Structuring your software to accommodate international audiences is essential for any startup with global goals. Known as internationalization (i18n), this allows for the software to easily be translated into different languages as you expand. Here is what you need to know about i18n for your SaaS startup.
What Is Internationalization?
Internationalization is making sure that your software (or website or similar platform) accommodates multiple languages.
According to the Global Policy Forum, this is one of the most important steps that your software as a service startup can take towards globalization.
Because of the difficult spelling, internationalization is often shortened to i18n. This abbreviation was chosen because the word starts with an “I,” ends with an “n,” and is 18 letters long.
It’s important to note that internationalization is not solely about language. It must also take other cultural conventions into account.
For example, The Guardian states that Arabic is read right to left, rather than from left to write like English speakers are used to doing.
Internationalization of your software takes this into account so that your content is easily translated for an Arabic audience.
The goal is to make the backend of your software or website capable of this transition so that you’re able to make localized versions of your product for new markets.
In fact, this in itself clearly highlights the relationship between internationalization and localization.
The concept of internationalization makes your startup ready to go global by enabling you to create localized versions of your software with ease.
Internationalization Best Practices for Your SaaS Startup
Follow these i18n best practices to make implantation easier and more effective.
1. Start as Early as Possible
Don’t wait until you’re ready to go global to implement i18n processes.
As a new SaaS startup, you might not even be thinking in terms of globalization, but don’t let that stop you.
It’s far easier to implement internationalization right now than years down the line when the size of your company makes the scope of the changes much larger.
If at all possible, build i18n into your platform from the beginning, even if you don’t expect to use it much at first.
A head start like this will allow you to seamlessly go global without the gears of your business suddenly grinding to a halt.
2. Research Target Markets
The Internationalization Working Group states that i18n starts with understanding your target markets.
Although the best practice is to create an open-ended platform that’s easy to adapt to new geographic regions, it pays off to research potential markets at the beginning of the process.
This will allow you to come up with an understanding of what your i18n efforts should entail.
3. Take Your Company Culture into Account
HubSpot claims that it’s just as important to take your own company culture into account as it is to research the culture of your target markets.
An understanding of your company culture, particularly your development team, will immensely help you create an optimal i18n plan.
Implementing internationalization in the least intrusive way is key to enabling your team to continue work like normal despite the companywide changes.
4. Implement Global-Ready Design
Thinking global makes i18n much more efficient.
For example, certain photos, graphics, and images translate well from culture to culture while others do not.
Go with elements that do translate well to make the transition from one locale to another even easier.
Layout is another important element to consider. For instance, building a website with a global-ready layout means that this same layout can be used for all geographic regions.
A post by Magento details how to make your website global ready in more detail.
Think about your multilingual platform like a car. Automobile manufacturers typically create one model and then slightly adapt it to each market. A model that’s easily adaptable to more countries is far more effective than one that isn’t.
Internationalization for your SaaS startup should follow the same mindset.
5. Work with a Language Services Provider
Internationalization is a lot to tackle all by yourself.
Even a skilled development team doesn’t have the specialized knowledge of cultural and linguistic differences around the globe.
Not only does working with a language service provider make the i18n process more seamless, but it also ensures that no mistakes are made.
Look for a language services provider with specific experience working with developers to ensure that the translation management service is tailored to your needs.
Internationalization Is a Key Component of Global Success
Internationalization of your software, website, and other platforms ensures that your SaaS startup is global ready.
The earlier you set up all of your platforms for internationalization, the easier the process will be, and the more quickly you’ll be able to work towards true globalization.
Because of the complexities of the internationalization process, it pays off big time to work with an experienced and reputable language services provider.