How to Build a Mature Localization Testing Framework

Localization testing ensures that target audiences experience your brand in the way it is intended. Use these tips and best practices for better results.


Imagine launching a localized version of your ecommerce store. You’ve hyped it up for months through your marketing channels, and potential customers are ready to buy. Yet support messages start pouring in on launch day.

Common issues include messages on social media that mention a blunder with translation or wording with a less-than-favorable interpretation where translations missed the source text’s nuances.

If you have the right resources, you could fix this issue quickly—within a few hours, even. But it’ll be tough to make up for a bad first impression. It’s better to avoid situations like this in the first place. This is where localization testing becomes invaluable.

Today, we’ll look at localization testing methods and their benefits. You’ll learn how localization testing works, why it should be a priority, and what best practices will create confidence in your multi-language websites and apps.

What is localization testing?

Website and software testing can be complex, but it has advantages. Testing helps you understand how your website or app will perform in real-life scenarios and allows you to identify and fix issues pre-launch.

Localization involves adapting various elements of a site or software product’s user experience for a specific region or culture. These elements include:

  • Language: Translating into different languages and dialects (such as Australian vs. Canadian English)
  • User interface (UI): Building navigation to accommodate right-to-left languages like Arabic
  • Word choice and tone: Using expressions that are culturally appropriate and have a direct translation in different languages
  • Checkout: Offering a cart with local currencies and payment methods
  • Formatting: Using appropriate number, measurement, date, and time conventions

That said, localization testing ensures the complete localization of all website elements in the target region or culture. It’s a necessary quality assurance step in your workflow.

Why perform localization testing?

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. In the earlier launch day scenario, you’d likely lose some customers for good. The negative effects would be even worse if there were a more complex, embarrassing, or time-consuming issue to fix.

Localization doesn't just protect you from mishaps. It protects end users, too, by ensuring that they have a positive experience. This can promote ongoing engagement, generate sales, and increase customer retention.

Should you opt for manual or automated localization testing?

There are multiple ways to conduct localization testing. Manual, automated, and crowd-sourced testing are all options, and each has benefits and drawbacks to consider:

  • Manual localization testing leverages professional, in-country language speakers to test localized content the old-fashioned way. Human testers evaluate translations for nuance, cultural appropriateness, functionality, and user experience. However, this expert testing is expensive and time-consuming.

  • Crowd-sourced testing is similar in that the process is human-driven. However, it engages non-professionals to test localized content, meaning it’s often less expensive but can lead to inconsistent evaluation speed and quality.

  • Automated testing uses software to algorithmically test for common encoding, grammar, linewidth, and truncation issues. It’s much faster than a fully manual process but is not always as good a judge as a trained human eye. Automated processes may miss subtle localization issues.

Often, the best bet is to use a combination of manual and automated testing to balance quality assurance, speed, and costs.

Four types of localization testing

Localization encompasses every part of the native user experience. Translating content into a new language is the tip of the iceberg and won’t be enough to deliver native experiences.

These four types of localization testing assess different elements of user experience:

  • Regional or cultural adaptation testing: Do the currencies, payment methods, and imagery on your website or app fit the locale?
  • Linguistic testing: Is the translated text clear and accurate?
  • UI or visual layout testing: Are all elements that users will see and interact with attractive and easy to understand?
  • Functionality testing: Does your website or app work on all browsers and devices?

Before launching a website or software application, you must conduct all four tests to confirm that nothing unclear, nonfunctional, or insensitive goes live. Doing so guarantees that users can seamlessly navigate your localized product experience, which makes them more likely to enjoy it.

After launch, you should also perform regression testing whenever you change your website or app code. Retesting confirms that updates haven’t broken any existing features.

How to perform website localization testing

Localization testing requires a systematic approach to ensure that all website assets and functions offer a seamless, native experience. Follow these steps to ensure the smooth localization of target market sites:

1. Create a detailed test plan

Before anything else, scope your testing process by creating a test plan that includes the following:

  • Test objectives: Outline the test’s goals, such as verifying translation accuracy or cultural appropriateness.
  • Test environment: Describe the specific language and location settings, device types, and other elements necessary for the test.
  • Test cases: Decide on what scenarios to test, such as the account creation process.
  • Expected results: State the expected results for each test case.
  • Needed resources: List the required resources to complete the tests, such as access to translation services or localization software. Also, list any physical devices you will need. Completing testing on an actual smartphone, tablet, or computer rather than an emulator can give you a more accurate understanding of the user experience.

Starting with a detailed plan like this prevents issues from going unnoticed and spares you trouble—and perhaps embarrassment—post-launch.

2. Mimic the user experience

Whether using an emulator or a physical device, set up the test environment you outlined in your test plan. The goal is to mirror the exact experience a website visitor would have, so your tester will need to view your site under the following circumstances:

  • In the audience’s native language
  • In their location (via the IP address)
  • On their device type
  • On the operating system they use
  • On their browser of choice

Once that’s done, you can begin testing using the localization tools of your choice.

3. Start with high-level testing

At this stage, start regional, linguistic, and UI or visual layout testing (the first three types we discussed). Ensure the following conditions:

  • There are no translation errors.
  • Text and imagery are culturally appropriate.
  • Translated text retains the original message and impact.
  • Translated text fits neatly into the website layout.
  • Your brand personality still comes through in a way that makes sense for the new audience.
  • Date, number, measurement, and currency formats are correct.
  • The UI isn’t confusing or overly complex.

