The 5 Sins of Software Localization

Lucy Xu
March 10, 2020
5 min read

For beginner and expert developers alike, localization can be a daunting task. And whether your development team is working on its first localization project or its one-thousandth, there are some key principles that the most effective global companies follow to ensure success across all stages of the localization process — from translation to development.

After over a decade of taking companies global, we’ve worked with development teams across all company and localization team structures and pinpointed exactly what the most successful global development teams do (and don’t do).

In this post, we break down the key sins of software localization. Share these with your fellow developers, so you know which pitfalls to avoid to help you smoothly travel the path of software localization.

1. Thinking of localization and product development as two separate entities.

One common misconception of software localization is that it is an isolated task that comes only in the last stages of the release of your final localized product. However, this is a big mistake. Instead, keep in mind that localization-related tasks are actually embedded in the entire product development and localization workflow. These tasks will come up at each stage of the software development process, from release to maintenance, and understanding how they integrate along each stage of the process will help you save a lot of extra work and time,

To avoid this pitfall, maintain the mindset that localization and product development must work hand-in-hand in order to smooth out all the bumps along the road of taking your product global. This way, you can properly set the foundation for successful software localization — so your product can be more easily and effectively translated into all your target languages.

2. Overcomplicating your source language.

One common mistake developers in the localization process often make is not keeping the source language simple. While using technical industry jargon or more complex words and phrases in the main user interface and documentation may appeal to a select audience, it often will not have the same effect in other languages and cultures. Sometimes, it may even elicit a negative effect.

When you overcomplicate your source language, you make translation very difficult (or even impossible) and therefore run the high risk of over-complicating the entire product and development process as well. In short, to avoid this sin, keep your code clean and simple.

3. Not putting enough focus on strings.

As a developer, you already know that most of your product efforts involve your strings. This is no different for localization, which fully revolves around all the untranslated and translated strings. Therefore, make sure you fully focus on your strings.

Specifically, externalize all user-visible strings, never hard code strings, avoid concatenated strings, and always provide explanatory comments that will help provide context to all other stakeholders on your localization team (and make your life easier in the long run … trust us).

4. Lack of thorough, transparent cross-team communication.

As with all other product development efforts, and especially when you are shipping new product, communication (and, in fact, over-communication) is key. During the localization process, it is not only vital to communicate within your development team but also across the entire localization team — from the project manager to the translators and even the upper-level management at times. Thorough communication ensures that ever stakeholder will understand exactly where in the localization stage you are and how much is left to go to taking the product global.

To help you ease communication across teams, there are tools like Transifex’s Slack integration that allow you to seamlessly share updates from the software development end to help share relevant, real-time context to the rest of the team.

5. Investing in the wrong localization platform.

Last but not least, one of the largest sins is not taking the time to thoroughly vet and find the comprehensive localization platform that would be the best fit for your team. It’s important to understand that the localization process extends far beyond software development and therefore requires a very robust localization platform that caters not only to the high-level needs of the localization teams but also your specific needs as a developer (since you’ll be the one spending a large amount of time within the platform bringing the localized content to life).

We recommend doing your research to take a closer look at which localization platforms are designed specifically for developers (bonus points if it was built by developers for developers). These platforms will offer a higher level of customization to make the software developers’ role easier through integrations with the tools you are already working with (like GitHub, Python, and Django. Some localization platforms also provide integrated translation providers so you don’t have to spend time creating and managing a team of translators.

Find localization software that will help you avoid these sins and build a strong foundation for the localization process. For more localization tips for developers, download the Localization for Agile Teams Guide. To try out a best-in-class agile localization solution for your localization team, sign up for your 15-day free trial of Transifex.

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Lucy Xu
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