Learning How to Internationalize Software Enables Faster Localization
Learn how to internationalize software to adapt to emerging location-based markets as opportunities arise. Tackling internationalization challenges during software development helps position your brand for localization throughout international markets, without significant disruption of your workflow. These strategies will prepare your software for adaptation in any locale.
Prepare for Going Global
In the initial stages of product development, you might not be looking too far into the future. After all, it may be years before you’re able to saturate your native market. So why look ahead to international expansion? The answer is that preparation now will save you time and money later. Companies without a progressive business plan stand to lose money after the fact, when time-consuming software changes derail international debuts.
When Hubspot, for example, first entered the market, they weren’t thinking big. Robert Bauch wrote about the company’s experience creating an entirely global product, which required starting back at square one.
Because the brand started its software internationalization midstream, the team realized that not only did they need to embrace localization, but they needed to figure out an innovative way to get the prep work done. Bauch’s advice pertains to new startups, especially those who can build localization into their processes early on.
Planning is vital for speedy modifications downstream. While Hubspot designed their own translation workflow, preventing a slowdown in production, the need for an entirely new process was due to oversights in the beginning stages of development. Prepare for going global as early as possible, and you’re in for a simple internationalization process later.
Design Considerations for Startups
Bridge360 lists three main segments of software development to focus on: data, locale, and user interface. For all three areas, thinking ahead to how native content will run in alternative environments is key. You might sketch out these concepts ahead of time, or possibly you’re reworking them as part of a design overhaul. Either way, strategic development will let you customize location-based details later.
Regarding coding, with the emergence of Unicode, developers often assume this takes care of encoding concerns. However, not all systems use Unicode, despite adaptation from global giants like Microsoft and Apple. Therefore, it’s necessary to look beyond Unicode for universal solutions to language modifications.
Structuring your app to separate user-visible text from executable code is a key tip from Apple’s guide on preparing for a global audience. Prepping for variations in numerical values like dates, prices, and accompanying symbols lets your software work interchangeably in multiple regions.
When considering locale, which includes the target language and region, programming tips include using software strings to encode user-facing elements. However, using strings to encode internally-used data serves no purpose, and can negatively affect the app’s performance across various languages.
Ultimately, learning how to internationalize software focuses primarily on the UI, or user interface. Localizing your app to a target region involves language considerations and cultural quirks. Bridge360’s list of recommendations for optimum user interface results includes:
- Externalizing interface strings into resource files, allowing for changing colors and icons
- Maintaining flexible layouts to account for translation expansion
- Not using culture-specific references or metaphors
- Avoiding reliance on hard-coded formats for dates/times/number formats
As difficult as it is to anticipate your program’s expansion needs in the preliminary stages of development, adherence to these guidelines allows for further customization later.
Localize Marketing Materials
Rather than developing a marketing campaign for use across all international markets, localize the details for each target group. Direct conversion of an English-based marketing campaign into multiple languages isn’t enough when targeting international audiences.
Within the localized software, include relevant cultural references where appropriate. Research local customs and follow conventions, both in any software design elements or customizable elements. Consider such details as the fact that seasons differ regionally, not all cultures celebrate the same holidays, and calendars vary across global boundaries.
While it’s impossible to cater to every detail of each market demographic, this fundamental product foresight and basic cultural awareness will help your team develop a diverse approach to development and translation.
Honing marketing messages for each local market is the first step in catering to diverse audiences, but that process starts with designing software that allows for such changes. Costs shrink when your application follows these prescribed guidelines.
Microsoft shares tips for efficient localization in their post on relevant guidelines. One such tip is running pilot-language software localization as soon as a product becomes functional. This lets developers fix any code issues, plus reduces the odds of needing to correct grammar and spelling errors in subsequent localizing efforts.
Additional time-saving efforts include keeping cosmetic content changes to a minimum unless they enhance the overall value of the product. The less culturally specific elements, colors, or characters in the software, the faster it translates into multiple languages for international revision.
Do you have any more tips on how to internationalize software? Leave us a reply below!