English-Only Software Development No Longer the Default

English-Only Software Development No Longer the Default

Can you think as far back as possible to when computer software were first developed using only the English language? English was a dominant language and the language of commerce, hence almost every product on the market was written in that language.

The software market has grown tremendously since then and software, including computer programs and games, are now available in many languages for global consumers. This was due to the demand from larger markets outside the country of origin, and translation, specifically localization services, made this possible.

Why localize software?

A software development company is aware of the huge potential for its products to reach wider audiences. Being the best in your country in today’s business terms is no longer good enough. Internationalization is the way to go. Translating software into several languages is expensive, but it is worth the investment because a company will be able to access other markets that in previous years were difficult to reach.

If you are a software developer, it is to your advantage to have your product localized so it can penetrate larger markets. You can start by developing software in your language and have it translated later into other languages. According to Sean Hopwood, President of Day Translations, to facilitate the process, it is best to take into account specific translation and localization issues even before you write the software program. It will greatly help the developers and the translators in their work.

Things to consider

Software localization is not only about translating the user interface. For the software to be accepted in many local markets, it must be adapted to the target market’s culture. This means adapting it to culture-specific traditions as well as linguistic conventions. If you plan to have your software localized, it is best to work with a specialized translation service provider from the beginning, so that their inputs can guide your software development team. Regulations prevalent in the target countries should also be considered.

Software localization tips

The development team should be aware that the software will be localized later. In that case, the software must be written in a way that will make it easy to adapt to the requirements of the target countries.

Coming into play here is internationalization, also called I18N, which is more than translation and localization. This means enabling the parts of the product to accommodate localization. Some of these include:

  • Providing additional spaces in the user interfaces for languages that have more characters than the source language
  • Developing products that will be able to support Unicode or international characters
  • Developing website or print graphic images where text labels can be cheaply translated
  • Employment of written examples that are understood globally
  • Making sure that data space is enough to accommodate translated messages that require multi-byte character codes
  • Use of culturally accepted colors, fonts, icons and images

Keeping these in mind will eliminate the need to re-write the software, saving the company time and money.

Localization and its benefits

Both the customers and developers will benefit from localization. Topping the list is customer preference and satisfaction. Today’s consumers expect the product to be available in the language they are accustomed to using. The market is huge and its growth is continuous so a company’s revenue increases by providing localized versions of their products.

The user will definitely understand the product, manage it better and use it efficiently and effectively. User mistakes are avoided or minimized, which brings down the cost of customer service and technical support.

Localization provides customer satisfaction. This can lead to an increase in the company’s reputation, market performance, competitive edge and brand loyalty. Local consumers will be delighted as they can interact with the software in their own language. If the translation service provider and the software developers work closely together, the result will be a software with intuitive configuration that will allow the following:

  • Messages can be written in local languages.
  • The entry fields such as date, hour, address, name, currency, postal codes are formatted to fit their local requirements and structure.
  • Error messages in the local language will make it easier for the user to find solutions quickly.
  • Provision for different keyboard formats for data entry.

Software localization should be done for every component of the software package. Broadly, these are the user interface (UI), the documentation and online help. Categorically, the UI consists of the resource files, which are the content that users see on menus, error messages, dialog boxes, bitmaps and shapes of the cursor among others.

The software package also includes a help file, readme files and software documentation files (user manuals) that should be localized as well.

Benefits of working with qualified translators

Qualified translators for software development are subject matter experts. They have a firm grasp of the specific vocabulary, a deep knowledge of the technical field and are native speakers of the target languages. It is important for them to be very familiar with the software program to understand fully its content and their context. It is beneficial for both teams to collaborate closely. Working together on the project assures coherence and accuracy. It also means that the things to be translated will be identified early and an effective localization strategy can be drawn out.

It is important to global consumers to have products that speak their own language. This you can achieve by having your software localized. Competition is fierce in the global arena, with various countries having software developers of their own. Localization is your effective tool to gain better foothold in foreign markets. Your success or failure will highly depend on how best you satisfy local consumers.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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