The terms translation, localization and internationalization are often used interchangeably, despite actually referring to very different processes.

We’ve unpicked some of these differences in our blogs on Website Localization vs Website Internationalization, Translation vs Localization vs Transcreation and Local vs. Global Marketing. But how does this work when it comes to software?

Let’s say you’ve developed a great app. Naturally, you want it to reach a broader audience. Maybe you’re at the beginning of the process and want to make your app globally viable from the get-go. But how do you do it? Where do you start with localization and internationalization?

Software Internationalization (i18n)

The fundamental point of internationalization is to ensure that your technology can support various writing systems across the world. Essentially, internationalization prepares the software for localization.

When you plan to go global, you have to bear in mind that you may also need to support alternative calendars, time zones, and daylight savings, as well as names and addresses in both native and transliterated forms.

Only when your technology supports all of the above can you start expanding to other markets.

Let’s take a deeper look by breaking the process down into three key aspects.

#1. Design and Development

Since you are getting your software ready for international deployment, you want to be removing any barriers to this. This includes enabling the use of Unicode or ensuring the proper handling of legacy character encodings where appropriate, taking care of the concatenation of strings and avoiding dependence of user-interface string values within a code.

#2. Preparing for Localization

It’s essential that the source code is able to support local or regional language or culturally related preferences. Typically, this involves incorporating predefined localization data and features derived from existing libraries or user preferences.

Also, think about providing support for features that may not be used until localization occurs. For example, adding markup in your DTD to support bidirectional text and identify a language or adding to CSS support for vertical text or other non-Latin typographic features.

As well as this, separate localizable elements from source code or content so that localized alternatives can be loaded or selected based on the user’s international preferences as needed.

Integrating these steps into your integration will massively simplify the localization process down the line.

#3. Internationalization Tools

Going global is going to change the way your team works. You can save both time and money by choosing the right tools to help you with the job.

At Text United, our UI is designed to “optimize your workflow and allow for efficiency, without compromising on accuracy. We’ve spoken about the benefits of in-context translation and included a mini tutorial for our updated Overlay Editor to help you along your internationalization journey.

Our Software Localization System allows you to harness the power of API and integrate your system with ours. This allows for an easier, smoother translation process that is flexible enough to suit your approach.

Read on to find out a bit more about the localization process!

Software Localization (l10n)

You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of localization. In this context, it simply refers to adapting your software and its content to meet the linguistic, cultural and other requirements of your target market(s).

While localization includes translation, it’s only one part of the process. Other important steps include adapting numeric, date and time formats, currencies and encoding for the target language, UI planning, adjusting graphics and images as well as paying attention to legal requirements. Localization may even require re-thinking your visual design so that it’s appropriate for your new audience.

The recipe for a smooth localization process includes excellent preparation, a strong localization strategy and the right translators. While you’ll inevitably run into challenges, following these steps will help you to create software that feels natural for users worldwide.

To sum up…

Internationalization + Localization = Globalization

Start by internationalizing your software, putting yourself in the best position to enter the global market. From here, you can localize for specific markets; if you need some inspiration, check out our Top 10 Languages for Localization.

Internationalization significantly affects the ease of a product’s localization. As you can see, the processes are inherently intertwined; but they do have some key differences. Be clear on these differences! Investing time and thought into both processes is going to make for a smooth transition to the global market.

If you found this breakdown helpful, check out our blog on Internationalization vs. Globalization next!