suits the best the teams that are constantly updating the software or mobile app or for the software localization services that have a fast pace with their clients.

Conclusion

Software localization is a complex process of translation and adaptation of the product to a completely new market. It can be costly, but if it's done well, it can greatly impact the company's growth.

If you're planning to do it, go through the localization strategies. Use a translation management system, and hire people who'll be eager to take an additional step to understand the local audience.

Enjoying the read?

Subscribe to the Localizely blog newsletter for quality product content in your inbox.

Related

Copyrights 2022 © Localizely