App and software localization is an increasingly popular topic in today’s globally-minded society. Developers, managers, and designers alike are beginning to understand how localization expands a product’s truly global reach. With more locales, comes more users and a higher ROI but I also calls for streamlined processes and collaboration across professions.
In most cases, localization is a wise business decision - it just makes sense to expand into new markets by translating your product. That being said, not every app or software is ready for localization. If it isn’t quite ready, this can introduce costly delays and additional effort. Even worse, an improperly localized product can prove frustrating to your international user base.
At Applanga, we want to help you avoid common headaches while expanding into new markets quickly. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips and tricks to ensure your app is ready for localization.
Getting Ready for Localization
Separate the strings from the code
Translators aren’t developers (usually.) Translators shouldn’t work on files where text for translation is mixed with code - it’s a recipe for disaster! That’s why it’s important to use separate resource files for all strings within an app. It also makes the translator's job much easier allowing you to get translations faster.
Space for translation - text expansion
Some languages are naturally longer than others, while other languages use a few characters to convey the same meaning. Then there’s some languages that might also require larger font sizes to ensure complex characters are still legible. To accommodate for the range of language and scripts, you should aim for at least 50% extra space to allow for text expansion. This space can be used for expanding or contracting the text (depending on the language.) Without that extra space, you could end up with overlapping text or stressed translators searching for obscure synonyms to fit limited spacing.
Support for different alphabets, scripts, and special characters
In addition to planning for text expansion, you should also plan to support special characters per language, right-to-left languages, and double-byte characters. In this case, you’ll want to use encoding that supports special characters used in languages like Spanish or German. Use a data type that can handle Unicode - UTF-8 works best for most languages. Without it, you may experience issues with the coding of a character versus the way it is decoded.
Accommodate for different formats - date, time, units
Try to avoid hard-coding numbers, units, dates, and times. Each language or locale can differ in their display of dates and times. Currencies will, of course, depend on the country. Hard-coding these formats will prevent you from easily localizing these types of fields.
Testing with Pseudo-translation
Not sure if your app or software is properly prepped for localization? Try testing with pseudo-translations. Pseudo-translation is the process of mimicking translations using random characters, including special characters for a given language. To a native speaker of the language, the translations will look like gibberish. However, this can help identify and fix issues early in the localization process - like fonts not supporting certain characters, elements that remain hard-coded, a lack of space for translations, and other common localization problems.
Help Your Translators
With technical localization preparations on the mind, now might be a good time to help your translators out too! There are a couple of ways to make a translator’s job easier and help you get quality translations faster.
Develop a glossary to ensure consistent translation
This is a list of terms or phrases that should be translated consistently across an app or software. Think things like branding, product terminology, and acronyms. Providing translators with a glossary will help them with tricky phrasing and help cut down on back and forth questions.
Create a style guide
Does your software or app have a more formal or informal tone? Is your audience more technically inclined or do they need complex concepts broken down? Keep this in mind when creating a style guide for translators. The style guide will help them provide more accurate translations tailored to your audience.
Context is key
Last, but certainly not least, context is key! Give your translators as much context as possible including background information about your product, screenshots navigating through the screens, or anything else you think will provide that valuable context. This will quickly show your translators what an app is about, what it does, and how text is used to convey information to users.
While app and software localization can become a long and convoluted process, we hope these tips and tricks will get you started on a relatively painless localization journey. The advice included here should help you avoid common issues and create productive partnerships with your translators or translation agencies. With a little bit of elbow grease, you can get those high quality translations leading to happy users across the globe!