5 Best Practices for Localizing Software Applications

Localization is complicated. There are linguistic issues, technical challenges, formatting problems that will make you crazy. Based on the experience of Transifex users, we have identified 5 best practices that will help you avoid some serious mistakes when localizing software applications. Here they are:

1. Give yourself some room

Did you know that the phrase “Repeat password” is 50% longer in German than in English? This is a real challenge for anyone localizing software. Design is a critical part of a software app. You probably invest as much time and energy in how the app looks as on how it works. Good designers allow room for strings to grow and shrink. Keep in mind that text size will vary across all languages. If you don’t leave yourself some room, localizing into some languages will “break” your design – it will look awkward and have an unnatural feel to it.

You want to allow for a 40% variance in text sizes. This will take care of most strings in most languages, but you will need to test your content and your application to see how it plays out.

2. Never Concatenate Strings

Qualifying one string with another (or combining string in some way) is a shortcut that nobody will notice until your software is localized. But when the translators start working, you’re going to have a big problem. Subtle syntactical differences (where the modifier is placed, for example) change significantly between languages. If not handled properly, you will end up with more bugs than a summer picnic.

The best practice is to code the entire string together and allow your translators to put the words in the correct order for each linguistic context. It’s a bit more work for you up front, but it will definitely pay off in the end.

3. Pay Attention to Punctuation

When you’re coding, you’re in the groove. You want to write strings that you can reuse later – so you leave out the punctuation and plan to add it later. Don’t. Maybe you plan to re-use a string in different context where it might need different punctuation. Don’t do that either.

Always include punctuation in context, and create unique strings for each line of text. Even the same sequence of words may translate differently with different punctuation in different languages. In French, for example, a colon is surrounded by spaces. If you omit the colon in your string, and try to add it later, your French interface will have a typo and your work will look sloppy. Probably not what you had in mind.

4. Give Proper Names Their Due

Depending on the language, the spelling and pronunciation of proper names may change based on how they are used. For example, Joe Smith vs. Smith Joe.

Give extra attention to how you treat names in your software app. It’s best to separate and capture all three main name fields “first”, “last” and “username” for example. This give you the most flexibility to use the names based on both language and context.

5. Use a Universal Format for Date, Time & Currency

Time, date and currency formats vary wildly from country to country. The most commonly know formatting challenge is the month/date/year vs. date/month/year issue. But that’s nothing compared to some of the variations we’ve come across. Think about what day is the first day of the week. Did you know that in Estonia, Saturday is the first day of the week, the US starts on Sunday, the UK on Monday, the Maldives on Friday.

The good news is, you can use the jQuery UI date picker to overcome this challenge. Java can help as well. Code in a universal format like ISO time and then tap an open-source library like Datejs to format for your specific location.

Probably the most important thing to realize when localizing your software application is that doing it manually is out of the question. Not too long ago that’s how it was done. There were lots of spreadsheets tracking what had been translated and what hadn’t, what was updated and what wasn’t. These spreadsheet were sent around via email and were a big hassle to manage. Today with modern localization management platforms like Transifex, all of this (and much more) is managed for you. With any good localization management platform you maintain control of your code and content while greatly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your localization activities.

Cool Community Projects on Transifex: GlobalLeaks, StoryMaker, Martus, Gnu Privacy Guard

We’ve partnered with Localization Lab to bring you community translation projects that support internet freedom and privacy. We hope you’ll take a look and get involved!


GlobalLeaksGlobaLeaks is an Open Source project that empowers anyone to easily set up and maintain an anonymous, censorship-resistant whistleblowing platform.

Go to project »



StoryMaker enables existing and aspiring journalists all over the world to produce and publish professional-grade news with their Android phone, as safely and securely as possible.

Go to project »


Martus logo

Martus is a tool used across the globe by human rights workers, attorneys, journalists, and others to securely document human rights abuses.

