Conditions have never been better for global growth. Technology adoption is on the rise in almost every corner of the world. The number of internet users worldwide has seen a steady growth between 2009 and 2020. Likewise, access to computers and smartphones is on an upward trajectory with half of the households globally owning at least one computer in 2019. As technology penetrates almost every aspect of life and people spend increasing amounts of time online, technology and software companies face a new challenge: adapting their products and services to an increasingly global and diverse market.
With so many new opportunities lining up, software localization plays an increasingly important role in bringing products closer to potential customers around the globe. Its success often relies on a carefully designed software localization strategy that takes account of all the legal, technical, and cultural adjustments your product and localization teams need to make. Let’s have a look at the key steps you need to take to start the localization of your software with confidence.
Plan for Expansion from Day One
If you believe your software product has the potential to be on the virtual shelves of the global marketplace one day, then you need to plan for its localization well in advance. CSA Research has found that 75% of internet users prefer to buy products in their native language, and 60% would never buy from an English-only website. Those are staggering statistics to put localization on the sidelines when growing a business. In order to make your product really stand out, you first have to make it fit in. This is where internationalization comes in.
Internationalization (i18n) in software development simply refers to the process of building the codebase and UX/UI design of your product in a way that can easily adjust to different date and time formats, scripts, and languages to meet the needs of a local market. ‘Buy now’ might be only six characters in English, but its Scottish-Gaelic translation, ‘Ceannaich a-nis,’ might require some UI adjustments to fit better on the screen. This is why careful design planning is crucial in the early stages of your product development in order to support software localization later on.
Set Your Workflow Up for Success
Going beyond the product, you also need to think about the auxiliary items that form part of your localization efforts. These will help your translators, editors, and salespeople on the ground better understand your product and present it to the world in the best possible light.
Brand and Style Guides
A brand and style guide will help your team of translators maintain the same tone of voice across all content translation and ensure consistency across all languages.
Things like user manuals and public knowledge bases also need to be translated so that you can provide the same experience and service level to your new customer base.
Your terms and conditions, as well as legal obligations, might differ from one country to the next. You’d need to be prepared to not only translate these but also make necessary adjustments in order to be in compliance with local regulations.
Finally, make sure the core team who works on the product really understands its features and how they work. Translators are the key players in making your product sound local and familiar to your new customers, yet they can work in silos on specific parts of the product and not understand the full picture of how your software solves your customer’s problems. Providing them with demos will help them see the bigger picture and, therefore, deliver a better translation.
Hire the Right Team
Do you know the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? Well, it takes a great team to localize software.
The success of your localization effort depends, first and foremost, on your team. Here, it’s not only important that you hire the most talented people, but also that you have enough hands on deck to handle the work volume. Finally, make sure you establish systems for collaborative teamwork and fluid communication.
Localization can be a complex process with multiple stakeholders involved at any given time. One missed update or wrongly uploaded file can cause delays in your localization. As a product manager, it’s your responsibility to establish systems of communication where every member is fully informed of deadlines and key project deliverables:
Your developers, localization managers, content writers, editors, and translators all need to have a clear understanding of the ultimate goal of the project. You’d need to communicate the deadline of the overall project but also any individual milestones you want to hit. You’re very likely to manage a distributed team working together from all corners of the world. Introducing tools for this purpose, such as briefings, localization kits, etc., is pivotal to make sure milestones are hit on time and at a high standard.
Think about who else needs to be involved in the localization project, or at the very least informed of its progress. Perhaps you don’t have enough in-house talent and need to hire more translators through agencies and external marketplaces. On the supply chain of things, are your distributors waiting on the timely delivery of your product? Are your partners’ demos of your product dependent on the success of your localization project? Do you need to hire legal and cultural experts to help on the ground?
Think about everyone who’s impacted by this project and establish clear workflows and processes the team needs to follow to make sure everyone is informed.
Rely on a Strong Software Localization Platform
When launching your product into new markets, it’s very easy for expenses to get out of hand as you’re working on hiring the right people and establishing the right partnerships in the local market. You might be tempted to rely on spreadsheets and desktop folders to manage software localization, thinking it’s going to be a one-off project that can save you money.
While spreadsheets might be cheaper (they’re free, after all!), this can cost you an arm and a leg down the line in time spent on rectifying errors, manually updating pages, conversion issues, etc. Not to mention the potential brand damage caused by overlooked typos and poor or literal translation.
Investing in an agile, responsive software localization platform from day one can really make a difference in how quickly and accurately you localize your product. Software localization tools often come with collaboration functionality as well as translation memory to speed up the translation efforts and facilitate communication between your team members.
Here’s what to look for when choosing your software localization platform.
An Open API
Your localization platform needs to interact with many other external tools like the design tools used by the UI team, the machine translation engines, source repositories, and CMSs. Having a software localization platform that can easily integrate and communicate with other tools can remove duplication of work and keep everything streamlined and up to date.
Support for Multiple Localization File Formats
Translators and developers can use different localization formats depending on what they’re translating. Different file formats, such as .XML or .XLIFF, operate differently, and your platform must be able to support all of them if you’re to avoid hiccups in the translation process.
Default and Customizable Workflows
One of the perks of using a dedicated localization tool is that it can help you get organized. A well-established localization platform will come with pre-existing workflows which will be designed based on customer feedback. The tool should also be flexible enough to allow you to create your own custom workflows to fit in well with your localization project.
A localization platform should come with an in-context editor that can spot inconsistencies or common errors in the translation. Additional features like translation memory and a terminology database can really speed up the process by automatically translating texts and phrases that have been translated before while improving speed at the same time.
As the product manager, you need a bird’s-eye view of how the localization project is progressing. Is your team on schedule to hit key milestones? Are users pulling their weight and delivering on their tasks? Are any particular translations behind schedule? Extracting this data from spreadsheets can be the very definition of hell. A solid software localization tool will have this as part of the package.
Software localization can be a big undertaking regardless of how simple or complex your application is. There are several obvious and not-so-obvious aspects you need to consider when preparing yourself and your team for your next localization endeavor.
From building a localization-ready product infrastructure to putting together a solid localization team equipped with a standout software localization platform—all of it will add up towards delivering a standout product across all markets.
If you want to see for yourself how the fastest, leanest, and most reliable localization platform, Phrase, can help you streamline your localization process, sign up for a free 14-day trial today!