8 Software Localization Mistakes You Should Avoid

Software is an essential part of our everyday lives, quietly running in the background of our homes, cars, and workplaces.

From personal computers and household appliances to mobile devices and web applications, there is hardly a product or service that doesn’t use software. In fact, the global software market is huge.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global business software and services market size was estimated to be USD 429.59 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 474.61 billion in 2022.

Most software is designed in English, which may pose a problem to your expansion plans given that 75% of the global population doesn’t speak the language. This is where software localization comes in.

You need software localization if you’re developing a program, app or a different version of your software for international markets.

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What is Software Localization?

Software localization adapts the language, look and feel of a software or a web product to meet the linguistic, cultural and technical requirements of specific audiences.

Localization goes far beyond translating a software interface and user messages from a source language into target languages. It also involves adapting the following details:

  • Date formats (dd-mm-yyyy versus mm-dd-yyyy)
  • Currency symbols and numbers
  • Calendars (Hebrew and Muslim calendars are based on lunar months, while Japan uses an imperial calendar)
  • Address formats
  • Double-byte characters used in Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese
  • Right-to-left writing systems like Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew
  • Time formats (some countries use the 12-hour clock, others the 24-hour clock)

With software localization, you can make your software user-friendly to audiences everywhere.

To help ensure the success of your software localization project, here are eight common mistakes to avoid:

8 Software Localization Mistakes You Should Avoid

1. Embedding Text into the Code Directly

    One sure-fire way to delay your software localization project is to insert text into the code. It will confuse linguists working on your app, program or website because they won’t know which parts to translate and which to code. Consequently, you´ll lose time and money due to unnecessary delays. Instead, insert all text that will be visible to users (such as product names, titles and error messages) into separate external resource files.

    Give each file a unique name as an identifier and send them to your software localization services company to be translated and localized according to each target market.

    2. Not Supporting Unicode

      UTF-8 stands for “Unicode Transformation Format – 8 bits” and is the most common encoding standard. This is a way of converting from sequences of bytes to sequences of characters and vice versa. More than 90% of websites store characters this way.

      UTF-8 works for almost all languages. However, when it comes to Asian languages, it is better to use UTF-16. Otherwise, the content will come out distorted. For example, Chinese and English use different character encoding standards for encoding content. If the browser and the server don’t use the same character encoding, the characters will get corrupted. As a result, your application could fill up with little squares and question marks. This can happen when the Chinese content on an English-based server receives traffic.

      3. Misusing Icons or Symbols

        Localization isn’t just about the text, it also covers visuals. Icons and symbols are handy shortcuts because they don’t require any words to convey their meanings. But remember that symbols and images (like emojis) can have different meanings in different countries and cultures. What might be positive in one country could be negative in another. Here are a couple of examples:

        In many places, an open single-hand emoji can mean several things like “stop” or “hello.” In Pakistan, it’s an insult.

        Wizarding icons – such as those associated with Merlin, Harry Potter and others – are considered harmless in many places. But in some cultures, a wizard represents something evil.

        Therefore, extreme care must be taken when localizing icons and symbols to ensure that they’re appropriate for the target market.

        4. Specifying the Language but not the Exact Locale

          Sometimes there are variations to the same language, depending on where it is spoken. A simple example is the difference between some UK and US English words. In the United States, people refer to sports/athletic shoes as “tennis shoes” or “running shoes,” while the British people say “trainers.” If you are going on a long road trip in the US, you’ll put your suitcases in the “trunk” of your car; in the UK, the rear of a vehicle is referred to as the “boot.”

          When localizing content, you must consider the country/region, not just the language. It is important to be precise, so use options that help you customize features such as nuanced phrases for each demographic even if they speak the same language. For example, when localizing English, you could offer:

          • en-US – United States
          • en-GB – United Kingdom
          • en-AU – Australia
          • en-CA – Canada

          5. No Space for Text Expansion

            Software localization services have to consider the length of the text, which may vary according to the language used. Not all languages occupy the same amount of space on the page or screen. Don’t assume that every language has the same succinctness and flexibility as English.

            Languages like German, Finnish and Spanish can take up to 30 percent more space than English.

            For example, “we need” translates to “Nosotros necesitamos” in Spanish.

            You must allow for space expansion. Otherwise, you will ruin the look of your website or applications. Developers will have to work overtime to deal with overlapping texts and content stretching outside the interface. A flexible design and a responsive interface that accommodates different texts of various lengths help you to avoid these problems.

            6. Skipping a Term Base or Glossary

              Your software localization project must contain a glossary of terms along with their definitions and approved translations. It specifies how the terms should be translated into their target languages or whether they need to be translated at all. With a localization glossary, you improve translation accuracy and provide greater localization consistency and more efficient localization. A glossary also allows your translators to work faster and more accurately.

              Examples of the types of terms to include in a localization glossary are:

              • Industry jargon
              • Project-specific language
              • Terms with multiple meanings
              • Branding language
              • Frequently used terms
              • Undesired words
              • Words that shouldn´t be translated
              • Abbreviations

              7. Embedding Text in Images

                Never embed text in images when localizing your software. Images are a great way to add the wow factor to your apps. They can make your product easier to understand and, of course, require fewer words, which can reduce costs. However, images can also be problematic if you want to localize them. Text embedded in images cannot be quickly or easily changed. Therefore, try to separate text from any images to avoid problems when switching languages. If the text is on its own, localization is easier.

                Ideally, images should stand on their own without text. If you have to embed text in images, make sure it’s short and doesn’t contain characters, words or symbols that could cause localizing problems.

                8. Inadequate Software Localization Testing 

                  Ignoring this final step could spell disaster for your software localization project. You should conduct localization testing to ensure your product is effective in every region where you want a presence. This will help you identify and fix any issues before launch.

                  There are several types of localization testing, each as crucial as the other:

                  Functional localization testing: This entails looking for errors related to engineering, graphics and artistic elements that could affect a program´s performance. For example, broken or incorrectly displayed text, broken audio and functions that might not work.

                  Linguistic localization testing: This focuses on and resolves problems such as grammatical mistakes, mistranslated sentences, misspelled words, translation inconsistencies and number formatting problems.

                  Regional localization testing: This is to ensure you have considered factors such as local cultural sensitivities, local laws and regulations, as well as data privacy regulations in your target regions.

                  Visual localization testing: This involves inspecting the overall visual design for problems like overly long text, unrecognized characters and UI/UX design problems.

                  To guarantee success, it´s a good idea to perform these tests several times during your software program development.

                  Final Thoughts

                  Software localization ensures your software is easy-to-use for customers in any global market. If you genuinely want to reach different international audiences, you must localize your software in various languages. The only way to do this well and to get the best localization results is to work with experts. Taking shortcuts is not the solution.

                  EC Innovations has more than two decades of experience in providing software localization services. Our internationalization, software translation, localization testing and app store optimization solutions will help you adapt your software product for overseas markets.

                  When you engage our software translation and localization services, you are assured of a high-quality outcome with subject matter experts, user-friendly content in any market, fast turnaround and competitive rates.

                  To learn more about our software localization services, please get in touch with us at info@ecinnovations.com.

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