Go to project »

Gnu Privacy Guard (GPG)

Gnu Privacy Guard (GPG)

GPG brings the widespread standard in OpenPGP encryption to Android, providing encryption for keeping emails and files private, and for verifying that emails and files are from who you think they are from.

Go to project »


P.S. You can discover more internet freedom-related projects here.

A Simplified Translation Ordering Process

Since the launch of our integrations with TextMaster and Gengo, many of you have come to rely on them for translations. Today, we rolled out updates to the way you order translations from within Transifex, along with some backend optimizations.

Ordering Translations

In the past, when you wanted to order translations, you had to navigate from whichever page you were on back to the Dashboard, then go to the “Order translations” tab. This often involved many clicks. With today’s update, you can order translations directly from the Dashboard, each project’s Details page, Transifex Live, as well as the “My orders” tab, which replaces the “Order translations” tab. Look for the “Order translations” button at the top of these pages.

The actual ordering process is now done through a popup form split into distinct steps for easy navigation. You’ll see the same order form no matter where you initiate the order.

Order Translation UI Update 3

Here are the steps in the order form:

  1. Choose a vendor. Translations are provided by our partners. You can choose between Gengo and TextMaster.
  2. Select the content for translation. You have the option of selecting all resources within a project, or just a specific resource.
  3. Pick the target languages you want your content translated to. Please be sure that your project uses the supported locales for Gengo and TextMaster, e.g. fr and not fr_FR. Otherwise, a new language will be added to your project.
  4. Choose the quality level for your order. On this page, you also have the option of adding additional details about your order, including the tone you want, how translations will be used, and any other comments for the translator.
  5. Review and order. The final step is to review your selections, then place the order. Any comments or instructions included with the strings will be sent to the translators as well.

Depending on where you initiate an order, certain options will be pre-selected. Say you are in Transifex Live, and you’ve selected your website resource, that resource will be pre-selected in step 2 of the form. If you wish order translations for something else, or additional resources, you can still do so in the form.

Tracking Your Orders

After you’ve placed an order, you’ll want to know how it’s progressing. The “My orders” tab shows you the translation order progress and history for the selected organization.

Order Translation UI Update 2

We’ve added additional details about each order. Each order panel now includes the following information:

  • Amount
  • Order date and time
  • Number of words translated
  • Which resource(s) were translated
  • Source and target languages
  • Order status

And at the top right corner of the page, you can filter orders by their completion status: pending, in progress, delivered, and with issues.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Translating Video Subtitles Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

Video is huge – and only getting bigger as more and more people are consuming video content. The latest PEW Internet Report shows that 72% of adult internet users in the US have watched videos on video sharing sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo. It’s no wonder that we keep getting requests to integrate video subtitle translation into Transifex. Well, your wish is our command. Transifex has long supported subtitle file formats. Now with our new Video Subtitle Editor you can translate subtitles while watching the video play. The new Video Subtitle Editor is available as part of the Transifex Premium plan.

We’ve put together a quick video to show you how the new Video Subtitle Editor works:


Subtitles are synchronized with the video, so as the video plays, the subtitles are highlighted accordingly. When you begin typing a translation, the video is automatically paused, giving you time to translate the subtitle. The embedded video player also lets you start/stop the video playback wherever you like. And if you click on a string, the video jumps to the point where that subtitle appears.

The video player is seamlessly integrated into the translation editor, so you can leverage your existing Translation Memory and Glossary. And if you want to see the default editor view without the video, it’s as simple as turning it off in the editor settings. Your video can be hosted on YouTube, Amazon S3, or any other 3rd party site, as long as it’s publicly accessible. Transifex supports all the common formats for full browser compatibility.

Translating video subtitles can be tricky, especially for education, training, or other video-heavy apps. Having the visual feedback of the video gives translators extra context as they translate and review subtitles.

Centralized Machine Translation Settings

If several of your projects share the same Machine Translation service and API key, you’ve probably wished for a central place to add that information once, and have it be applied to all your projects. Starting today, you can manage your Machine Translation settings on an organizational level under Dashboard → Settings → Machine Translation. All the projects within your organization will automatically inherit those settings.

