With the increasing dependency on Artificial Intelligence, search engines, and mobile apps, software localization has become imperative to provide a seamless user experience across regions and cultures. Renowned giants like Apple, Google, Uber, and Airbnb are some of the best examples that have localized their application so far. Users can easily access their services in their native language and enjoy a meaningful experience that aligns with their values and customs, regardless of location. This narrows down to the phenomenon of localizing software. But what exactly is it? How can you do it?

Software localization is the process of adapting software to the linguistic, cultural, and legal requirements of a particular place. In addition to translating text-based parts, this entails adjusting images, layouts, formatting, and other features, adhering to data compliance, device preferences, local legal needs, and technological developments. In this blog, we will discuss what to do and what to avoid while doing software localization. But, before we proceed, let us discuss why software localization is important and all the basics of software localization. 

Why is Software Localization Important?

Making sure software works well for people all over the world is super important. Software Localization is the magic that makes it happen. Here’s why it’s such a big deal:

  • Speak Their Language: Picture this – folks all over the world speak different languages, right? Software Localization makes sure everyone can use an app in their own language. No more language hurdles, just smooth sailing for everyone.
  • Respect the Culture: Every place has its own vibe, its own way of doing things. Localization tweaks software to match that vibe, making it feel like home for users wherever they are.
  • Make it Easy: It’s not just about translating words. Localization makes sure everything feels right – from the buttons you tap to the dates you see. It’s like giving your software a local makeover for a better user experience.
  • Stay on the Right Side of the Law: Some places have rules and regulations you gotta follow. With Software Localization, you stay squeaky clean, meeting all the legal requirements without breaking a sweat.
  • Reaching a Global Audience: By speaking the language and understanding the culture, your software can go places. Think of it like unlocking new levels – you reach more people, grow your business, and make new friends along the way.

Also Read: What is Software Localization?

Benefits of Software Localization

Software localization is of utmost importance if you wish to capture a global audience on your software. It not only translates your software accurately but also culturally adapted. Apart from this, there are various other advantages of localizing software. They are:

Reach More People

Make your software friendlier to folks worldwide by translating it into different languages. This helps it connect with users from various backgrounds and regions, expanding your customer base.

Get Users Hooked

When people use software in their own language, it feels familiar and cozy. They understand it better, which makes them more likely to stick around and use it more.

Build a Global Name

Translating your product isn’t just about languages—it’s about building a brand that people all over recognize and trust. It shows you care about connecting with customers on a deeper level.

Keep Users Happy

Speaking their language isn’t just about functionality; it’s about making users feel seen and appreciated. Happy users stick around and spread the word about your awesome product.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Translating your software sets you apart from competitors who aren’t as tuned in to their users’ needs. It shows you’re ahead of the game and ready to welcome all kinds of users.

Stay on the Right Side of the Law

Adapting your software to different regions’ rules and regulations helps you avoid legal headaches. Plus, it shows you’re committed to doing things by the book.

Boost Your Bottom Line

Breaking language barriers means more people can buy and enjoy your product. That means more sales and more money in your pocket in the long run.

Respect Cultural Differences

It’s not just about language; it’s about understanding and respecting different cultures. Making your software fit in wherever it’s used shows you care about your users’ experiences.

Make Things Easy

When your software speaks their language, users have an easier time figuring it out. That means they can start using it faster and get more out of it in less time.

Get Users on Board Faster

Removing language barriers speeds up the whole process of people starting to use your software. They can jump right in without getting stuck on confusing language.

Software Localization Process

Ready to take your software global? It’s easier than you think! Here’s a quick plan to help you seamlessly translate your software for users worldwide:

Step 1: Project Planning and Preparation

Start by deciding which languages and regions you want to localize your software for. Identify the resources you’ll need, such as translators, engineers, and testers. Create a budget and schedule for the localization project. Choose the tools and technologies that will help streamline the localization process. This planning stage sets the foundation for a successful localization effort.

Step 2: Content Extraction and Analysis

Identify all the content that needs to be translated, including user interface (UI) text, error messages, help documentation, and more. Extract this content, which might involve exporting strings, scripts, or resource files. Analyzing and organizing the content properly ensures nothing gets missed and the translators have everything they need.

Step 3: Text Translation

Translate the extracted content from the source language to the target languages. It’s crucial that the translations accurately reflect the original meaning while considering cultural nuances and context. This step requires skilled translators who are not just fluent in the languages but also understand the cultural context.

