Even though English is used extensively in the business world, millions of software users around the globe have millions of preferences. A couple of figures from CSA Research speak for themselves:
- 76% of online shoppers prefer products with information in their language,
- 65% choose content that looks native even if poor quality,
- 40% opt for shopping experiences exclusively in their language.
No wonder that more and more software companies face the need for translating their products into multiple languages. It is exactly here that localization (l10n) – the adaptation of software to global markets – takes the stage. Well-crafted localization makes your software look native, ensures a seamless user experience, and unlocks limitless opportunities for your business.
What Is Localization in Software Development?
By definition, software localization is the process of cultural, linguistic, and technical adaptation of software for a target market, i.e. to a particular locale (a set of parameters that describes the user’s region and the specific language version used there). For example, every Hispanic country in South America has a particular version of the Spanish language, where grammar and vocabulary may vary significantly from region to region. A web or mobile app needs to feel native to each and every user in those regions.
The software localization process is a complex, multi-stage workflow that needs to be handled by various stakeholders.
Most programming languages were created without considering future localization, and that is why many software products need specific preparation beforehand. This process is called internationalization (i18n), and it enables your app to handle multiple languages. During internationalization, software developers watch code for concatenated strings, make sure character encoding is compatible with other platforms and much more.
UX Design Adjustment
Visual culture varies from country to country – for example, color and design preferences in Mexico are very different from those in Sweden. With that in mind, UX designers research visual preferences in a specific market and implement them into the user interface. They also adjust design elements according to the length of the words, which might change dramatically from language to language. Today, good UX design is a key differentiator for companies that want to stay ahead of the competition in the software market.
Translation vs. Localization: What Is the Difference?
Content translation is a cornerstone of the localization process, which is done by professional linguists, preferably target language native speakers. Some use the terms ‘translation’ and ‘localization’ interchangeably. However, there is a big difference. Translation is the process of rendering content from one language to another and refers to the written text only. Usually, the purpose of translation is to convey the original message as precisely as possible.
Localization is a multilayered process that goes beyond mere translation, and it includes the adaptation of measurement units, time and date standards, currencies, adjusting content to cultural requirements, adapting design, etc. Sometimes, localization requires a significant content modification to make it relevant to the specific market.
Cultural Sensitivity Audit, Legal Check, and Quality Assurance
As soon as translations are available, a separate group of experts – quality assurance team – tests the software for potential bugs, visual and linguistic inconsistencies. They also audit software for cultural taboos and other potentially sensitive topics, while the legal team adjusts service documentation and other product elements to the specific market legal regulations.
Legal adjustment usually includes such aspects as local privacy law compliance, disclaimer text requirements, tax information, censorship rules, and more. The purpose of the cultural sensitivity check is to avoid topics that formally stay within the legal field but nevertheless might evoke ambiguous or even negative reactions on the target market.
Why Is Software Localization Important for Business Success?
Even though localization might seem costly at first sight, it is crucial for international expansion and sustainable business growth. A comprehensive localization strategy can help you reach the desired return on investment (ROI) even earlier than you expect. Let us go through the main factors that will make or break your success in taking your business global.
Loyal Client Base
Customers love when brands speak to them in their native language. Even non-natives with excellent command of English prefer content in their mother tongue if there is a choice. This makes it clear that localized software is not just a matter of being understood – it is also a way of showing respect to local customers. High-quality localization helps retain attention and strengthen loyalty, endorse long-term relationships with customers, and ultimately, trust is what makes sales possible.
Faster Customer Acquisition
Even though most of the Internet sites are English, the majority of internet users speak other languages. Here is a fact – in the second quarter of 2020, eight of the ten top markets by app downloads were non-English.
If done properly, localization will allow your software to enter new markets swiftly, start generating revenue from day one upon release and stay ahead of the competition. In this sense entering countries with a potentially lucrative market share – like China – is particularly efficient.
Brand Awareness and Symbolic Capital
Brand awareness is the first step to acquiring new customers, and it is almost impossible without localization. Strong brand awareness means you spend less on advertising costs, and it helps build brand equity, which makes your product attractive to potential customers and investors.
Entering a new market is also a matter of status, which gives you access to symbolic capital. Symbolic capital is a sociology term, and it refers to the resources available to a group or an individual on the basis of prestige or recognition. Symbolic capital gives you a chance to become a part of the local cultural landscape, provides access to high-status opinion-leaders, and ultimately, helps sell your product more easily.
What Are the Advantages of Software Localization Tools?