Machine Translation Settings

It’s still possible to use a unique Machine Translation service and API key for each project and override what you saved in the organization settings. Simply go to your project > Manage > Machine Translation and fill in the appropriate info.

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Translating Your Online Store

A note from the Transifex Team: Today we’re happy to have our friends at TextMaster share some useful tips on how to optimize localized websites. Check out their blog for more great ideas and a few guest posts from us!

The beauty of online stores is that you can reach customers around the world without opening up shop in a new location. Many storeowners think that they can just run their site through Google Translate and new customers will be rushing to their (virtual) door. They then feel confused when the weeks go by without a single international sale.

To avoid this kind of frustration, we’re going to show you the right way to translate your online store, with examples of mistakes to steer clear of.

Mistake 1: Using automatic translation tools

This is the number one mistakes that business owners make when trying to translate their online store or even their corporate website. While Google has been improving its machine translation tools, they still have a long way to go, especially for more complex languages.

We always recommend human translation because not only can translators write in the style and tone that you want, but they can also see the context of the text. This is most important for expressions and ambiguous words that may completely change the meaning your of sentence. For example, if your product description for shoes says that they are “to die for”, this may not translate well into other languages; your customers will be wondering why you’re talking about shoes and death. A human translator can replace this with the equivalent phrase that will resonate with your local audience.

Mistake 2: Missing translations

You put effort into your online store – the content, the design, the user experience – so that when visitors come to your store, they’ll be persuaded to buy something. So why wouldn’t you make every language version of your site as effective as the original? When you translate only a few pages (like the product descriptions) and ignore others (like Customer Service), you’re giving your visitors one more reason to abandon their shopping carts.

It’s important to translate everything, from the most obvious – home page, product descriptions – to less obvious, like menus, footers, and text in images. When you make your online store available in your customer’s language, you’re not only making it easier for them to navigate and get the information you want, but you’re also building a strong sense of trust, which is still crucial for online businesses.

Mistake 3: Not keeping your store up to date

You’ve translated your store; great! Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can just forget about it now. Translation is an ongoing process because your store is always changing. Did you add new products? Is there a promotion on your home page? Did you shipping policies change? When you make any additions or changes to your online store, it’s important to update it in the other languages so that your visitors receive the latest information.

Mistake 4: Forgetting to check the layout

The English language is fairly short compared to others like German or French. Your website layout may look perfect in English, but don’t assume that this will be the case when you import your translations. The most important elements to check are your navigation menus, titles, buttons and forms. The text may be cut off or spill over onto other section of your pages. This is another situation where your human translator will come in handy. They can offer shorter synonyms or reword your sentences to fit into your desired layout. As with point #3, it’s important to keep checking the layout of your website whenever you add new products, promotions, etc.

Going beyond translation

We want to leave you with a final thought – the goal of translating your online store is to make a connection with your target audience in a new region. While translating your website into the local language is essential, to be truly local, you need to take into account your customer’s culture and preferences. Regional holidays, currencies, expressions and buying behavior are all important elements to integrate into your multilingual online store.

About TextMaster

TextMaster provides online translation, content writing and proofreading services to over 5000 customers all over the world. With a network of translators and writers specialized in over 40 areas of expertise, TextMaster can handle all types of orders, from marketing content creation to website localization.

Announcing General Availability of Transifex Live

Today, Transifex Live moves out of Beta and is open for everyone. The feedback we received from all of our Beta users was instrumental in getting Transifex Live to this point. A big thanks to everyone who gave it a try and provided such valuable feedback.

Transifex has always had a focus on developers and technical teams. We designed the platform to manage localization content and workflow, to provide a robust user experience for small start-up teams, and to be powerful and customizable for larger corporations. It’s a great platform for companies with experienced teams of international developers or localization managers. But the localization process is still hard for smaller companies just getting started with localization or who want to achieve a lot in a short time. The net-net is that localization is hard.

