Little Known Ways to Hassle-Free Software Localization

Check out these six little known ways to hassle-free software localization.

If you’re thinking that “hassle-free” and “software localization” can’t be used in a sentence together, you wouldn’t be the only one. Any product manager who’s coordinated a large-scale localization project will know; it’s not easy to roll out seamlessly from beginning to end. Software localization is hard – dang hard in fact.

Software Localization Challenges

Whether you think of mistranslations, spacing issues, and broken code as challenges or hassles; one thing is certain. This is not a game for beginners. The very fact that software localization involves so many people raises the stakes even higher. The need to marry together different skillsets is tricky when faced with different languages, different time zones, and staff working remotely.

Cultural nuances, technical issues, broken strings, incorrect translations, missing cells, lack of context, confusing spreadsheets… Need I go on? For most localization managers, “hassle-fee” is the last thing they’ve come to expect from their software localization projects.

So if you’re left feeling frustrated about lengthy delays, rising costs, and constant misunderstandings, check out these little-known ways to hassle-free software localization.

1. Choose The Right Translation Management Software

If you’re wondering what translation management software is and how it relates to your localization project, then get ready — your life is about to change. Phrase offers an all-in-one solution that will form the very cornerstone of your localization project.

Designed by software localization experts for product and localization managers, the right translation management software will save you many unnecessary hassles. Like painful, lengthy email threads, or mountains of spreadsheets piling up.

Just imagine running a seamless project where no important information goes astray, no strings are missed, and no comments are left unobserved. No more broken design or disunited teams working at odds with each other.

The right translation management software provides the perfect way of getting all your localization stakeholders on the same page. Your developers can leave easy-to-understand notes for your translators. Your translators can explain the logic behind their actions and why they phrased their sentences in a certain way. They can get context, translate directly onto the website and save time, hassle, and the cost of constant toing and froing.

Because trying to navigate a localization project without translation management software is like trying to navigate a ship in stormy waters without a compass (or GPS). You can try guiding yourself by the position of the stars and the sun; but if the clouds get in your way, you’ll end up steering off course or crashing into something major.

No one wants to crash into an iceberg when trying to deliver fast, flawless results for their clients. Or have requests, documents, and even client orders going missing.

When you’re confident in your translation management software, you can keep your project organized, transparent, and everything in one place. Even messages and chat between translators, product managers, and developers. Nothing gets lost in cyberspace (or translation) ever again.

2. Always Plan on Enough Space

Any translator, interpreter, or linguistic enthusiast knows that not all languages were created equally. And that needs to be made very clear to your software developers and designers. For example, an expression that may constitute just three words in English, could turn into four or five in French or Japanese.

Major world languages like Arabic, read left to right, and some Asian languages, including Chinese are written vertically. What does this mean when it comes to localizing your software? That you need to allow for enough flexibility and space so that the translated text fits into the boundaries of your design.

That doesn’t only apply to your page content or blog passages. It’s not just about leaving room for the page to get longer. Think about your hardcoded design elements, such as your CTAs – Get a Free Trial – in French becomes Obtenez un essai gratuit. In Greek, it’s Λήψη δωρεάν δοκιμής. If you don’t allow for these textual changes and challenges, localizing your software can cause a real headache.

The key to hassle-free software localization starts with your design and making sure that you design with localization in mind. Consider the possible obstacles that different language structures can bring and leave enough space for your strings to stretch or contract as needed.

Trust me, something as simple as a little extra space will save a lot of time and money, and avoid any issues with broken design. Or a translator faced with shortening the text into something that doesn’t make sense and sacrificing the integrity of the translation for the sake of your design. We all know how much they love doing that. 

3. Never Link Your Strings Together

Linking your strings together (or concatenating your strings) can seem like a great idea and a terrific shortcut when you design your initial software. But when it’s time to localize that software into multiple languages, that’s when the cracks will start to appear. As soon as the translators set to work, the problems with concatenating strings will raise their ugly heads.

Your translators will be limited by the boundaries of strings that are linked together in a way that only makes sense for your source language. But go back to those pesky issues of space and format, and the fact that not all languages are created the same. Once your translators get going with context and provide a faithful translation, your nicely united strings will have to be broken apart.

That’s why it’s so important that your software developers have at least a basic knowledge of the work your translators do. They need to understand the fundamental structural differences in languages so that they can code each entire string. It may seem like a lot more work in the beginning, but if you’re planning for large (or even small) scale software localization, this extra programming effort will pay dividends in the end.

4. Pay Attention to Time, Date & Currency

Something as simple as the time, date, or currency can throw up major issues for product managers when it comes to software localization. How so? Aren’t time and date universal? Well, yes and no. While we may agree on the day, date and time universally; what we haven’t been able to bring in synch is the format used to display it. And that can be a problem.

You probably already recognize the varying date and time formats between the US and Europe. Americans lead with the month, whereas much of the rest of the world places the day first. Europe uses a 24-clock (05:30 and 17:30), whereas the States still relies on am and pm to differentiate day from night (5:30 am and 5:30 pm).

But if you think that’s the only measurement issue you’re going to come across in your software localization project, think again. The first day of the week for you is probably Monday (we all love those). But did you know that in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, they start work on Sundays?

In Estonia, a week begins on Saturdays, and in countries like the Maldives, on Fridays. To overcome this problem, you’ll need to code in a universal format and use a program like a jQuery date picker or Java. Making use of these will take the hassle out of universal discrepancies in time and date display.

5. Use Unicode from The Start

While not every platform in the world supports Unicode, it’s now by far the most widely used way of dealing with multiple languages. In most localization projects with Latin languages and newer software, you won’t come across data types that don’t support Unicode.

But if and when you do, you’ll soon find out when your translations break by simply using one wrong character while coding. This often happens when dealing with languages that use a lot of different characters, and can generally be avoided by always using UTF-8. UTF-8 standardizes encodings across browser and server and should be used in every layer of your stack, if you want to make your software localization hassle-free.

6. Don’t Try to Localize Your Software Manually

Finally, (and more importantly of all) don’t try to localize your software manually. If you haven’t caught on by now that it’s time to leave spreadsheets and paper trails in the past, then welcome to 2016.

Manual software localization with all the tools available at your fingertips is like sending a letter by carrier pigeon instead of writing an email, thumbing a WhatsApp or dropping a note in Asana.

It’s time to let spreadsheets go for good and remove the hassles of not knowing what has been translated and what hasn’t, what’s been updated and what’s left to do, and where the string that needs fixing is located.

Just thinking about localizing with spreadsheets gives even the most determined of product managers a headache. If you want a hassle-free way of localizing your software, try Phrase’s all-in-one solution. Keep control over your project, increase efficiency all around and reduce time and cost per project. Grow faster and capture more clients (while keeping hold of your sanity as well).