Software localization is the process of rendering a software application near native for a specific target market. The process includes the cultural, linguistic, and technical adaptation of the software itself, support documentation, as well as marketing materials.
Why is software localization important?
Software has become a driver of productivity, efficiency, and the global economy. Be it cars, smartphones, or home appliances, they all increasingly run on software. At the same time, the more internationalized the global economy becomes, the more national, regional, and local differences come into play.
A global user base expects high-quality software with impeccable usability and functionality regardless of the market and language it is used in. Software localization ensures that target audiences are happy with the product they use and receive high-level support whenever needed.
Why is software localization challenging?
Originally, software would only get translated into a target language after its final launch version is approved. This step would then be followed by the additional translation of any updated versions, requiring a lot of patience for string extraction and bug fixing.
Today, as technology becomes more complex, the demands for high-speed updates and the potential for lack of context grow, developers, managers, and translators need to have even greater attention to detail. Technical know-how, the ability to optimize project management continuously, as well as linguistic aptitude are key to circumventing any major setbacks.
To facilitate the entire software localization process, companies increasingly make use of translation management systems (TMS). Thanks to a TMS, localization projects are not limited to tracking with spreadsheets and managing formatting issues anymore.
These programs support clear overviews, provide real-time progress reports, and enable more efficient collaboration between project managers and translation vendors. To avoid mishaps, the following key steps need to be followed:
- Internationalization first, localization second;
- Update termbases, glossaries, and definitions regularly;
- Use a TMS to extract translated strings;
- Optimize resource files for specific localization into multiple languages;
- Do not hardcode text or any other user interface elements;
- Localization testing.
What are the advantages of software localization?
Software is a consumer (B2C) and prosumer (B2B) product. Making it available in multiple languages, in their specific localized version, ensures product usability, accessibility, and, in the case of software providers, international reach.
This ability to reach new markets offers the potential to grow the user base and with it the revenue of the software provider. The secondary effect of that is a boost in user satisfaction, which in turn influences retention rates. A software product that is available in the user’s native language facilitates more widespread use and native acceptance.
Software localization also delivers a competitive advantage in the main market segment, making it a great asset for future success and the sustainability of the provider’s economic activity. And independent of the targeted user base, adoption rates can drop if the software product is not offered in their native language.
For most businesses, entering the global economy is increasingly a must. Setting up processes and tools to manage constant localization, across multiple languages and cultures, is a proactive business step that ensures ongoing cross border success for years to come.