Localization is hard for developers. It’s a bit of an alien process for them because it requires close collaboration with an external agency who, pretty much, ‘owns’ the global content. Developers typically don’t like someone else to own their content. You lose control over the the user experience which sometimes feels like you’re giving your ‘baby’ to an external company. Plus, the agency is now involved in your product development and release schedule, so they can possibly impact the speed of your team and even your time-to-market.

Localization is hard for marketers too. Automating workflows is a very detailed and technical job. Marketers tend to be more creative and want to spend less time on these types of details. Plus, they have to fight for IT and developer resources for their localization projects which are never at the top of the list of things to be done next. There always seem to be bigger fires to fight. Preparing content for localization is a boring job and error-prone (you might forget phrases) so it tends to get done last.

Our goal with Transifex Live is to make localization accessible to everyone. A few years ago, we took a step back and thought, what technologies can we leverage to make everything about the localization process an order of magnitude easier? To shrink the time needed to take a website global from months to days?

The problem was the fact that today internationalization and localization are separate, disparate processes. There’s a wall between them. This does not allow a seamless experience from content creation to translated content delivery. This is how Translfex Live was born.

Transifex Live addresses this problem head-on with a completely new way of thinking about localization. We designed it to easily integrate into your development process so localization can serve as a strategic investment, rather than an after thought. The new technology stack takes advantage of powerful client-side scripting with JavaScript, allowing developers to have full control over the localized experience of the user. You add a snippet of JavaScript to your code (just like Google Analytics) and it does its thing in the background while you continue to do your thing. Transifex Live collects phrases from live or staging websites so they can be translated, either by freelance translators, an agency or crowdsourced, and then publishes them (via the browser) as visitors hit the site. When someone from Poland visits your site, they dynamically receive Polish content. When you update your content, changes are detected automatically so you never miss a translation.

There’s obviously a lot more to it than that. If you want to learn more check out the Transifex Live documentation. Or view this short video that gives a good overview of how it works.


Transifex Live is helping fulfill our vision of making localization really accessible for everyone. Localization is going to be the key to growth for most companies and it needs to be fully integrated into the core business processes. Transifex Live helps make that possible. Companies will be able to deliver localized experiences which will make customers happy. And when customers are happy, everyone is happy.

Translators Power Ushahidi

A note from the Transifex Team: Our friends at Ushahidi share about their new “Translators Power Ushahidi” campaign and effort to allow more people to report issues from around the world.

The Ushahidi Platform is an open source software that helps communities, activists, companies, and humanitarian organizations gather and share critical information via web, social, and mobile channels. It is a tool for people around the world to tell us what is happening around them or to them during an emergency or disaster and lets other people and organizations quickly respond to these reports. People around the world have used the Ushahidi Platform for collecting reports from citizens on issues ranging from acts of harassment in Egypt to tracking the ebola virus in Liberia.


Last year, during Uchaguzi (our Kenyan election project), we saw members of our Kenyan community, along with our friends at Translators Without Borders pull in a collective effort to bring the Ushahidi Platform’s Swahili translation up from 60% to 100% within a matter of days. This effort helped propel a massive effort to allow Kenyans to protect their vote in a language that everyone could understand.

This year we are launching a campaign dubbed “Translators Power Ushahidi”, in a bid to push for the translation of 15 new languages to more than 80% complete by the end of the year. Translating technology into new languages make it possible for millions more people to access, understand, and wield our tools for humanitarian good. We need your help in extending our reach into new languages.

Through Transifex we have been able to translate all our products into more than 15 languages — which opens the door for millions of people from at least 15 new cultures to gain access to this technology. Thanks to the power of the Transifex platform, we have been able to connect with translators around the world who power Ushahidi by translating the list of words and phrases on the Ushahidi Platform.

But that list didn’t appear out of nowhere; it exists because Robbie Mackay and Sara-Jayne Terp spent hours searching for every word that appears on the Ushahidi Platform site (including the administration pages), wrapping those words with the command {{t “list.phrase”}} and adding them to a translation file. The Phabricator page for this work lists more than 30 front-end files changed in just one monster editing session.

