Software Localization: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated May 21, 2021

Here’s how software localization ensures the efficient and cost-effective expansion of your product around the world.

Software localization is the adaptation of your program or app to meet the requirements of a specific language and culture.

The process typically requires modifications to the user interface, including all images, text, and multimedia.

Software that has been successfully localized will have the look and feel of a product that looks and runs like it was developed for the user in any given region around the world.

Why is this important? Consider that approximately 45% of the world’s app downloads come from China and you can start to see why it’s prudent to make sure your software is accessible in massive markets where English isn’t the first language.

What’s involved in software localization?

The process of localization requires adjusting code, error strings and messages, online help, end-user license agreements, legal requirements, technical specifications, and other assets—all with global markets in mind.

It’s also necessary to tailor units of measurement and the formatting formats of numbers, time, and dates. Payment methods and currencies also must be localized.

This ensures the compatibility of fonts and makes sure you meet requirements relating to copyright or data security procedures applicable in each region.

There are six key steps to software localization:

  1. Identify resource files to translate
  2. Translate content
  3. Review translations for errors
  4. Place translated files into your code structure
  5. Resize dialog boxes as needed
  6. Build, compile, and test resulting software for all target markets

You should also remember to translate your software into languages using alphabets other than that in which the source text was written. If English software is translated into Japanese or Arabic, the screen will look completely different.

The content and buttons should also be moved accordingly. That’s why the layout of the user interface must allow for any alterations.

All source elements should be prepared (or created from scratch) to be translatable. This applies both to the creative part (the design) and the technical one (the code). This is what is referred to as internationalization.

This involves, for example, installation of appropriate extensions that will automatically adapt the screen layout to the language or encoding in Unicode/UTF-8 (which works perfectly in most languages, although when it comes to Asian languages, it is better to use UTF-16).

Finally, remember that space occupied by different languages varies. German, for example, is a language in which extremely long words are used. English, on the other hand, is one of the most concise languages.

Why Software Localization is Important for International Businesses

Companies that don’t adhere to the cultural and linguistic norms of their target customers risk losing the public’s trust. It’s as simple as that.

Many start-ups emerged during the age of globalization and therefore understand the need for localization and translation services to reach a variety of markets.

But localization is important for businesses of all sizes. Focusing only on English-speaking markets neglects a sizable chunk of the world population.

There are approximately 7.8 billion people around the world, and 1.35 billion speak English. Additionally, only about 360 million people speak English as their first language, meaning most of the world’s English speaking population is more comfortable working with other languages.

Even in single-language countries, many potential customers may speak a different language.  And if your target market is bilingual, some may be more comfortable with one language over the other.

For example, translating your website to Spanish is necessary in the US, as 13.3% of the U.S. population, aged 5 and older, speaks Spanish.

Here are three reasons why software localization is important for international businesses:

1. Reach New Markets Fast

Incorporate internationalization and localization into your software’s development early on. That way, you’ll be ready to deploy to more markets once your product is ready. It’s a much more expensive and time-consuming process to localize software after the fact.

Before engaging in a localization effort, identify the most promising markets for your product. You can use this information to determine where to start your campaign.

Agile software development helps you deploy your products even faster. Doing a complete overhaul of your product is too expensive. Thus, you should use a team of linguists, translators, engineers, and developers to deliver results in sprints.

2. Expand Your Customer Base

Your customer base represents repeat customers who renew and keep using your product.

Localization ensures your customers enjoy your product and share their experience with others. As new customers become repeat customers, you’ll create more reliable revenue streams.

If your software is accessible to those communities, you’ll see more benefits. Word-of-mouth marketing and social media chatter can help you boost your customer base.

3. Improve the User Experience

In software, user experience (UX) is more important than any other feature.

Every dollar invested in UX returns $10 to $100 to your company. By localizing your software, you are significantly enhancing user experiences all over the world.

Localization allows your software to conform to the cultural norms and linguistic trends of the people who will be using it in any given geographic region.

It will be obvious to the user if it seems as though your app was adapted as an afterthought, and negative user experiences often lead to bad reviews.

Since we often look at average star ratings and user feedback before making a choice between competing apps, a localized user experience will help yours stand out from the rest.

Get the Right Software Localization Services

Making software accessible and practical in another language is no simple task. Don’t assume you can start the process once your software hits the market.

Localization requires years of experience in translation and an understanding of app and software development.

Summa Linguae Technologies provides businesses around the world with software localization and translation services.

We can convert your products into new languages and localize them for use by new customers.

Our focus is on quality, service, and innovation. Our goal is that both you and your end-users thrive and become successful.

Whether you need a simple translation or an overhaul of your user interface, SLT works to understand your goals and help you develop a plan for localization.

Contact us today to get started.

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