Top-quality software localization, especially when a product is envisioned to serve multiple markets, is a herculean task. Fortunately, you can rely on a translation management system (TMS), an all-in-one solution that streamlines the whole localization process through smart automation. Not only does it provide centralized access to project files, but it also allows teams across geographies and time zones to work together on your localization projects simultaneously.
Here are the main advantages of software localization tools:
Decreased Time to Market
A translation management system has dozens of features that can speed up delivery, such as translation memory, built-in quality control, integration with various platforms, including workflow management tools, and more.
The example of Kreditech, a German fintech company founded in 2012, is quite remarkable in this respect. With the help of Phrase, a software localization platform, Kreditech was able to make a giant leap from a local startup to an international business, operating in nine countries, with their financial product portfolio available in 30 languages.
Efficient Software Localization Management and Team Collaboration
Localization means you work with multiple people from different cultural backgrounds and time zones which makes software localization management a difficult task. It also implies lots of technical aspects and constant communication between linguists, managers, QA team, and others.
When working with localization and translation management tools, you can invite various specialists in your team at any stage, track their progress, and manage their access to the project documentation. Software localization tools make team collaboration more efficient allowing all the members to see the full picture of the translation process.
Software development is an ongoing process. That is why it is crucial to implement localization into the development cycle as early as possible – it allows you to release the localized versions along with the main one.
A TMS with agile localization ability automatically separates code strings from the translation files. This feature lets developers, linguists, and proofreaders work on a project simultaneously, providing customers with timely updates in all target languages.
Software localization tools allow you to build a comprehensive translation memory – a database consisting of the fragments of the previously translated texts, where each source text fragment corresponds to the target one. Translation memories are at the core of modern translation technology and let translators reuse translated segments from past projects.
Automated Quality Check
The traditional approach to localization used to be based on spreadsheets, where all the translations and reviews were done manually. Leaving ample room for human errors, it led to increased working hours and enormous costs.
A strong software localization tool has a set of quality control instruments that help prevent mistakes and reduce hours. For example, it can automatically check translation fragments for length and syntax, as well as for glossary or placeholder usage.
How Much Does Software Localization Cost?
Cost and return on investment (ROI) are pretty hot topics when it comes to localization. Every project is at some grade unique. However, there are key variables that affect software localization cost.
As outlined above, the initial step of localization is internationalization. Internationalization enables your app for supporting multiple languages and locales. If your product was not planned to be localized, you might run into extra development time and costs. In this case, your development team would have to go through the entire codebase to spot each string of content to get it replaced by the localized one.
Tip: Make sure you start internationalization as early as possible.
When working with translators and linguists, it is essential to understand the market. Some language pairs are more expensive than others due to their rarity. For example, you would need to dig deeper in your pockets if you need a translation from English to Icelandic, compared to translating from English to Spanish.
Tip: Be highly selective and focus your efforts on your most profitable markets.
Software Localization Tool Cost
Some companies still choose not to use a software localization tool for the sake of saving the budget. However, in the long run, this decision might cost you more time and effort than expected as manual work almost regularly delays delivery.
Tip: Do your research before choosing a software localization tool, and make sure it meets these requirements.
Quality Assurance Cost
Before your product gets released, the translated text needs to be proofread and checked for inconsistencies. The best way to check the quality is to hire another native translator to make sure the initial translation works as intended.
Tip: Include quality assurance in your planning early on, and aim for at least one iteration.
What Is the Best Way to Localize a Web Application?
Here are some best-practice examples you should consider for localizing web apps.
Ten Steps To Seamless Internationalization
Well-crafted internationalization is a foundation of a successful localization. This ultimate guide for developers walks you through the most common software localization mistakes to avoid.
Five Life-Saving Hacks for Product Managers
The product manager is like a commander-in-chief of the localization process. This comprehensive five-step manual for product managers gives a general overview of how to make localization hassle-free.
How To Convince Your Boss to Get Rid of Spreadsheets
TMS is a standard in today’s software localization service industry. However, there are still companies that work traditionally – with spreadsheets and lots of manual repetitive work. This powerful convincing article explains why everybody should get rid of spreadsheets right now.
How to Keep Consistency across Languages
Keeping consistency is key to clear communication. In this article Christina Gebken, Localization Manager and TechWriter at ePages shares her experience of how to achieve consistency in the localization process.
What Is the Best Tool for Software Localization?
At first sight, the market is full of various SaaS (software as a service) localization solutions. But not all localization software is created equal – some are more focused on translators and their needs, others target developers or UX designers.
However, if your goal is excellent multi-language content, opt for the universal all-in-one solution, which is convenient and easily accessible for all team members – product manager, developers, translator, decision-makers, and others. Also, make sure it meets quality standards and your business goals.