What is software localization?
When a software company decides to launch a product to customers in a new country, they first must adapt the product to make it relevant, useful, and appropriate for that group of new customers. This process is called “software localization.”
Translation of text may or may not be part of the process. However, some terms might need to be “localized.” For example, the word “localization” itself, when adapted for the UK market, would turn into the word “localisation,” with an “s” instead of a “z.”
Why is it important to localize software?
Many marketers underestimate the importance of differences from one country and culture to the next. For example, perhaps you feature the number 4 heavily in your product. It’s common for English speakers to use this number in abbreviations, such as all-4-one. However, did you know that in several Asian countries, the number 4 when spoken aloud sounds like the word for “death?” It is negative, much like the number 13 or 666 in the Western world.
Your customers need to be able to use your software easily. It should look and feel native. It needs to accommodate their local holidays, date formats, time formats, and so on. It should also reflect the customer. For example, an image of a Caucasian family might not be appropriate for a home page image for a website in China.
What are some typical considerations for software localization?
Here are some of the most common areas involved in software localization projects:
- Linguistic accuracy and image translation. Images, icons, and logos with text need to be modified or replaced with translated text. Also, all support materials, user guides, help text, and error messages need to be translated as well.
- Date, time, and number formats. Countries have different calendars, different work weeks, different holidays, and different time zones. Number formats also differ around the world, especially with regard to decimal separators.
- Units of measure and currency conversion. The fields on a typical form will vary from country to country – the notion of a ZIP code or postal code does not exist in every country, for example. Currency is a major consideration, as are systems of weights and measure. Third party services like maps, weather apps, and payment processing solutions also must be taken into account.
- Cultural adaptation. Images should be updated to ensure that they are appropriate for the target demographic, ethnicity, local culture, and religion(s). Certain colors and numbers may be inappropriate, and even certain cultural references and hot-button issues might need to be avoided.
How is software localization different from app localization?
App localization is a specialized type of software localization. Usually, app localization refers to localizing apps for mobile devices, although it can also refer to web applications.
How does software localization relate to internationalization?
Internationalization is the process of preparing an app at the coding level, to make it easier to localize the software later on. If you have hard-coded your application to be geared toward a single country or language, you may need to revisit the software itself to internationalize it.
What does a standard localization process look like?
The best way to simplify the software localization process is to ensure that product managers design the product with global users in mind, even when coming up with the initial features and coding design. In general, the more closely tied the localization process is to the development process, the easier it will be to launch a localized product. Leaving localization until the end usually makes the process more complicated.
Why is it important to have good software localization tools?
The better your software localization tools, the less restricted you are when developing your product for international markets, and the easier localization becomes. For example, if you use software localization services that support agile software development, you’ll be able to quickly and easily update your translations anytime. You won’t need to worry as much about “freezing” your product and user interface if you can easily make updates anytime.
What do the best software localization services offer?
- Pattern matching and translation memory. This feature will identify duplicate content and flag it for translators, so that they can apply past translations. Translation memory improves quality, speeds up the process, and also significantly reduces translation costs.
- Integrated glossary and style guide. When translators are automatically prompted to use the right terms for your software and the right style for each market, your level of localization improves. So does your end user experience.
- Visual translation interface. If you haven’t fully internationalized your product, a visual translation interface allows the translator to see exactly what they are translating while they work.
Why is bad software localization costly for businesses?
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Many companies who botched their localization gave up market share to local or international competitors by making a poor first impression. The risks are high when localization goes wrong. Some companies never recover their product launch and development costs, due to very simple, preventable localization mistakes that would have been solved with good software localization tools and planning.
What makes Smartling’s software localization tools different?
Smartling offers localization tools that are used by the world’s fastest-moving, tech-driven businesses to take their software products global. Some of the largest software companies in the world trust Smartling. We pioneered the notion of agile localization, allowing our customers to update their software strings quickly and easily in any number of languages. We also offer a robust API and numerous CMS plug-ins. Our platform enables software companies to completely centralize their software localization processes, reducing reliance on translation vendors and gaining greater control over their localization projects.