Sara-Jayne admits to being a bit of a language geek, having learnt several languages because of an AI-inspired interest in how language restrictions affect the ways that people think, and doing the usual Natural Language Processing analysis of difficult word orders like Austrian German. The prospect of making a site accessible in hundreds of languages is a bit of a language-geek’s dream, e.g. thinking “how will this work in French, Arabic, Mandarin”. And because of this, and how we’ve seen translators work during crises (e.g. picking the most-used site phrases to translate first), we made a bunch of design decisions that should hopefully make the translation file easier to use.

For example, we don’t just translate individual words, like “edit”; we also translate phrases like “edit post”. We did this from Robbie’s hard-earned experience with the Ushahidi Platform V2 translations: translating into multiple languages means being aware of the quirks of those languages, like gendered adjectives, word order changes (e.g. “blue marker” == “marqueur bleu”) and different punctuations (e.g. Spanish question marks), and the more you can think about this upfront, the less you have to change the translation file to fit new languages and locations (because, y’know, British English is different from American English, Egyptian Arabic different to Saudi Arabic, etc) later.

We also organized the translation file into groups, for two main reasons: grouping common items together so they can be given priority when a new language team starts, and giving context to words and phrases as a clue to the translators on which translations would be most appropriate for them. It also allows a time-limited translation team during sudden onset events like disasters) to choose which groups are most important for them to start with.

Translation is desperately important (as anyone who has ever tried to fill out a customs form in another language quickly finds out (now imagine that sized up to a website where the information you have affects other peoples’ lives). But translation is just part of a larger topic, localisation, that includes things like right-to-left UIs, right-to-left charts, date formats and number formats, and is also part of inclusion: the idea that the design decisions you make on your site affect the people who use it (e.g. people feel more included in a site if it has pictures of people like them, than if you write an inclusion statement: if you’re curious about this, books like Whistling Vivaldi are thought-provoking about this).

We’re working on localisation too, but first we need translations, because without translations we can only reach a fraction of the people who need Ushahidi. So, we invite you to jump in and join the legions of Translators who power Ushahidi.

How Successful Travel Websites Reach Global Customers

A note from the Transifex Team: Today we’re happy to have our friends at TextMaster share some useful tips on how to optimize localized websites. Check out their blog for more great ideas and a few guest posts from us!

Ever wonder why some travel sites seem to have millions of international visitors while others are not so popular? It’s not just big booking websites that get foreign customers; tourist offices, hotel websites and even travel blogs can reach a wide audience by properly managing their translation.

Let’s take a look at what successfully multilingual travel sites have in common and what you can learn from them.

They understand their target audiences

A smart travel business, like any business, knows the needs and wants of their current and potential customers. This means knowing where they are located, their preferences and what languages they speak. It’s important to remember that one country doesn’t necessarily mean one language and by making their web content available in their visitor’s preferred language, they’re able to truly connect with that person. Successful travel businesses also remember to make their websites available in the language of their desired potential market. Just because they don’t have those customers yet, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t make all the information available to them.

They aren’t afraid to localize

When making a multilingual website, many owners stick to one text and just translate it into many languages. This works in many cases, but to really make a connection with their audiences, effective travel sites will localize to their content. This means that for airline booking sites, in January they’ll show summer promotions in Australia and winter promotions in Canada. They also offer special deals for local holidays and translate their content in a style that their audience is comfortable with, whether it’s more or less formal than the original text.

They don’t spread themselves too thin

Even large travel sites know that they cannot change their entire brand identity and product offerings for each region. While they localize as much as possible – currency, seasons, language, and measurements – they still maintain unified messaging and design. After all, if the brand is successful, why reinvent the wheel for every target audience?