Step 4: Cultural Adaptation

Adapt visuals like graphics, icons, and images to fit the cultural preferences of your target audience. Adjust region-specific settings such as date formats, time zones, and currency symbols. This ensures that your software feels native and user-friendly to people in the target region.

Step 5: UI Adaptation

Modify the user interface to accommodate the translated text, which can be longer or shorter than the original. Ensure that buttons, menus, and other UI elements are properly labeled and visually appealing. This step is crucial to maintain a good user experience across different languages.

Step 6: Code Localization

Address any code-related issues that come up due to language differences, such as right-to-left text orientation or different character encodings. Adjust any language-dependent code logic, like sorting algorithms or string manipulation. This ensures the software functions correctly in all target languages.

Step 7: Testing and Quality Assurance

Test the localized software to ensure it functions correctly and that the translations are accurate and culturally appropriate. This involves both linguistic testing (checking the quality of translations) and functional testing (ensuring the software works as expected). Thorough testing helps catch any issues before release.

Step 8: Bug Fixing and Iteration

Address any issues or bugs found during testing. This step involves refining the localization based on feedback to ensure a smooth user experience. Iterative testing and fixing help polish the software and resolve any lingering problems.

Step 9: Documentation Localization

Translate and adapt all user manuals, help files, and any other accompanying materials. This ensures users in the target region have access to all necessary documentation in their native language, enhancing their overall experience with your software.

Step 10: User Feedback and Iteration

Collect feedback from native-speaking users of the target language. Use this feedback to make necessary adjustments and improvements. This real-world input is invaluable for fine-tuning the software and ensuring it meets user expectations.

Step 11: Final Testing and QA

Conduct a final round of testing to ensure that all issues have been resolved and that the software works well in the target language and region. This step is crucial to verify that the localization process is complete and successful.

Step 12: Release and Support

Deploy the localized software to the target market. Provide ongoing support for users in the localized regions, addressing any additional issues that may arise. Continuous support helps maintain user satisfaction and address any new localization-related problems.

9 Do’s and Don’ts for Software Localization Process

Now that we are familiar with the basics of software localization, let us know what to do and what not while localizing your software so that you may reach globally and stay abreast of the curve. 

Do: Develop a Software Localization Strategy

Think of localization as an ongoing strategy, not a one-time task. Before diving into UI design or translating app content, set clear goals for what you want to achieve by adapting your software for different locales.

Key Elements of a Successful Localization Strategy:

Create a Style Guide: Define the tone, terminology, and formatting rules.

Build a Global-Ready Library: Include date and number formats, addresses, currencies, multi-byte character support (important for Asian languages), right-to-left text alignment (for Arabic and Hebrew), and user interface adjustments for different languages.

Allow for Text Expansion: Ensure there’s enough space for translated text, which can be longer than the original.

Use Unicode UTF-8: This standard supports special characters and scripts from various languages.

Translate and Localize Content: Adapt your software’s content to fit the cultural and linguistic context of your target market.

Revise, Test, and Fix Issues: This QA phase ensures that translations and design elements work correctly.

Release Your Localized Product: Launch your software in the new market.

During the QA phase, double-check everything to avoid mistakes. Collaborate with local experts—engineers, marketers, and linguists—to ensure your software fits the new market perfectly.

Don’t: Underestimate UI Design

UI design is crucial for successful software localization. A well-planned design prevents bugs in the localized version and keeps the project on schedule and within budget.

Tips for a Localization-Ready Design:

Include Source Code and Structure: Incorporate these into your localized UI to prevent errors.

Use Design Templates and Test Regularly: This helps catch and fix localization issues early on, such as display or functionality errors.

Use Pseudo-Localization for QA: Pseudo-localization is a great way to test how your software will look in different languages. Instead of translating text, it replaces the source text with a version that mimics the target language’s characteristics. For example, “Account Settings” becomes “[!!! Àççôûñţ Šéţţîñĝš !!!]”.

This process helps identify bugs that might appear in the localized versions. If you support 20 languages, pseudo-localization can help you spot and fix bugs in each one, integrating seamlessly into the development cycle. 

Do: Use Unicode

Make life easier for your engineers and designers by using Unicode character encoding. Most tech solutions today support UTF-8 Unicode, which is great for translating content accurately into any language, no matter the script or special characters. Dr. Ken Lunde, an expert in information processing, even called UTF-8 Unicode “the world’s first intelligent character encoding.”

