6 Software Localization Practices for Successful Launch in a Foreign Market

Thousands of dollars and hours have been spent researching, developing, strategizing, prototyping, testing, and tweaking your software, and it has successfully launched in the local market. Having assessed the potential returns on investment, your company is ready to transition to the global market. 

However, companies that neglect to adapt their products for new target markets face significant challenges. Food companies, for instance, may run afoul of local regulations, while household appliance manufacturers could encounter issues with incompatible plugs and voltages.

Software companies, like any other business, need to tailor their products to new markets. However, this is not a barrier but a chance to shine. By embracing software localization practices, you can create a memorable first encounter, nurture customer devotion, and secure a leading position as an early entrant in the new market.

So, what is your localization strategy for global expansion, and which software localization practices should you consider before launching your software in a foreign market?

Technical Aspects of Software Localization Practices

1. Thoroughly Check All Aspects of Your Software

Rushing new software to market is an inevitable path to failure. The same precision in scoping, scheduling, and testing that was applied to the native product should be applied to each localized version.

Software localization practices dictate that testing should be done at every stage of the process. This can include:

Remember, the localized software should not just resemble the original. It should be an exact match in terms of look, feel, and function. This ensures that your customers, regardless of their location, experience the same high-quality product.

It is worth emphasizing that this is one of the major software localization practices that companies cannot afford to overlook. If you launch in a new market with a product that does not measure up to the original, your target customers may feel shortchanged. 

You only get one chance to make the first impression. If the software is not up to scratch, that might end your stint in the foreign market.
Software Localization Practices

2. Translate Terms Consistently Across Products and Documentation

As part of a software localization process, companies also translate a variety of other documents, among them:

  • Resource bundles
  • Installation manuals
  • Online help content
  • Legal notices
  • Warranties
  • Privacy policies
  • And any other files that the end user may need to ensure a seamless user experience

Therefore, it would be confusing if a user saw one word used on a button when using the software and another a completely different one used for the same term in the product documentation. 

This is usually a result of poor terminology management during translation. 

Statistics show that terminology inconsistencies are the number one reason that translations need to be redone, which delays a product’s release.

“Managing terminology improves consistency, and that means the quality of your product and the quality of your customers’ experience of your product. It can have an immediate impact on the success of your product or services in the marketplace.”

Uwe Muegge, Head of Terminology, Global Marketing at Facebook

The best software localization practices emphasize the use of term bases and translation memories. These resources allow translators to check how a segment has been translated in the past and maintain consistency of terminology throughout all components of your software.

This is not only one of the most important software localization practices for accuracy but also has other benefits. With a robust translation memory, you can save time and money on future software releases by applying previous translations to subsequent releases.

3. Prepare for Technical Challenges in Production

Best software localization practices require consideration of possible layout issues in a different language.

For German translation, remember that German often combines multiple words into compound nouns, resulting in significantly longer words than their English equivalents. If not properly planned, the length of German words can cause significant text expansion, disrupting the layout.

To avoid this, use flexible UI elements and ensure their scalability to accommodate longer strings. Implement dynamic sizing for text boxes and other containers.

In Korean, each syllable is written as a block, and these blocks should not be split from one line to the next. This means that Korean text flow and spacing need to be handled carefully to maintain readability and to keep the syllable blocks intact. 

For Hebrew and Arabic translations, the Right-to-Left (RTL) direction of these languages should be considered.

Implement support for RTL text, including mirroring the UI elements and using bidirectional algorithms to display mixed-direction text properly. 

Planning UI localization into Romance languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian? Remember that these languages tend to be wordier than English, which leads to text expansion during translation. 

Romance languages also have more complex grammatical structures, which might affect UI text elements like buttons or labels. For best software localization practices, make sure to provide additional space or use adaptive layouts. Use responsive design techniques to ensure that text remains readable and the layout functional at different screen sizes.

To ensure correct functionality and better user experience across different locales, conduct thorough UI testing to identify and fix language-specific issues, ensuring the UI looks good and works well in all target languages.