After your testers have finished checking these areas, they can go on to ensure that the localized version of the site works as intended.

4. Move on to functionality testing

Checking website functionality and usability requires the tester to ensure that all buttons and hyperlinks direct users to the right places. They must verify that all pages load properly in the languages you support. Testers should also look for anything that is out of order along the user’s journey (or within the checkout process) on your website.

5. Compile the findings

Compile all observations from testing in one place. Share them with your translators, developers, and other relevant team members so they know what issues to address and can do so right away.

How to perform localization testing for apps

The process for localizing apps is similar but more complex, with several additional parameters to consider.

Testers should account for:

  • Different screen sizes
  • Different operating systems
  • Device-specific features
  • Hotkey functionality across devices
  • Text truncation or broken layouts (if a target language takes up more space than the source language)
  • Correct font loading for different languages

Since there are more loose ends to tie up here than with websites, test cases are especially critical when testing localized versions of apps.

Example test cases to help you write your own

As we mentioned previously, test cases define scenarios that need to be tested, but they’re more than basic descriptions. They require several elements:

  • Test case IDs, so there’s no confusion about what results apply to each test case
  • “Repro steps,” or instructions on how to reproduce each scenario
  • Intended results, so testers know what to expect and can correctly identify issues

You should provide space for testers to record their results after running each test case and comment on any observations.

Need a better idea of what test cases look like? Here are some examples of what you might see on an actual localization testing project:

Case_01Confirm that the correct currency displays for the target region.Visit the pricing page.All pricing should be displayed in euros.
Case_02Verify that all links are functional.Click the “Schedule a Demo” and “Get Started” buttons on the pricing page.“Schedule a Demo” should link to the contact page. “Get Started” should link to the account creation page.
Case_03Verify that validation messages appear for input fields.
   | Visit the “Schedule a Demo” page and fill out the contact form.       | The contact form submits successfully if inputs meet the requirements.       |

| Case_04 | Verify that password creation rules are working. | On the “Create Account” page, enter an email address and a password of at least nine characters. | Account creation will be successful if the password meets the minimum requirements. An error message will appear if the password does not adhere to the requirements. |

Common localization testing pitfalls and solutions

What are the potential obstacles you may run into as you implement the above processes? Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Sourcing native speakers to give feedback on your localized site or product experience, especially for less common languages
  • Keeping up with local laws and regulations and maintaining compliance within each region you’re active in
  • Testing all features thoroughly in local languages, particularly if your process is mostly manual
  • Maintaining localized content across multiple product versions and updates, since more languages means more maintenance effort

Working with a reputable language service provider that offers localization testing services, like Smartling, can help you bypass many of these issues.

Smartling's tools for effective localization testing

Smartling offers various options for localization testing while maintaining high accuracy and consistent tone and nuance throughout translation projects. These include:

Machine translation: Automating website localization cuts weeks out of the process and seamlessly produces updates for website content.

Localization project management: Localizing content for native appeal and accuracy can be a daunting task. Managed services give companies access to expert advice and assistance with managing localization activities.

Native speakers: Human translators offer linguistic expertise and cultural insights to ensure accuracy and capture nuance in localization. Their understanding of local idioms, colloquial phrases, and context-specific language ensures that localized content resonates with the target audience.

Four best practices for localization testing

For every testing scenario, consistent adherence to best practices improves your localization projects’ accuracy and quality. To ensure that your content and copy are the best they can be, integrate the below practices into testing and future upgrades:

1. Start with research

For the most efficient localization process possible, do your due diligence. Get familiar with the target market you’ll be localizing your products for. Learn your target audience’s cultural nuances and preferences. And, as much as possible, work with professionals (qualified translators) who have deep knowledge in those areas.

2. Test as you go

You should, of course, perform localization testing at or near the end of the website or software development process as a final quality assurance measure. But that shouldn’t be the first and only time you test.

It’s most efficient to test at several points during the process (on various devices and browsers) and fix issues as they arise. When you push future updates to your site or software, you should perform this testing again.

3. Automate wherever possible

A good localization testing process is both thorough and efficient. Automation can help you strike the right balance.

For best results, you shouldn’t include just any human tester in your process. You need to have the right kind of testers involved at the right time. Let’s get into that next.

4. Choose localization testers carefully and set them up for success

To illustrate our previous point, you’ll want native speakers and local experts to provide feedback on translation quality. However, they may not be able to provide equally high-value feedback on the technicalities of your website, web application, or mobile app. You need testers with relevant expertise for each type of testing you conduct.

Before choosing suitable testers, we recommend also sharing additional context beyond test cases, such as:

  • User guides and documentation for your software
  • Visual branding and brand messaging guidelines
  • Translation memories
  • Glossaries with context on industry and brand-specific terminology

These resources will make it easier for testers to identify anything in the localized version of your site or app that doesn’t meet your predetermined standards.

Take the reins with Smartling’s localization services

Ultimately, being smart about how you approach localization can make testing faster and easier. For instance, a top-tier translation management system can save you time and money, all while helping you maintain high-quality standards.

Smartling customers in particular request 48% fewer changes, meaning there are fewer issues to resolve after testing. Overall, this contributes to a 42% faster time to market.

For more on how Smartling can simplify localization for your websites, apps, marketing materials, and more, schedule a meeting with one of our experts today.