They cover all their bases

Good travel sites combine effective content, design and user experience to attract visitors and increase conversions. They avoid making it too difficult get information or navigate their website. Complete website translation is crucial for this; if a visitor can’t get what they need because of poor or missing translation will leave very quickly. Every element of the travel site should be multilingual, from the menus to the forms to the text in pictures. The website should feel as though it was created in that language, rather than translated from another one.

It’s not magic – it’s just localization

Successful travel sites, whether it’s a booking site or a city’s tourist office website, didn’t just magically attract foreign customers. They took the time to truly understand their target audience and adapted their web content so that it really made an impact with them. Luckily, this isn’t reserved for the giants in the industry; every travel company can start reaching a more global audience by properly localizing their website.

About TextMaster

TextMaster provides online translation, content writing and proofreading services to over 5000 customers all over the world. With a network of translators and writers specialized in over 40 areas of expertise, TextMaster can handle all types of orders, from marketing content creation to website localization.

Announcing Transifex Live and our $2.5M round

Today, we have two big, exciting announcements to share with you. We’re announcing Transifex Live, a brand-new JavaScript-based localization technology, and our $2.5M investment round led by NEA.

Transifex Live: Localize with one line of code

Nobody likes the hassle of internationalizing code or dealing with files – they make localization awfully painful. We built Transifex Live, a new technology that eliminates those things and helps you translate websites and online documentation with a single line of JavaScript.

Compared to traditional localization platforms, Transifex Live streamlines the process of collecting, translating and delivering the localized content. Inserting a line of JavaScript is easy, even for a non-technical user, and does not require technical re-configuration of your servers.

Here’s how it works in 3 simple steps:

Collect: Point Transifex Live to the URL of a page you want to translate. Transifex Live will load the page, parse it automatically, and highlight the translatable content. Click a “Collect” button and the strings will be saved to your project in Transifex automatically. And once you make the translations live, any future modifications on the page will automatically be collected by Transifex for you. Use our WYSIWYG editor or simple HTML tags to control which content gets localized.

Translate: Once the content is in Transifex, you can translate it using the classic Transifex methods – online editor, offline, order translations from a vendor. Or… you can use our new in-context translation editor. Translating in the in-context editor is as simple as clicking on a phrase, then typing in a translation. And as you translate, your translation replaces the original text, giving you a live preview of how the finished translation will appear on the page.

Publish: Upload the translations to our CDN and insert one simple line of JavaScript on whatever webpage you want translated. And just like that, your French users will see a French version of your website using JavaScript magic.

Transifex Live ruler

No more marking and extracting strings for translation. No more uploading / downloading files. No more waiting for the next deploy before translations go live. And because our CDN only delivers the translated text, no more giving up control of your page to someone else.

We’re very busy developing Transifex Live and making it ready for public availability. We’re opening up a beta for Transifex Live today to give out early access to the technology. Visit our Transifex Live page to request access to the Beta.

This leads us to our next announcement…

We raised a $2.5M seed investment round

Transifex has been growing organically without the need of external funding so far. This past year we’ve been growing very fast and have been fortunate to have some amazing customers who are trusting their whole go-global strategy to us. In addition, we built Transifex Live, which changes how we’re all thinking about localization. To further our vision of changing how products are launched to a global audience, expand the capabilities of Transifex, and offer the highest level of service to our customers, we decided to welcome some investors into our family.

We are proud to announce that we have raised $2.5M in seed funding led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with support from Toba Capital and Arafura Ventures. They are joined by angel investors Georgios Papadopoulos (founder of Atypon), Ilya Sukhar (founder of Parse), Jonathan Siegel (founder of RightSignature), Panos Kougiouris (previously Senior Director at Citrix), Paul Kenny (founder of Cobone), Sriram Ramachandran (founder of Niara), and Thanos Triant (angel behind Siebel and BrightEdge).

A BIG Thanks

Today marks a huge milestone in our company, and it’s just the beginning. We couldn’t have gotten here without the help of our partners, customers, and the developer and open-source community. Thank you! You guys are great.

Update: Wall Street Journal covered our story too: Transifex is Latest Translation Tech Startup to Draw Seed Investment.