What is software localisation?

Software localisation moves beyond basic translation to adjust a user interface on a cultural level. It isn’t just what you’re saying: it’s how you’re saying it.

We currently live in the era of globalised commerce, and as such, the parameters of the market have shifted to include both competitors and potential customers from all corners of the world. The inherent causal relationship between this expansion and the advance of information technology puts software products in a uniquely competitive marketplace.

Consequently, it is economically beneficial for software producers to facilitate adjustment and innovation in order to cater to the demands of a global marketplace. Software aimed at international consumers and internal staff should be localised and adapted to cater for the vast array of cultural and linguistic differences found amongst users.

And since great user experience depends on how quickly a user can understand and interact with a given page, window, or screen, the more context and cultural familiarity you’re able to provide, the better value your product will have. With more languages, you’ll be able to reach more users around the world.

What is software localisation?

Software localisation can be defined as the process whereby the text and applications of a software product are adapted to the needs of a different cultural and linguistic market. Localisation goes far beyond the translation of linguistic content, taking into account a multitude of other factors including:

• currency
• colour schemes
• address formats
• collating sequences
• national regulations and holidays
• cultural sensitivities
• images
• sounds
• product or service names
• gender roles
• geographic examples
• navigational structure

Beyond linguistic content, a fully localised product should be adapted to such an extent that it has the look and feel of one designed and developed in the native language and culture.

What is internationalisation?

Internationalisation is the adjustment of the planning and implementation of products and services so that they can easily be localised for specific languages and cultures. This process requires a combination of both linguistic and technical expertise, and generally involves both the deploying of new systems and the reengineering of existing ones.

Implementing software localisation requires a repeatable, solid process you can use to ensure no matter how many languages you want to operate in, you’ll be able to do it easily and efficiently.

The case for outsourcing localisation

Although it may seem more cost-effective to localise using in-house resources, contracting a language technology company like thebigword with specialist expertise and knowledge can improve quality and increase accuracy when estimating costs. Localising in-house can lead to cost underestimation, whereas submission through a platform like WordSynk can give a definitive expense report prior to the undertaking of a project.

thebigword offer comprehensive localisation services that cover technical support and a dedicated project management, ensuring that objectives are met within the desired time frame. Given the ever-changing practices of the localisation industry, and the constant technological innovation, using a language technology company allows you to control costs through automation and innovative solutions.

5 best practices when it comes to software localisation

Software localisation can be a tricky process, so follow these simple practises to ensure your project is running swimmingly.

1. Use separate resource files.

Structure your application by including separate files for each language. This step is needed for larger or more unwieldy amounts of text, but if you’re running a smaller app, you can skip this. This means taking all of the text within an application and storing it outside of the actual code. In many cases, by default, the text is hard-coded within an application, but you’ll want to start by separating all of your text by language into separate files so that it’s easy to export and import them without harming the rest of the code.

For file formats, keep the content as clean as possible by nesting the strings to logically group each set of translations. Then, those translation files can be used within a platform such as WordSynk.

2. Verify your images and symbols make sense.

Similarly, in the design phase, you’ll want to make sure the images you’re choosing to include are inclusive and appropriate for each of your target markets. In the UK, the waving hand emoji ? is a common way to say hello or make your text appear friendly. But in Mainland China, that symbol means ending a friendship — the opposite of what you mean!

You’ll want to check all of your images and illustrations not only for potential offensive trip-ups in other markets but also for meaningless or confusing symbols.

3. Be as precise as possible with the locale.

Some languages may be similar, but that doesn’t mean the culture is the same. Even in English, words, phrases, and spellings may be different if you’re in the UK, Canada, the US and Australia. Or, there may be multiple languages spoken within a given market, such as in Belgium, China, or Switzerland.

All of these locales will have slightly different ways of speaking, different cultural expressions, and different ways of approaching your product.

4. Create a style guide

For your messaging and brand to stay consistent across every market, you need to provide your translators context. Creating a style guide is a great way to add this consistency and can answer questions translators have quickly.

5. Use a software localisation platform.

Using a localisation platform like WordSynk can help keep every project organised, on track and eliminate manual tasks. Learn more about embracing automation, workflow transparency, and fast project delivery. Get in touch with us today and see how we can help.