4 Essential best practices for successful software localization

By Acclaro
More info
Global Product Launch Translations

According to CSA Research, 80% of users won’t buy software without local language support. So, it should come as no surprise that global product launch translations play a key role in international adoption. But translation is often part of a larger process known as software localization, which involves adapting a product for a specific market. Without it, your software may seem confusing or unintuitive to international users.        

Before you dedicate resources to an international software launch, take some time to develop a localization strategy that sets your brand up for success.

Why localization matters for a successful international product

Software localization helps ensure that your product will resonate with users in a variety of locales. It allows you to localize the UX and optimize user experiences based on consumer preferences and cultural norms. It typically includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Translating content into the local language(s)
  • Changing design elements and/or images to match cultural norms
  • Adapting the software to meet local and/or regional regulations
  • Adjusting price points to ensure the product is competitive in the new market

This approach is essential for software companies that want to successfully expand into new international markets. It not only gives you a competitive advantage over companies that don’t localize products (well), it also makes it easier to enter new markets.    

Challenges of international software product releases

Software localization involves unique challenges that you need to address early on in the launch planning process. Below is an overview of four common challenges.

Insufficient planning for localization earlier in development

Ideally, software developers should create products with localization in mind. This makes it easier to adapt:

  • Translated content and layouts
  • Design elements
  • User experience
  • Data collection and privacy features

When this isn’t the case, software developers must retrofit the product for localization, which may require delaying the global launch date as well as any future software releases.         

Underestimating the importance of software localization

Software localization is sometimes treated as an afterthought. However, preparing a product for localization is actually an essential part of the development phase. Why? Because the first step involves developing a product that is localization-ready using a process called internationalization. And this will enable you to adapt it for any language or region–without impacting the user experience. 

For example, let’s say you need to localize a software application for the Korean market. A simple translation may provide clear instructions, but the font may be too small to read. Or the difference in character size and text length may alter the formatting, making the app look sloppy. Going beyond the text, translation alone can’t account for the preferences of Korean users, who may like a different layout style or expect additional functionality.

Localizing software as it’s being developed will allow you to avoid these types of errors, and help you ensure it meets the expectations of users in the target market.        

Siloed teams across departments and functions

Localization requires collaboration across multiple departments. Software developers, product managers, marketers, designers, and customer experience specialists, among others, will all be involved at different stages of the process. 

Yet organizational silos can make it difficult for teams to communicate because they don’t fully understand the role each department plays. For example, the marketing team may ask software developers to make a change that should instead be handled by the product team.    

Lack of support from management

Despite the business benefits of software localization, it can be difficult to calculate the potential return on investment (ROI). This means a company’s management team may be less than enthusiastic about making investments in it. Furthermore, they may assume it’s unnecessary because English is widely spoken as a second language in the target market. 

4 Expert translation tips for successful global product releases

Now that you know more about the challenges of software localization, let’s take a look at how to ensure future releases are successful. Here are four tips to follow.

Plan ahead

Don’t wait for an upcoming product release to develop a localization strategy. Instead, make localization part of the overall growth strategy of your company. This will help you get buy-in from stakeholders, ensure the process runs smoothly, and increase the odds of a successful global launch.

Think strategically about how you’ll manage each stage of the process including: 

Which teams will need to be involved and how will you train them? Will you need to invest in new technology? How will you measure success? These are just a few of the questions to ask as you develop a plan.

Ensure your software can be localized by using internationalization

Internationalization, often abbreviated as i18n, is the process of designing software that can be adapted for different languages and regions—without engineering changes. This includes:

  • Separation of the user interface (UI) from the source code.
  • Support for multiple languages and file formats.
  • Support for directionality of different languages (i.e., languages that are read right to left or top to bottom).
  • Cultural preferences, such as user workflows or design elements.
  • Field labels and formatting.    

 By internationalizing your software first, you’ll be able to localize different elements faster and without jeopardizing the functionality of the product.

Design with localization in mind

A localization-friendly design will help you minimize schedule delays and cost-overruns because it can prevent common localization errors. Here are a few design best practices:

  • Use UTF-8, which is the variable-length character encoding standard
  • Use flexible text modules to allow expansion or shrinkage of translated text
  • Don’t hard code text or punctuation
  • Use icons that are universal whenever possible

You can also use pseudolocalization to test and prepare the design before development starts. The process replaces textual elements with an altered version of the original language. For example, “Account Settings” may display as “??? Àççôûñţ Šéţţîñĝš ???”. This will help you visualize how translated text could expand or contract and help you adjust text modules accordingly.  

Leverage a software localization workflow that supports agile development   

Manually managing localization slows agile development. By the time translators finalize the process for one sprint, developers are already in the middle of the next iteration. This not only delays new releases, but may also lead to more errors, which can result in a less than optimal user experience. 

Fortunately, there’s a powerful alternative. Continuous localization allows developers to align localization efforts with the development cycle to speed up product development and releases. The process uses cutting-edge technology to: 

  • Automatically detect new software strings that requires translation
  • Initiate translations
  • Notify stakeholders
  • Automatically synchronize the deliverable files back to the code repository the source files came from

Here’s how it works. Tools such as plugins and API integrations automate the localization process by “pulling” software strings for translation and “pushing” them back into a given file format.

 For example, Acclaro’s continuous translation API allows you to:

  • Order translations directly from your applications
  • Automatically route software strings through our translation process/environment
  • Connect with in-country linguists who provide translations in over 125 languages
  • Receive high-quality translated software strings that are ready for review and release
  • Select turn-around options starting at 4 hours with a continuous localization agreement
  • Scale orders to meet ongoing localization needs

As you can see, continuous localization enables you to launch translations and automate workflows. That makes it an ideal option for software companies that rely on agile development.  

Optimize global user experiences to maximize success

If you want your software product to resonate with global customers, the user experience is key. And that requires effective localization. To succeed, you need a localization partner that understands your product, your industry, the target market’s culture and language preferences—and has the continuous localization technology you need for fast releases.

At Acclaro, we offer all of the above and more. Our localization experts provide the guidance you need at every stage of the process, allowing you to launch a polished product in any language. 

Get started to learn more about how to prepare your software for global growth.

Power your strategic growth

Go beyond tactical localization with tailored, strategic solutions that resonate locally and drive growth globally.

Get started