Software Internationalization How Does It Help Your Global Expansion
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Internationalization and localization are used interchangeably by most people. Do you think they are synonyms? Actually, they’re not. Both terms are related but certainly not identical. Localization is a process of translating the content and modifying the designs to make one’s brand resonate with the interests and cultural nuances of local audiences. Just like translation done by translators, software internationalization is a bit more technical fragment of localization done by developers. Localization, internationalization, and translation are essential parts of a business’s global expansion strategy. Basically, internationalization, just like translation, is another important unit of localization. In this article, we’ll discuss software internationalization and why it is important to make your software product launch successful in international markets. 

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What Is Software Internationalization?

Simply put, software internationalization is the process of preparing your software for localization, so you can launch it smoothly to the global marketplace. Software internationalization is related to the design and development of your software. Just like your translators take care of the user-facing content, developers adapt the code of the software to make it ready to get released in the international marketplace.  The purpose of internationalization is to make the software resonate with the culture and interests of targeted foreign audiences.  Internationalization comes with a lot of time and budget pressure, so you must make sure that your developers are good at it. Only well-practiced and experienced developers are going to provide you with a cost-effective and agile internationalization solution. In case you don’t have an in-house development team to do the job, you can hire any full-service internationalization agency to offer you some practical solutions.

How is Software Internationalization Done?

Although software internationalization is a bit technical aspect of localization, still there are some important points to consider to make sure that you’re doing it right.
  • Keep The Code Separate

To make your code internationalization-friendly, you should avoid doing hard coding that is only compliant with the English language. Your code should be flexible enough to get easily adjusted with different locations. While writing your code, you must keep the localization in mind. For instance, the date, time, currency, and other things can be confusing if you hard-code them. So, if you really want to get some market share from the international marketplace, your code should be compatible with not just the U.S but international standards.  Keeping the code separate would save a lot of time, and make your internationalization process even smoother. It is significant to keep your code clean by the intentional absence of graphics. By doing this, you don’t have to modify the images every time to make them adjust with the culture and interests of your target market. Moreover, you have to make sure that there is no text embedded in the images because it might not get translated to the native languages that might create confusion.
  • Character Coding Generalization

Using Unicode for localization support would make your software coding hassle-free. This code assigns a number to every unique character that separates it from the encoding system, making it more multilingual friendly. Unicode allows you to accommodate every language by understanding global standards, giving you space to fulfill your expansion needs.  As the demand for translations is increasing around the world, businesses are shifting to Unicode, even the big companies like Apple and Microsoft are already using Unicode. This code is so comprehensive, and it categorizes all characters from different languages and dialects worldwide. It also makes the translation process much easier for the translators. Although there is a lot of room to add more things as the need for translations and localization rises.
  • Avoid Mistakes

While doing the internationalization of software, it is important to understand the language formatting changes. When it comes to spacing, the length of words must be considered. Some translation scripts are longer, and some are shorter than your original English text. For instance, the German script is way too much longer than the English words, so you have to modify your layouts a bit to make more room for the translation.  So, it totally depends on the language you are translating your content to, and the demand for spacing would also change. Similarly, you have to keep in mind the scripts that are right-to-left because it is also going to have a substantial impact on the design. Designers have to consider these factors to keep their designs adjustable to diversified regions. If your software design is not compatible with the content, it is considered a major mistake in your localization strategy.
  • Keep It Universal

You have to keep in mind the universal standards if you really want to spread your roots to the international marketplace. As you want to expand your brand globally, you have to make sure that your software structure fulfills global standards. Your code should be universal, which means you must keep the designs and code generic. So, it gets easily modified to meet the criteria of the global marketplace. Based on your target market, your developers would keep internationalizing the code, customizing it to meet global market demands. When you build your software considering the custom configuration, it would get so much easier to internationalize it. If you don’t make your code internationalization-friendly, it would get very frustrating for you to modify it later because now you have to adjust everything from scratch. It would also save you a lot of time and keep the internationalization process cost-effective and agile.
  • Cultural Formatting

