Localizing your software is a complex task, and forgetting a step in the early stages can cause cost overruns or delays later in the project. To help you plan your next localization project, the team at Art One Translations has assembled this software localization checklist based on our years of experience.
1. Code with Localization in Mind
The first item on your software localization checklist takes place long before localization begins: encourage your team to think about localization as they code the UI.
Some things to keep in mind:
Allow room for word growth since some languages require more characters to say the same thing as English.
Do not reuse the same string in different contexts. For example, the word “bookmark” is both a noun and a verb in English, but in French, the verb “to bookmark” is different from the noun. Using one string for both can cause issues in context.
Build in flexibility for correct grammar in other languages. Your translators may need to adjust a sentence based on gender, number, or other variables.
For more details on each of these recommendations, see our article on Best Practices for Successful UI Localization.
2. Determine Your Target Locale(s)
Coordinate with your Sales, Marketing, and Operations team to determine exactly where you will be making your software available. It is not enough to know which languages you want to translate it into; specific countries must be identified.
Let’s take Spanish as an example. Both Colombia and Spain communicate in Spanish, but they use different vocabulary and grammar. Not only that, but any product sold in Spain is subject to EU rules and regulations that may differ dramatically from the ones in force in Colombia. The two countries also have their own cultural norms.
Even within a geographic region, there can be significant differences. Residents of the UK and Ireland largely use the same vocabulary, but their systems of measurement and their currencies are different.
3. Find Your Localization Partner
Once you know what markets you are targeting, the next item on your software localization checklist is to find a language services provider who handles the languages you need.
On a complex localization project, your partner will take charge of involving specialized translators, quality assurance, and even QA testing in the target language. They will also handle the project management so that your team can focus on the other aspects of their work.
4. Identify Your Internal Reviewers and Subject-Matter Experts
Localization projects go more smoothly when internal resources are involved from the beginning. That is why the third item on your software localization checklist is to determine who will be involved.
We suggest that you bring in your internal reviewers and subject-matter experts (SMEs) from the very beginning. SMEs do not necessarily need to be bilingual, as long as they can communicate in either the source or the target language to answer technical questions about the product.
Another tip: designate a single point of contact for each group. When multiple reviewers are involved, it can often lead to contradictory feedback. A lead reviewer can gather feedback from the others and synthesize it before bringing it to the translation team, which will speed up the process.
5. Internationalize Your Software
The next step on your software localization checklist takes place before you extract content for translation. We refer to it as internationalization: the process of ensuring that the software will work for users in different countries, independent of their language.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Users in the United States expect distances to be measured in miles and weights measured in terms of pounds. Across the border, Canadians use kilometers and kilograms.
- Date formats
To an American user, 01/04/2022 refers to January 4th, 2022. But a user in Brazil will read that same date as April 1st, 2022. Software needs to make it easy for users to select and read dates in the format they understand.
A list that has been alphabetized in English and then translated into French without being re-ordered will be difficult to use. A French user will be confused to find États-Unis (the United States) toward the end of a drop-down menu instead of after Éstonie (Estonia).
For more advice on internationalization, we recommend this article.
6. Run a Pseudo-Translation Step
Now that the interface is internationalized, the next item on your software localization checklist is pseudo-translation.
Pseudo-translation is an automated process that replaces the source translation with a fake text (often English with accented characters). It allows developers to check for layout issues and functionality problems. They can also make sure there are no encoding issues that prevent the software from displaying accented or multi-byte characters.
7. Develop a Multilingual Glossary
While this is number 6 on your software localization checklist, it should occur at the same time as steps 4 and 5, so that glossary creation does not delay the project.
After you have identified your SMEs and reviewers, they will need to work alongside your translation provider to develop a robust glossary. The team creating the glossary may consult them about terms from the source material or ask them if they have preferences when multiple translations are possible in the target language.
Your SMEs and reviewers will also want to identify terms that should not be translated, such as trademarks or other brand-specific terms.
8. Develop Test Plans and Use Cases
This is another task on your software localization checklist that needs to take place before other steps can begin.
Test plans will be used in both the pseudo-localization and QA steps of the project. While a multilingual QA team will do the actual work, your QA team knows your software better than anyone. By sharing thorough test plans and use cases in the early stages of the project, they ensure that all content can be extracted for translation.
Once the translation is complete, testers will rely on these use cases to ensure that the localized software has the same functionality as the original, even in edge cases.
For more detail on how software testing is vital for ensuring a quality user experience in every language, see our article on 7 Ways Software Testing Improves Usability and Inclusivity.
9. Prepare User Support In-Language
Let’s zoom out to take in the bigger picture. Once users in the target market begin to purchase your software, are you ready to support them?
Your software localization checklist is incomplete without considering knowledge bases, help articles, and other ways in which you assist your customers.
Translating written support documents can go a long way toward reducing the number of support tickets you receive. One additional item to consider is updating your help docs with screenshots and videos showing the UI in the target language so that users can follow step-by-step directions without the confusion or the need to translate.
If customers still have questions after consulting your help documentation, how else can they contact you? Are your chatbots and call centers set up to support customers who speak the target language? Going even a step further, if you are hiring new support representatives for a language, have you translated training materials so that they have the same training as their colleagues who speak another language?
10. Localize Marketing Material and Other Supporting Content
The last item on your software localization checklist involves another aspect of going to market in a new country: marketing and sales!
Here are some of the other types of material you should plan to translate for a successful go-to-market campaign:
Consider all aspects of your marketing process, from advertisements to content marketing and nurture emails. You may want to translate some—or all—of this content for your new markets, depending on your marketing strategy for each country.
Sales enablement is another essential part of going to market in a new country. If your sales team is going to be contacting customers in that target market, they will want access to the same content and tools that other sales teams use. You may need to translate case studies and white papers and even prepare responses to RFPs or tenders in the target language.
Software Localization Checklist
Items to Localize
Marketing & Sales Materials:
Art One Translations has extensive experience with software localization in most of the world’s major languages. Not only will we help you translate and test your user interface, but we can also tackle all other material associated with your software, from website copy to end-user license agreements. Learn more about our software localization experience, or send us an email to learn more about how we can help you.
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