Software Localisation for Dummies
A Beginner’s Guide
“Think globally, act locally” is the mantra for software companies and software developers to introduce their software to a new market. However, software localisation is a complex process because of technical aspects such as text length and contextualized differences must be taken into account besides linguistic and cultural context. This process may seem daunting as most developers are not familiar with translation and linguistics. However, learning about Localisation and planning ahead can ensure efficient and cost-effective Localisation. This article discusses the challenges of Localisation and the best practices to address those challenges.
What is Software Localisation?
Software Localisation is the process of adapting and translating software to different languages. This may include regional peculiarities and technical requirements of a target locale. Localisation usually requires modifications to the user-visible components of your software, particularly user interface, images, documentation, etc. Software that is effectively localised enables users to interact in a language and locale that is familiar to them. In other words, software localisation is designing a customisable user-interface and extracting all localisable components (user-visible strings, local data such as date, time, or currency formats, keyboard preference, etc) out of the software’s source code and importing it to external files that can be amended.
The challenges of software localisation
From a technological point of view, the nature of the user interface requires a high level of attention to detail. In particular, a character set can be varied from one language to the other and it can turn a well-designed interface into a puzzle. For example, while English uses the Latin alphabet, Chinese makes use of logograms in their language. Chinese and Japanese scripts run from top to bottom in contrary to that of English scripts. Furthermore, words in some languages tend to be longer than others. Therefore, the extra length in a text can also cause problems for a neatly-designed interface.
Best practices for Localisation
Although there are no specific or standardized rules for governing localisation, we suggest the below 4 best practices that are practical for the localisation process.
1. Integrate localisation into the product development process
Instead of considering localisation as an isolated task in the final stage of your product development, integrate localisation-related tasks at each stage during the software development process, from research & development, to release & maintenance.
2. Use plain language and easy-to-read design features
Avoid using jargon or technical terminology that cannot be understood by outsiders. These industry terms can complicate the translation process or even make translation impossible in some cases. Technical terms also estrange audiences and can elicit less than positive responses in other languages or other cultures.
3. Strings.xml is king
Localisation in the software industry revolves around strings. During your product development, avoid hard code your strings. Instead, default strings.xml files can make it easier to be updated and localised. These strings.xml can be extracted, translated, and integrated back into your software without hassle.
4. Find a comprehensive localisation service
Integrating a team of translators who understand the culture in different countries from the start of your product development is crucial. These teams will help to consult with you to develop software that is appropriate and effective in various cultural settings.
Our translation team with professional translators having the requisite knowledge in a wide range of technical areas, provides accurate localisation. Additionally, elionetwork’s experienced project managers assure that the translation materials are compatible with your software’s user interface to optimize the usability and appearance of your software.