Software Localization: 3 Essential Considerations
Localizing your software will allow you to reach a global audience, tap into new markets, and give your users a better experience. But it can be a challenge if you don’t have the right processes and technology in place. Andrea Tabacchi, Lead Solution Architect at Memsource, shares his key considerations for software localization, as well as common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
One of the biggest and most expensive mistakes you can make is not considering internationalization (i18n). This is the very first step to a successful software localization strategy. Make sure you’re familiar with best practices and are actually putting them into practice before you proceed. Not sure where to start? Microsoft, an i18n pioneer, put together a comprehensive i18n checklist.
What are the three fundamental considerations to ensure stress-free software localization? You’re about to find out.
On-schedule releases are essential. Speed is important regardless of the volume you are translating. This is especially true when working in a continuous delivery setup where you are sending out just a few strings for localization and expect them back in a few hours.
To be able to work at maximum speed you need to provide as much information as possible to your team. Providing context is key to producing quality translations particularly when working on a few strings here and there. Lack of context will result in lower quality translations which will generate more costs for bug fixes and poor UX. To avoid this obstacle, select a technology that is able to provide contextual information and allows stakeholders to easily communicate.
Another obstacle that hinders speed is the availability/scalability of human resources. Your localization team needs to be ready for constant content submissions. And they need to be prepared for volume and scope changes. If your team is not primed, you risk late deliveries or releases, unhappy stakeholders, and lower quality localized content. To overcome this hurdle you need to clarify requirements and expectations with your internal or external team before moving forward with localization.
Technical resources also need to be available and scalable. Suppose that you have achieved process standardization and have integrated your translation management system (TMS) with a repository or CMS. You have to be sure that the technology is scalable enough to sustain the volumes you want to process. And be sure to stress test your technology beforehand – this will save you from any nasty time-out surprises.
You don’t want your support team to be inundated with queries that could have been solved in the localization phase. Sloppy localization can burden support with a spike in calls and damage your company’s reputation. Quality issues can stem from using the wrong resources for the project, setting unrealistic goals (such as impossible deadlines), or providing inadequate context.
These issues can be avoided much in the same way as above – good communication, providing sufficient references and context, and selecting the right resources for the job. You also need to be open to receiving feedback from and giving feedback to stakeholders. If something needs to be improved, it is in the best interest of the team that this is communicated without hard feelings.
Keep track of resources and always spot check the work even if it’s done by your best vendor – but be sure to monitor performance without becoming a control freak. Quality comes from assigning the right person for the job, not by having more eyes to revise the content. Performing random sample checks and acting on feedback will help you bypass unexpected obstacles.
If you want to be 100% sure that the localization is perfect in its context, run some tests on the localized version. You can retrieve some of the test cases you created for the source language and probably cut some parts since testing here would be mainly cosmetic. If you have done your job right and you can live with some minor bugs, you can go ahead without localization testing – as long as it doesn’t break, it’s good to go.
Increasing speed and improving quality aren’t free. The biggest challenges for localization managers isn’t keeping costs down, but getting as much value as possible for the money spent.
To ensure a decent ROI, never stop exploring different technological capabilities. Examine how they can help you reach your goal of providing excellent quality, fast and within budget. From machine translation to finding ways to automate small parts of your daily management tasks, don’t stop looking for ways to optimize your localization workflow.
Be sure to keep an open channel with your technology provider, they’ll be open to discussing all possible solutions to automate tedious tasks and provide more value to your work. And if they’re not, find a new tech provider!
Taking speed, quality, and cost into consideration when localizing your software is essential. Be sure to communicate well with all stakeholders, always provide ample context, and take the time to choose the right resources for the job – both human and tech.