4 Steps to Make Software Localization Easier

Our clients often ask us to tell what they can do to make software localization easier and cheaper. Although there isn’t any universal, unambiguous answer to the question, one can do certain things or rules to ease the localization process. These rules guarantee that software is easy and cheap to localize to several languages. Here are the four simple rules to start with:

1. Make sure that the texts in the software are easy to translate.

In this context, “easy to translate” refers to the situation when it is easy to have the right things ready to be translated. This may not be as simple as it sounds, because the translatable parts are written inside the code. Luckily all development tools have guidelines to write software in a localization friendly way. We usually recommend people to follow the instructions of their development tool.

In most simple cases, ensuring smooth localization in the future means just separating all text-to-be-translated in one file. In some development tools the recommended way may be to write the texts as “resource strings”. It’s also very important not to embed any text in the images and pictures in the software.

2. Design the user interface in a way that also the translated texts will fit well.

It’s good to remember that the same expression in different language will require different amount of space on computer screen. Actually this applies to all cases when something is translated from one language to another. The amount of letters in corresponding words in different languages can vary remarkably. For example, if the software developer has fixed the space reserved for the text to be equal to the English text, the localization to German may be problematic because, German expressions and phrases tend to be much longer than their English correspondents.

So develop the user interface so that you have enough space for longer translations. Otherwise you will end up editing the user interface for every language and that requires not only considerable work effort but also complicates your localization process unnecessarily. If you want to save in the localization costs, you definitely want to avoid the situation when you need to hire both translator(s) and some technical guy to adapt the user interface to the translated texts.

3. Make sure all file names and links contain language parameter.

Unfortunately this step is often left overlooked. The reason for this may be the fact that this is not related to the actual text translation. But like the definition says, software localization is much more than just translation. The point here is that it’s not enough to have all the texts translated, also the other language related material should be double checked.

For example, if there is a “Help” button which opens a help file in your software, make sure that it opens a page in correct language. Otherwise your foreign customers can become less satisfied if they don’t get the help in their own language. Or if you have wrong link behind a “Buy”-button you will lose sales when your Spanish (or French or Chinese or Swedish etc.) speaking clients don’t know how to buy in your English speaking web store. So add language parameters to all language sensitive places in the code.

4. Make sure that the translation is easy to outsource.

If localization project includes many languages, you will most likely send the text-to-be-translated to several persons. And normally the effort needed to go through the translation outsourcing is multiplied by the number of languages you want to support. Thus it’s important that this step is as simple as possible. Sending translation packages back and forth between multiple project participants is both frustrating, risky and unnecessary.

Mistakes are always expensive. Therefore we recommend considering all the alternatives to decrease the possibility of having mistakes when dealing with several translation packages. Unfortunately this issue is difficult to remove totally especially if the translator(s) and project manager are located very far from each others. A good planning can anyway help a lot. For our customers, we have created one possible solution called MOTO. It is a way to share the translation packages with the translators online in a way that many translators can work simultaneously and everybody has the real-time information.

As you can see, a good software localization takes many aspects into account. We believe that these simple steps can take you a long way towards smoother, cheaper and faster software localization. What are your ways to improve localization?

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Published by

Multilizer / Niko Papula

I am managing director of Multilizer, a Finnish software company specialising in software for enhancing translation quality, speed and cost.