Understanding software localisation

See what we did here in the heading? We wrote localisation instead of localization. Does that make any difference? Search engines will recognize these words with en_US — en_UK spelling as having the same meaning so that both options will work at the same level in terms of SEO. However, regarding user experience, these spelling differences matter based on the audience's preferences and habits. The worst thing is when businesses use both options for their content (it can be because of an undefined content strategy or tone of voice and because different contractors don't have explicit instructions). Thus, users wouldn't feel the unique business tone of voice, and communication could fail.

But the one-character issue isn't the biggest trouble. What will happen if the marketplace sends you an offer by email to buy tasty cookies with a great discount, but on the website, you will find only biscuits? We predict the user's frustration about missing the foretasted cookies. Below, we collected additional examples of the difference between British and American spelling systems. Such languages are also called pluricentric; we overviewed them in detail in a separate blog post, and this list, besides English, includes Portuguese, German, Spanish, etc.

british and americam english difference

So, above, we overviewed one of the nuances well-known for any successful multilingual business and are at the designation of our topic’s term.

Software localization is a process of adapting software and all related content and communications to the region's requirements in accordance with the company's goals and positioning. It is a much broader topic than just translating content using the correct language and regional-based language version, as it includes a deep understanding of regional preferences, culture, economics, religion, and many other aspects. To make this topic more precise, we split it into three subtopics that are too important to ignore; read below and gain success by going global.

Three components of successful software localization

software localization components

#1 Cultural adaptation as a foundation of the software localization process

Take care about being culturally close to your audience.

First, what you should care about is the understanding of your users. The regular things for the current audience can be offensive to other cultures and lead to misunderstanding. Just a simple examples:

  • It wouldn't be a good practice to show the beef steak in the ads for India (to be honest, it will be one of the worst).
  • Some people in Japan still stigmatize tattoos.
  • The woman's hair or open clothing is unsuitable for content in some Muslim countries.

But above are the facts that are widely known; no less important is to find the tiny nuances that can be a mark "friend or foe" for your users – understand the context they grew up in, references, needs, pain points, and many more. At one time, Coca-Cola made a "knight's move" by launching its "Share a Coke" marketing campaign, providing a great example of product personalization per region. The simple step of writing the names on the bottles doesn't seem like the height of creativity, but it brought an unprecedented sales and revenue increase - 11% compared with the previous year. This campaign is a brilliant example of providing a custom user-targeted experience, a winning strategy that does not require significant effort.

Bypass sensitive subjects

Additionally, you should avoid or accurately communicate through socially sensitive topics. An example of ad failure in this field is Burger King's UK wishes on Twitter for International Women's Day when they first wrote "Women belong in the kitchen" and added the appropriate wishes in an additional tweet. In the end, the company apologized for inappropriate humor.

But the funniest thing, and the reason we decided to provide this example, is that at the same time, the printed New York Times with the same headline did not cause such a reaction. This situation is explained by a chosen source type. Twitter (X.com) is a platform that targets user reactions. Every catchy news or tweet in the feed collects a lot of reposting, so the information is shared through various "social bubbles," which logically increase the number of polar opinions.

burger king communication

Source: Forbes.com

Remember about software design localization.

The design-first approach in software localization is the best practice. Visual information is processed much faster than textual, and users tend to remember 80% of what they see, as opposed to only 20% of what they read. To provide a catchy and user-friendly impression in the new region, you must clearly understand the cultural preferences and sometimes entirely change the software layouts. The components you should care about are:

Look at the Starbucks website changes for Spain and Japan for inspiration.

starbucks design

→ Wanna more examples? Find out how Netflix localized the design based on the direction of the language. The efforts for design localization also depend on the localization strategy. For instance, global standardization doesn't require significant changes, while the multidomestic approach involves rebuilding the entire brand design to imitate the local manufacturer/provider.

#2 Linguistic accuracies as building blocks for software localization

Each correct word spelling, well-aimed term, matched slogan translation, and tone of voice are the tiny building blocks that construct your software localization. Without keeping all these elements error-free, you can't expect to build a solid and user-friendly "house."

