Software Localization for Greater Success in Software Development
With foreign smartphone markets now rivaling and surpassing the United States, software localization is more important than it has ever been in the past. Users from all over the world can download software through different app stores, and if you are not localizing the apps to appeal to consumers in different countries, you are going limit the earning potential of the software.
Even with it becoming obvious that translation is now an important part of software development, you will still find many organizations that fail to account for software localization when they are planning a new app or other digital product. They think that they can develop the technology for their home market, wait for it to gain some traction, and then translate and localize when the software is already profitable.
The appeal of this approach is understandable: software localization does add to the cost and the effort that go into developing software. As an additional issue, most programmers are not going to be fluent in all of the languages that they are going to need for translation. So it can be easy to want to put these steps off until you have to worry about them. The problem is that localization and translation is probably going to be more costly and time-consuming if it is done after the software is already developed. By not planning ahead, you might even limit the potential of a localization strategy.
Make Localization a Part of the Development Process
For many developers, English is considered the global language of software. While this may be the native language of many software programmers, only about 20% of the world’s population speaks English. And even less than a third of that 20% speak it as their native language.
You might get some downloads of your software in markets where English is not the native language. But still, there is an increasing expectation on the part of consumers that software should communicate with them in their preferred language. By failing to localize software for different markets, you are losing potential users that would have otherwise downloaded the app.
If you are developing a digital product, making software localization a part of the development process makes sense. For example, if you are in the eLearning industry, you should already be planning to access a global audience. Preparing for eLearning translation as you begin development on your product is the best way to ensure quality. It will also save you time and money in the long run.
To start, localization expands the potential reach of the software. With more potential users, you increase the earning potential of the app. Furthermore, by planning for translation as a part of the development process, you can design the app in a way that is easier to translate and adapt for different markets. This will cut down on the time and effort that go into localizing the technology for different markets.
Challenges of Translation for Local Audiences
While localization will expand the reach of your app, it does come with some challenges. This is one of the reasons why developers should plan for translation from the beginning. Most of these challenges are easier to handle if they are addressed before the software is developed.
One of the issues that will need to be addressed is the languages that the app is going to be translated into. You need to find the target languages that you are going to use. You may also need to account for things like right to left text and different symbols that may be used in different languages.
Along with languages, you will also want to consider the cultural preferences of the different markets you want to target. People in one country might use apps in different ways than they are used in others. You also have to think about things like time and date formats, currencies, and different ways that the presentation might be received in different countries.
Most developers will not have the resources or the skills to handle the localization process in-house. Instead, recognize that you are going to need to hire professional translators to work on translating different text elements of the program into the target languages.
Reducing the Cost of Software Localization
If you want to reduce the cost of software localization, you have to plan ahead. If you were to develop the technology with only one language in mind, you might spread various UI elements throughout the code with no thought for the need for translation. However, if you are planning for localization, you could try to isolate these UI elements to make it easier to translate. This way, you would not need to go through each line of code to find the elements that need to be localized.
Along with planning for translation, you could also plan for design changes that might be necessary. When you know you are going to localize the app for different markets, you can aim for a more flexible layout. You might find that different elements of the UI need to be moved around for some countries. If you plan for a more flexible design, it will make it easier to make these changes.
You could also work with a team of professional translators to develop various practices and standards for the translation process. Building a style guide for the language and having a glossary for the terms can be another way to ensure accuracy and consistency throughout the localization process.
Finding the right translation partner is one of the most important parts of software localization. You do not want to go with an inexperienced agency because any mistakes could cost you later on in the process. When you are looking for a language service provider, you want to hire professionals that not only have the ability to provide high-quality translations, but also are a team that has experience with software translations specifically.
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.