Software localization was a $5 billion market in 2022 and will likely triple by 2032. Increasingly, companies see the value of adapting their software applications for global audiences. After all, nearly 80% of consumers prefer products with info in their language. And the less familiar they are with your core language (e.g., English), the higher that percentage is.
This, of course, says a lot about the need to have translated product pages and marketing materials. But it also extends to the entire software product experience you offer, which needs to be completely adapted for another language, region, and/or culture. That’s where software localization services come in handy.
3 components of software localization services
The process of software localization is pretty involved and has three main components:
- Translation and linguistic adaptation: Translating menu options, help content, error messages, and other text into a foreign language while also adapting it linguistically and stylistically for the target locale
- Cultural adaptation and localization testing: Ensuring that your software product is not only functional but also that all content is culturally appropriate (e.g., changing currencies, payment methods, and graphics in an app localized for German users to fit German culture)
- User interface (UI) localization: Modifying the user interface—buttons, menus, labels, content layouts, and more—for the target locale to improve user experience (UX)
Unlike translation services, software localization services encompass more than just converting the text within a web or mobile app from one language to another. They involve ensuring that the translated text still conveys the intended message and style but in a way that shows an understanding of and respect for the new market. That means being aware of the cultural sensitivities of your target market, finding alternative translations for slang and figures of speech that don’t have direct translations in your target language, and so on.
Additionally, as we said, software localization extends beyond the text found in your user interface (UI). You may need to adjust the layout of your UI if you’re localizing into a right-to-left language like Arabic or make other changes.
An overview of 3 popular software localization services
Various service providers can help with the three aspects of the process described above. Here are some commonly used options.
At Smartling, we offer end-to-end software localization services via our extensive network of native-speaking professional translators. Not to mention software that improves and accelerates the localization process through products like our translation proxy. (The translation proxy or Global Delivery Network can automatically pull content into the Smartling platform for human or machine translation. Once translated, the content can be delivered instantly to users of your web app.)
Ultimately, our software app localization services save many customers tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of human hours.
- Specialized translation: Work with translators who are deeply familiar with your business verticals, industry, or content type.
- Linguistic quality assurance and localization testing: We can ensure linguistic and visual quality and consistency, and test the UI to identify and fix bugs or errors.
- White glove project management: Our team can help you use the Smartling platform to the fullest, accelerate time to market, increase return on investment, and more.
- Our translators are not only 100% native speakers, but they're also local experts. This helps them make software product experiences feel truly local.
- Our services enable you to launch new languages in as little as two days.
- The Smartling platform integrates with a wide range of design tools, code repositories, and other platforms.
- One customer noted, "There were a few instances where the translations needed some minor modification. We were translating our website and on occasions [sic] we noticed that the translations could be more natural. The team did respond to feedback well and we did see translation quality improving during the course of the project." (Source: G2)
- Since Smartling is primarily for enterprises, some smaller or mid-market companies have felt that it's not as cost-effective as alternatives. (Source: G2)
Smartcat is a software localization platform that offers a digital environment for collaboration between developers, project managers, linguists, and other stakeholders. However, it has a vendor marketplace through which you can find vetted translators to help with your software localization projects.
- AI-matching algorithm: Smartcat can assign the best linguist or agency based on analyses of your content and linguist performance.
- Key imports and exports: Translate text with AI (and auto-invite posted editors if needed), then sync the translations to your software.
- Automation: Get a handle on continuous localization by simplifying labor-intensive tasks.
- While it's developer-friendly, the whole team can use Smartcat.
- Smartcat integrates with dozens of content management systems, software repositories, and other platforms.
- There are no extra seat costs for team members and marketplace linguists.
- According to one user, the marketplace doesn't have very good filters, meaning it can be harder than necessary to find a suitable linguist or agency. (Source: G2)
- Another user commented that some translators seem more familiar with traditional computer-assisted translation tools. This may impact their ability to fully and efficiently localize your software using Smartcat's platform. (Source: G2)
Ulatus also offers software localization services that help companies adapt their software for global audiences. The company has a network of over 3,000 translators to provide services like pseudo-localization, software refactoring, and localization testing.
- Internationalization: Make sure your code can support the different number and date formats, fonts, and so on that are needed for your target markets.
- Rest API: Integrate your code repositories with Ulatus's translation management system for continuous localization.
- Audio and video localization: Extend your localization efforts beyond text, images, and the user interface.
- Ulatus supports a wide range of resource file types used for software localization, including .htm, .html, and .json.
- Many of Ulatus's translators have academic or technical expertise, which can improve accuracy.
- Ulatus offers 24/7 support to customers.
- While 50+ languages are supported, that's less than alternatives like Smartling that support unlimited language pairs.