Take care of the consistency

The first thing our team suggests when you just start thinking about software localization is to begin collecting a glossary. No matter what software type you have, there should be two main types of terms in your base:

  • The terms that don't require a translation, for example, brand names, proper names, etc.
  • And the terms that require consistent translation throughout the project, such as buttons, items, parts of navigation, feature names, etc.

A glossary is a continuously growing document, so we advise collecting it as soon as possible to provide translators with the main terms from the start of the translation process.

We previously highlighted the potential term issues by the pluricentric languages example with the words "cookies-biscuit." Yet, this error can be easily prevented if translators have a unified translation.

The Lingohub tip for consistency keeping. Providing additional context in a term base (like description or image) is a perfect way to give translators a comprehensive understanding of the project. Lingohub greatly supports such an option; look at how it works below.

lingohub term base

Build a quality assurance process

A slight mistake can cost 60 million dollars... if you are a part of the aerospace industry. One of the most costly typos in history is the Mariner 1 NASA spaceship, whose launch failed because of the missing line over the ("R-bar" or R̄). Another famous misspelling is the 6000 medallions in honor of Pope Francis, which were created with the "Lesus" instead of "Jesus" spelling.

6000 medallions

Of course, the same typos in another case (for example, inside one of the software pages) will not have the same consequences as in the examples above. Still, they, along with line breaks, missed placeholders, word duplication, and clipped text, can ruin the user experience and cause additional issues. Thus, localization testing is required, including UI/UX testing, checking words and sense, date formats and measurement, proper interlinking, and many others.

The quality assurance best practice for software localization is to split the entire process into two stages. The checking tools save time and prevent issues like extra spacing, duplication, or incorrect term usage, while the human at the second stage checks for possible errors with senses and other data.

One such tool is Lingoub quality checks. With it, you can be confident that your translations meet predetermined criteria, as it warns you of any deviation from them. Lingoub also allows you to avoid the common mistakes that often arise from human error and save time.

lingohub quality checks

Include transcreation besides the translation approach

Not all content with a direct translation will be culturally appropriate for the new region, so a transcreation (translation + creativity) will be better for idioms, slogans, and other content with high originality. One of the successful producers of transcreated ideas is Apple. Look at the latest slogan for the iPhone 15, which they are using for two regions, the UK and Ukraine.

  • The UK version: "New camera. New design. Newphoria"
  • The Ukraine version: "Нова камера. Новий дизайн. Це мрійновації."

The "мрійновації" is an unexisting word in the Ukrainian language that contains "мрії + інновації" (dream + innovations) to convey the original meaning.

iphone website localization

We already overviewed the transcreation in detail in our blog, so we highly recommend you read the following materials: → Transcreation best practices How to localize idioms

#3 Technical component as a top for the software localization process

We're at the finish line, but it is too early to relax. If the first two points were mainly about the content, this last is more about polishing the software localization to ensure 100% success.

Take care of the SEO

If you don't have an appropriate specialist on your team, we highly recommend hiring one. The SEO for multilingual software is responsible for how the search engines evaluate and show your content to users. This question is broad and includes:

  • Creating a keywords list for the new region and its successful implementation;
  • Adaptation of the app stores (in case of mobile application) to the new region;
  • Optimization of metadata, like title, description, images ALT's;
  • Control for interlinking and URLs;
  • SEO optimization;
  • and many more.

Don’t forget about Regulations Compliance

Different regions have specific legal requirements related to software localization, including data privacy and accessibility standards. Compliance with these regulations is crucial and vary based on the region; here are only some of them:

To Sum Up

Software localization is a long-term and complex process that requires professional teams, time, financial efforts, and specific tools that can simplify the entire process. We hope this article has provided you with valuable insights and ideas. As a final note, we would like to share one last tip, which sounds like this: "If you can automate something - do this." As a translation management systems provider, we know how challenging localization can be without support, so we created Lingohub.

To make a long story short, we suggest you book a demo call and tell us more about your needs and goals, or you can sign up and try all the features for free for 14 days — or the best thing - doing both actions and going to the top with Lingohub.

Stay awesome!

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