Unicode is a standard that works well with XML, Java, and JavaScript. It’s especially helpful for localizing content into Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese (CJKV).

Don’t: Hardcode Text

Never hard code text or punctuation in your source code. Doing this creates extra work for engineers who have to extract and manually enter each string into the translation system.

To avoid this hassle, use separate files for each text item, like titles, product names, error messages, and update notifications.

It might seem tempting to use placeholders with hardcoded words or phrases, but this often leads to mistranslations and errors because of the differences in grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation rules between languages. So, it’s best to steer clear of hardcoding text!

Do: Plan for Text Expansion

English: BUY NOW  





English has over 1,000,000 words, while most other languages have fewer than 500,000. This means English text can expand or contract when translated. For instance, “Have a nice day!” in English, it becomes “Ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Tag!” in German, which is 125% longer. Conversely, translating English into Asian languages often shortens the text.

Tip: Plan for text to expand by 30-35%. Make sure to use white space wisely. Keep the original text short and follow best practices for formatting and word choice in software localization.

Don’t: Misuse Icons

Visual elements, not just text, vary in meaning across cultures. Icons can be helpful as they need less translation and can cut costs, but not all symbols are universally understood or neutral. For example, the U.S.-style mailbox might not make sense in other cultures. Always research and avoid using images of hands, feet, animals, and other symbols that might have unintended meanings in different cultures.

Do: Build a Library of Internationalized Elements

Internationalization is key to effective localization. Creating a library of internationalized elements now will save your time and effort when you need to adapt your software for different languages later. These elements include:

User Interface Design: Make sure your UI can easily adapt to different languages.

Sort and Search Functions: Ensure these work correctly across various languages and alphabets.

Multi-byte Character Support: Essential for languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Right-to-Left Language Support: Necessary for languages like Arabic and Hebrew.

Formats for Addresses, Numbers, Dates, and Currencies: Different regions use different formats, so plan for these variations.

Don’t: Make Source Text Too Long

Every language has its own sentence structure and rules. Keeping your source content clear and concise will help minimize translation issues:

Keep Sentences Short: Keep sentences brief and clear.

Use Standard English Order: Stick to the typical subject-verb-object structure.

Break Up Noun Strings: Avoid long chains of nouns strung together.

Stick to One Term for One Concept: Avoid synonyms; consistency is key.

Avoid Humor: Humor often doesn’t translate well.

Clarify Dates, Times, and Measurements: Be explicit to avoid confusion.

Use Relative Pronouns: Include words like “that” and “which” to clarify meaning.

Stay in the Active Voice: It’s clearer and more direct.

Avoid Phrasal Verbs: Use single-word substitutes when possible.

Don’t Use Acronyms: They can be difficult to translate and often lose meaning.

Avoid Idioms: They don’t usually translate well.

Tip: Consistency is Crucial

Avoid turning nouns into verbs (e.g., “file,” “share,” “design”). Decide how each word should be used and stick to it to prevent confusion. This consistency makes translation smoother and more accurate.

Do: Consult with a Localization Expert

Before you start your project, talk to a localization expert and give them all the details they need. This will help make sure everything goes smoothly.

Key Questions to Consider:

Future Plans: Are you planning to expand internationally soon?

Major Customers: Who are your main customers?

Languages: How many languages will your project need?

In-House Team: Do you have your own localization team? How will they work with the new project?

Priorities: What’s most important to you in a translation provider? Speed, quality, cost, or access to specialists?

Extra Tips:

Checklists: Use localization checklists for Android, iOS, and Windows to stay organized. Your localization partner can offer tips and streamlined processes to save you time and money.

DNT Lists: Give your partner a list of terms not to translate (Do-Not-Translate lists). This helps avoid mistakes that could mess up your code if important terms are translated incorrectly.

Also Read: Benefits and Challenges of Software Localization

Wrapping Up

Software localization is a way to reach people worldwide, providing advantages like reaching a wider audience, engaging users more, and building a global brand reputation. Although issues such as text space, differences in the right-to-left languages, and the need for translations may arise, they can be managed with thoughtful planning and professional assistance. Lisan India, a Translation Service Provider, demonstrates expertise in handling language pairs for successful software localization, keeping regional and cultural aspects in mind. By embracing these benefits and tackling challenges effectively, a user-friendly experience can be achieved, and the brand will also establish a strong global presence.

Also Read: 7 Reason Why Software Localization is So Tricky