- Some customers have had issues with reliability as far as turnaround time and translation quality. (Source: IsAccurate.com)
Factors to consider when choosing a localization service provider
How can you know which company’s services best suit your software localization project? There are at least four things to look out for:
1. Availability of native-speaking translators and local experts
The best translation results will come from a translator who is fluent in the source language and a native speaker of the target language, but not every localization service hires these types of linguists. While their services can still be valuable, they may not be aware of certain linguistic nuances that are important to deliver a fully localized experience. Working with native-speaking translators reduces that risk.
Similarly, even if they are a native speaker, not every translator will have deep, firsthand local expertise. For example, a translator may be a bilingual native speaker of Chinese but never have been to China. If you’re localizing your software product for the Beijing market, it may be a challenge for them to translate your text in a way that feels tailored to that region.
Hence, the reason it’s so valuable to have translators like Smartling’s—100% of whom are native speakers with local expertise.
2. Ability to automate the localization process
From an efficiency perspective, ideally, the localization service provider you choose will offer both best-in-class services and software. Their services may cover bases like specialized translation, transcreation, international SEO management, and project management, so you can focus your attention elsewhere. The software can free you and your team up further by automating workflow management, quality estimation, quality assurance, and many translation tasks (via MT).
Numerous Smartling customers have automated 90% of their translation efforts, with several having achieved 99% automation. The time savings realized as a result ultimately mean faster time to market for these customers and even translate into cost savings.
3. Quality assurance measures in place
There are various aspects of quality that need to be checked when localizing a mobile application or web app. You want the partner you work with to have QA measures in place for all of them. For example, here’s some of what Smartling has to offer:
- The 100% quality guarantee. We guarantee that all content we translate is on-brand and has a multidimensional quality metrics (MQM) score of 98—higher than the industry average of 95.
- Quality checks. Besides catching simple errors like typos, our predictive machine-learning tool can check for translation inconsistencies, glossary non-compliance, incomplete strings, and more.
- Linguistic quality assurance and localization testing. We can test your localized user interface for bugs and errors, and check for visual and linguistic consistency throughout.
4. Support for continuous localization
Software localization isn’t a once-and-done process. As you update the primary version of your web or mobile app, you’ll need to localize the other versions tailored for different regions or users who speak other languages. So, of course, you need a localization partner who can support your continuous localization efforts.
One of the ways Smartling does this is through our translation proxy. Once it’s configured, new or updated content is automatically identified by the GDN crawler and pulled into Smartling for translation at a cadence you specify. In other words, it eliminates the need to manage your content approval queue manually.
How to future-proof your localization strategy
Besides choosing your service provider wisely, there’s more you can do to ensure that your software localization strategy is scalable and works long-term. One such thing is using a mix of software and services, which we talked about above.
Leveraging services and software
Using, for instance, machine translation software combined with post-editing will allow you to localize updated versions of your software faster than if you only had one solution. It’ll also provide you with two layers of defense against localization issues that might otherwise be missed in a 100% human or 100% automated quality assurance process.
Prioritize streamlining your operations
Some other valuable best practices were covered during a session on managing large-scale localization at our 2023 Global Ready Conference. One of those was shared by Ella Petlicka, Internationalization, Senior Program Manager at Pinterest.
Ella said, “Make sure your content and operations and everything you do is fully operationalized. It starts with three things: centralization, integration, and automation. Centralize your localization operations within one TMS platform. Integrate as many content ecosystems as possible with that TMS to make sure your operations run flawlessly. Then, as much as possible, automate as well to make sure your processing time is shorter now.”
Honing in on why these three things are important from a long-term perspective, Ella continued, “If that's not your mindset from day one, it will over time become an operational debt. It's easier to deal with those items at the beginning and more difficult to implement changes once your production is at full scale.”
In other words, the best time to establish these three pillars of the localization process is when you’re not yet localizing at scale. The second best time is today, although there may be some additional legwork needed if you’ve already started to scale without them in place. Either way, Smartling can help you get on track now and set you up to work and adapt quickly in the future.
This is partly thanks to our many integrations, which we launch more of every week. Currently, you can connect Smartling with dozens of your favorite tools from content management systems like WordPress to customer support tools, marketing automation software, and beyond.
Best-in-class software localization services and tools
Our translation management system provides one centralized hub for all your localization projects—whether you use machine translation or our human-driven translation services like specialized translation and transcreation. It integrates with various tools including code repositories and developer tools, with integration and migration services available if you need technical support. Plus, you can automate various aspects of your localization efforts from workflow management to translation to quality assurance.
Not to mention that any aspects of the process you don’t want to manage, we can handle for you. Our managed services include account administration and project management, content management, and resource management, as well as white-glove support and training. If you’d like more context on the most efficient, effective way to localize your software product and how Smartling can help, book a meeting with us.