Internationalization, or the process of designing a software interface that will work in various languages, is best done before starting the localization process.

Cultural Aspects of Software Localization Practices

4. Know Your Legal Obligations in the Target Market

Cultural Aspects of Software Localization Practices

Another consideration for best software localization practices is compliance with local laws, regulations, and standard business practices. Adherence to legal obligations in another country is critically important.

Before launching your software, you should be familiar with the laws and legal norms of each foreign market and comply with them when drafting your terms and conditions. 

For example, the Toubon Law in France guarantees citizens the right to conduct day-to-day French activities. It stipulates the use of French in advertisements, marketing collateral, and instructional documentation, both in hard copy and in software, screen display, sound messages, operating systems, and applications.

If your software will be available in Quebec, you must comply with provincial guidelines on ensuring French user support.

Likewise, you also need to adhere to local regulations about privacy and data storage. North American companies who want to do business in Europe need to ensure that they handle data in accordance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

5. Consider Local Culture

Many cultures differ significantly from the English-speaking world, and even English-speaking countries vary in their cultural specifics. Canadian English, for example, even though it is similar to British and American English, has many specifics.

When planning to localize your software, never assume that what’s normal in Canada or the US will be accepted elsewhere, from sales tactics to customer services.

Your software localization practices need to consider each market’s culture, religion, and even politics. This ensures not only the usability of your software in those markets but also its cultural relevance and acceptability. 

Before you launch, you need to ensure that you adapt your software, supporting documents, and even your marketing collateral to consider local norms.

For example:

  • The meaning of colours varies from one society to another. Red and blue are commonly used for health services in North America, whereas Chinese consumers associate green with health.
  • Connotations change from one culture to the next. For example, North Americans will immediately think of a taxi if they see someone climbing into a bright yellow car. But taxicabs are black in Argentina, so a user in Buenos Aires may not get the subtext.
  • Images need to be localized. Users do not always want to see images of people and places from the source culture—they relate better if the images reflect their surroundings when appropriate.
  • Political context should also be considered. China and Taiwan, Russia and Ukraine, North and South Korea—these and other locations have nuanced political situations that must be considered during localization. Working with in-country experts helps mitigate the risk of making a politically untoward statement. 

6. Build Trust and Confidence with Your Marketing Materials

The Internet is full of stories—some true, some not—about companies whose localization projects failed at the marketing stage. A successful project applies the same software localization practices to marketing so that it is on-brand and culturally relevant.

Colours, fonts, graphics, images, and text placement must be evaluated to suit linguistic, cultural, and societal preferences. A superior product may never reach its potential in a new market if its marketing material is misunderstood, misleading, irreverent, or inappropriate.

Local experts can help detect problems before they reach the public. For example, Honda originally planned to launch its “Fit” model as the “Fitta.” Luckily, before they could take it to market, a Swedish speaker pointed out that “Fitta” has a vulgar meaning in Swedish. The company quickly changed the model’s name to “Jazz” and avoided problems along the way.

Not only can local linguists help prevent problems, but they can also adapt your marketing materials to connect with your target audience truly. Marketing materials are often less formal and more playful than technical texts, and they demand a local touch.

As you can see, bringing software to a new market is a complex and multi-faceted process. 

Partnering with an expert localization provider that adheres to industry-leading software localization practices in place will simplify the process and keep your launch on track. Entrusting localization tasks to professionals makes all the difference in successful software localization. 

We would love to be that partner and help you successfully launch your software in foreign markets.

Art One Translations ensures that proper software localization practices are in place. We leverage the latest tools, standards, and practices—and our team of linguists is exceptional. We work exclusively with native speakers of the target language who reside in your target market, ensuring they are up to date with local trends, vocabulary, and even laws.

With our proven methodology and rigorous QA procedures in translation, we guarantee accuracy and consistency. We are focused on ensuring that your software launches in your new market on time and on budget while making the process seamless for you.

Remember, there is only one chance to make a first impression. 

Contact us today to have our expert team help you with software localization.

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