How Developers Can Effectively Internationalize Code to Set Up for Localization Success

How Developers Can Effectively Internationalize Code to Set Up for Localization Success
Table of contents
Lucy Xu
March 3, 2020
4 min read

For companies small and large, startups and corporations, localization has become a best practice and effective way to expand and reach global audiences. In short, localization is the process of ensuring that all your content and product are properly translated and adapted (or “localized”) into the respective languages of your global target markets.

Like any product-related initiatives, software localization requires a full team effort — from developers to translators and project managers. For developers, whether you have handled the responsibility of localization before or are just embarking on your first localization quest, the entire localization journey to come may seem like an overwhelming task. You may find yourself asking questions like: But how does the code work within all of this? But how will we coordinate across the required teams? But what does the actual process look like and exactly how much harder will it make my role?

While the process of localization can be a long one, especially depending on the complexity of exactly what you are trying to localize, making sure you are up-to-speed on both the must-know foundational elements as well as the best practices of effective localization teams will ensure that you are most effectively and cost-effectively localizing your product.

In this next two posts of our #TXforDevelopers series, we break down the two key phases of localization (internationalization and localization) and then some of the best practices for the steps within each phase.

Phase 1: Internationalization

During this first phase, it’s important to correct the common misconception that internationalization and localization are the same. So, the first step is to make sure you know the difference! Localization is the process of adapting your software to another language, whereas internationalization encompasses all of the design and development practices that will ensure a straightforward localization.

Here are a few of the key things to keep in mind and implement during the internationalization stage:

  • Review your application framework to make sure your software can support your internationalization and localization efforts.
  • Plan ahead for text in other languages because translated text can take more or less space (and even read in the opposite direction!) depending on the target language. This could make the product and content layout funky if you don’t plan ahead accordingly.
  • Code your strings with global expansion in mind, and we recommend Unicode/UTF-8 as the best coding option (unless you are working with Asian languages that require UTF-16).
  • Avoid hard-coded and concatenated strings, to make sure that you can easily automate your localization processes and also make sure you don’t switch up any word order that could change the meaning of translated content in the target language.
  • Provide self-explanatory comments for your strings, which (believe us) will go a long way for translation accuracy and also overall workflow (read: less back-and-forth communication across teams, which means more time saved and fewer headaches!).

Above all, remember that internationalization is different from but vital for localization. Therefore, don’t treat it as a separate step in your development process, but rather as a foundational function that should be integrated into every step of your localization design and development workflows.

Phase 2: Localization

After getting a firm grasp on the international fundamentals above, localization is the next big piece in your puzzle. We’ll go into this in more detail in next week’s post, but as a quick recap and preview: localization platforms help companies evolve from the era of “translated text in spreadsheets” into the tech-driven era of automated continuous localization.

So, to make sure you are setting your company up for global success, select a platform that is able to support multiple source formats, allows your translation and build cycles to be well integrated, and of course, provide localization features specially designed for developers (here are some of the most popular ones).

For the key things and best practices to keep in mind during the localization phase, stay tuned for next week’s #TXforDevelopers post.

Ready to take your translated content live? Download our 2020 Website Translation Checklist to make sure you have all your bases covered.

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Lucy Xu
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