Just like a website, your software is constantly improving, updating, and growing. You already know what its strong market selling points are and you’ve also nailed promoting it in your home market.
Now, when every process is more or less stable and you finally know your stuff inside out, you just want to focus on perfecting and improving your performance. And all of a sudden you’re faced with this exhausting task of software localization. You’ve heard about the challenges it brings, and you’ve heard that it’s a bit of a pain in the code. Emotionally and physically prepared, you probably still ask ‘But where and how do I start with it’?
How to prepare for software localization?
To support multiple languages, you will need to make a few adjustments to your product. This is exactly what’s called internationalization (i18n). More specifically, it involves planning and implementing products and services so that they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures.
We know that there are many aspects to a skillfully conducted software localization. We agree that these types of projects may seem too difficult to get them done perfectly, but this is more-than-doable with the right kind of preparation.
That’s why we decided to share a guide on how to prepare for software localization, so your question ‘Where do I start?’ is fully covered. Check out these 4 steps to prepare for software localization and start jotting down an early draft of your software localization strategy!
#1. Research the target market
If you want to properly prepare for software localization, research is the step number one. We get to repeat it in every guide, but it is too much of an essential step to omit, especially since software localization may be considered more demanding than website translation thanks to its complexity.
After all, we are pretty sure you’ve conducted a thorough analysis of your home market before starting work on your original product, right? Without proper research on your potential new markets, you can never verify that the ‘gut feeling to localize in country x’ is a good idea.
How do you do it? First of all, analyze your website visitors and software downloads/uses. From where do you get the most traffic? Narrow your focus down to single or multiple individual markets that will most probably be interested in using your software. In fact, your software may appeal to quite a few users in some regions, who are just waiting for it to be localized. Remember that the majority of people will always opt for a product available in their native language.
#2. Plan your UI
During the research stage, remember to plan the UI for localization. The general idea is that your software has to be as polished and beautiful and sexy in a localized version as in the ‘original’ one. The worst idea you can have is that you can afford minor mistakes, because they’re, umm, minor. Believe us, you cannot.
Your prospective customers need to be just as impressed with your product, as your home market customers were. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense because you won’t appeal to their emotions and fulfill their expectations. Is your software perfect? Make it perfectly localized.
How do you do this? First of all, you should take a look at your software design layout. Remember that translated content can expand up to 30% in length for language combinations like English to French or English to German. In certain languages like Arabic and Hebrew, the text is read from right-to-left (RTL) requiring your entire design to be adjusted to the opposite side.
A modular design approach will come in handy while accommodating RTL languages. Did you consider these possible changes? Planning the UI ahead will save you a lot of time and money. Your UI simply has to be flexible and devoid of hard-coding, unless you want to double the workload (and probably double the money) after the product has already been translated.
#3. Watch out for line breaks and word wrapping
It’s not easy when you localize your software for a country where they use the Latin alphabet, but it gets even a bit more complicated when you localize your software into East Asian languages. Why? Latin languages use spaces to separate words but languages such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese don’t.
These are character-based languages that don’t use any spaces at all, and your application cannot rely on the usual line break and word wrapping algorithms for displaying text. This means that you need to dedicate more time to prepare for software localization only when it comes to spacing.
What does this mean? Well, a bit more work. Your UI will have to be adjusted specifically for these languages with the assistance of a linguistic expert. For example, text parsing for Japanese will require a specific Japanese word segmentation algorithm, which has to be highly accurate, as Japanese or Chinese words cannot simply be broken down where it seems convenient. That’s where your User Interface designer will need the help of a linguist. Which leads us to another point.
#4. Choose your Translators
If you thought that you could simply hire anyone with the right target and source language knowledge and assume that they’ll understand the context of what they are translating, think again. Every type of content has the best translation attitude match, and software localization, like nothing else, requires skilled translators experienced in translation of software projects because of these projects’ complexity.
How do I start? You can hire a translator or use an advanced translation platform that hires professional translators in specific fields. Hiring a freelancer can be considered a great option, but it requires more research on your side. When you go for the second option, you should choose a solution where you can create and manage your own projects but also find high-quality professional translators with IT expertise from the provider’s database.
Thanks to that, when you define the necessary details about the product when creating a project, Project Managers on the provider’s side will find the right translator experienced in software localization. You will know you’ve found the right translation solution when it happens with almost no effort.
#5. Use a Translation Management System
Don’t go with spreadsheets and emails for planning your localization project unless you want this project to be unproductive and to take forever. All of this manual work can nowadays be replaced by a Translation Management System (TMS). A proper TMS will have features that will allow you to manage, translate, and monitor your translation project at any time.
How do I pick the right TMS? Again, research, research, research. But don’t worry, we will make it a bit easier for you and list some key elements that every TMS should have for software localization projects:
- API integration, for fast and efficient workflow
- Integrations with GitHub and BitBucket which allow for direct synchronization, versioning, and continuous translation.
- Translation Memory and Terminology Management
- Machine translation
- Website translation
- Collaborative features (managing and communicating with your team through the platform)
- The context for files and strings
How would the software localization process look like at Text United?
We constantly list and count the features that are good enough for software localization, because we want you to pick the solution that fits you best. But being one of the advanced translation platforms, we want to show you what does this process looks like with our help!
At Text United, a general workflow for internationalization involves:
- Extracting strings and resource files from your app code. You have to separate textual content (translatable text) into a separate file. This will allow you to translate it and import the translated version back without touching your code.
- Making multiple resource files for each language.
- Naming and storing each file appropriately for each language.
- Extracting text from pictures into separate files. If you have the text saved in pictures, your graphic designers will have to recreate the same design in different languages with adjustments to different cultures.
When a user opens your app, the operating system will load the appropriate resource file related to the user’s language settings. Voila!
Have You Jotted Down The First Draft of Your Software Localization Plan? 🙂