Your source code should be formatted in a way that it can recognize the cultural norms and preferences. For this, you have to add localization components and data to your source library. Depending on each location, the formatting for names, dates, time, and phone numbers would change. So, you have to be careful about it.  For instance, the way you are formatting the data in different countries varies, some put days before months and some put months before days. Similarly, some countries follow 12-hour clock and some 24-hour clock, so you can’t put A.M and P.M every time to tell the time. It is very important to keep the formatting based on the standards followed in each region.
  • Use Placeholders

When you are coding, it’s better to create placeholders for the translation text. It would give you an idea about the spacing your text is going to cover and you can adjust the designs and layouts accordingly. Your placeholders will be linking to translation files, searching for the exact language translation to put in front of users. For instance, rather than writing “Add to Cart” on your purchase button, you should add a placeholder that would search across translation files to place the correct translation of “Add to Cart” on the button.  It also depends on which technologies you are using because some technologies offer advanced features for text extraction. Otherwise, you have to do the whole process manually. To support this, you have to add some features to your software like bidirectional text support, markup, CSS support, language identifiers, etc.
  • Hire an Expert

As we have discussed easier, internationalization is a technical task, and your localization team must be experienced enough to do it. When it comes to business expansion, we can’t go along with cutting the corners. You must have a robust internationalization strategy in place to make your software relevant to foreign audiences. For this purpose, you must hire someone experienced enough to understand the cultural distinctions and preferences of your target audience, and do your internationalization in a way that your software fits the international criteria.  Some businesses prefer hiring in-house teams, some get internationalization services from agencies, and others would choose freelancers. How you want to do software internationalization primarily depends on your project scope, and budget. It is better to choose someone who is a native resident and can easily adapt your software to the culture. It is recommended to go for a full-service agency with fair experience in the field; professional agencies have translators, and internationalization experts from around the world to give you the exact software experience you expected.

Best Tools to Internationalize Your Software

  • Application Programming Interface (API)

API is the best tool to keep your translation management system connected to everything you are doing under localization products. From handling the translation and backup project to downloading the data from any application automatically, API is a very useful tool for your software internationalization. By using the API, you would make your localization workflow hassle-free for your team. The best thing about using this tool is, you have to just write your code just once and you can use/modify it unlimited time throughout your localization project.
  • Command Line Interface (CLI)

Although it is one of the essential tools used by developers, even other than localization. This is an amazing tool to support your software internationalization project by helping you download files, add contributors, create projects, etc. CLI is a replacement for mouse or user interface, it allows you to run any operation through a single command. With CLI, you can easily download translation files for English, Arabic, and German. It also allows you to create an automatic script for multiple technologies.
  • In-context Editing Tools

It allows your translators to keep your translations context-friendly by providing guidelines related to the text display. This is a useful tool to keep things on track while dealing with big teams, where translations navigate through multiple translators for approvals and editing. So, with this tool you can easily see the placement of different languages on the user interface.  As you can translate a website in real-time, it allows you to see how your translated content is making changes to the website’s design.
  • Pseudo-localization

This tool gives you an idea about how the content would expand or shrink based on translations in different languages. You will be more mindful about the spacing of the text and the impact it would have on the designs and layouts. In this case, you don’t have a word-to-word translation that is taking up a lot of space on your page. It allows you to keep your user interface optimized, and later on, you can deal with clumsy code.
  • Web-Hooks

This is also an amazing software localization tool that would allow you to send notifications from one app to another. It means, you can easily export your translation files to applications and notify the tools when you download the translation. With these resource files, the application can proceed and automatically use these translation files. You can use this tool in your software localization project to make your file expert task easier, agile, and hassle-free.
  • Source Code Organization

To make things less confusing for your localization team, you must organize your source code by separating files for language. Once you have developed the code, you should compile the information and store it outside the code. Keeping the code separate would allow you to import and export files for different languages without troubling the code. When your code is clean, with organized strings, the translation task would become easier for the team.

Conclusion:

In a nutshell, software internationalization is imperative for businesses that want to make an impact on the global landscape. Of course, it will take up many resources, money, and time to launch your software into the international market. Internationalization is the only way to make your software product relatable to foreign audiences by making it culturally appropriate.  You must hire a well-practiced team of developers to make your software resonate with international audiences. It should be further customized in a way that meets global standards. 
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