Localization; A brief Guide!

December 13th, 2018 Localization

Localization is touted to be a $56 billion industry by 2021. The growing demand for localization stems from the fact that all product manufacturers and service providers wish to penetrate markets that have not been previously captured by their product or service. In some cases, businesses are keen to reestablish themselves in a given market to realize the complete potential on offer. Localization as a service looks to address language, cultural or any other characteristic akin to a geography. Thus, localization means customizing of products and services taking into consideration the language, cultural and technical demands or requirements of a region and is applicable across domains and industries.

What is Internationalization in respect to localization?

While localization is a broad term that pertains to the customization of a product or service for a region, Internationalization is the process applied to carry out localization. In other words, internationalization is a step by step process that evaluates and considers various factors to enable localization.
Internationalization is also referred to as ‘I18N’ where I stand’s as the first alphabet followed by 18 other alphabets, ending with N to form the word Internationalization.


How does localization relate to Globalization?

Theodore Levitt, former Harvard professor is credited for having coined the word globalization. His concept of globalization first appeared in a 1983 Harvard Business Review article, titled, ‘The Globalization of Markets’. The concept of globalization shed light on the growing need for multinationals to offer their products and services to a global audience. The concept of globalization remains the same and relates to businesses spreading their operations across the globe to serve the global populace to experience sustained growth and expansion.

Translation is a feature of localization

Widespread perception of localization is that it is primarily a process of translation that works to translate a piece of content could be text or audio from source language to the language of choice. While translation is an important aspect of localization, it is not the end all, as localization tries to effectively address cultural, language and technical requirements with emphasis on translation, transliteration, context, intent, regional preference, linguistic conventions etc.

Scope of localization

Presenting products and services to native audiences taking into consideration their cultural and linguistic preferences creates a win-win situation for both businesses and the end users. Most businesses today acknowledge the benefits, localizing their products and services can accrue, as such most businesses from different industries are looking to partner with service providers to improve reach and impact. Software companies developing applications or other software are keenly studying the needs and requirements of demography’s customizing their products to successfully fit into different landscapes or markets. It is the same with publishing houses that aim to establish a strong connect with their reader base, producing and serving content that is most relevant to a region or populace. Government as well as non-government organizations are trying to deliver communication that is more impactful and far reaching. Manufacturers are marketing and labeling their products to cater to specific locales. In a nutshell localization has become a prerogative that every industry plans to invest in or has already invested in.

What are the benefits of localization?

The advent of the internet age and the rapid growth in number of smart phone users has further stiffened the competition for businesses. Today’s customer is truly the king as she can very conveniently decide on products and services she wishes to consume by surfing the net on her mobile device. With such stiff competition it becomes imperative for businesses to look at newer avenues to connect and convert prospective customers. It is here that localization or customization perfectly fits the bill providing multiple advantages such as;

Localization aide’s globalization

Most businesses aim to first capture local markets which is usually the place they originate from to ensure sustainability. Second on their list is to make their products and services global. Every business dreams of getting recognized as a multinational corporation which has presence around the globe. Customizing products and service for the native populace is the first step towards ensuring the dream of becoming a global entity is realized without hurdles.

Localization enhances the Scope for expansion and growth

Businesses are always on the lookout for expansion and growth into newer markets. Personalizing products and services for a demography enables businesses to expand reach, capture new markets and experience sustainable growth.

Localization gives businesses a competitive edge

Localizing products and services for a specific region or location gives businesses the much-needed competitive edge. Localized products and services resonate better with the native audience, increasing consumption rates. Increasing consumption translates into greater acceptance and increase in revenues which in turn helps businesses hold a competitive edge over others.

Localization helps create individual identity

Personalizing at scale means the product or service is ready for consumption for the larger native populace. Catering to the cultural needs and requirements of a region augurs good for the product or service which gains immensely on recall value and brand identity. Localizing of products, services, communications, other verticals and delivery ensures the creating of a distinct identity as it is easily relatable by most people.


What is software localization?

Software localization is the process of customizing software for a specific demography, taking into consideration the linguistic, cultural and technical requirements of the targeted populace. The process of Software localization is a labor-intensive process that requires dedicated and skilled expertise.
Software localization is also referred to as l10n and is a must have requisite for businesses looking to sell their software products around the globe. Mentioned below are a few reasons why software localization is important for you;

  • 50% of the countries within Top 10 for downloads and revenue in iOS AppStore are non-English-speaking countries from EU and East Asia
  • 86% of the localized campaigns outperformed the English campaigns in both click-throughs and conversions.
  • 55% consumers prefer to buy products from website that provide them product information in their native language.


How software localization works?

Software localization requires a perfect balance of linguistic and technical expertise that compliments the cultural nuances of the targeted demography. Effective and successful software localization requires vendors adhere to a standard process. The standard procedure for software localization is lined out below;

Design Software UI for Localization

It involves extracting translatable text, translation of extracted texts, integrating the translation back to UI strings, checking the layout and ensuring that all translated text fits to the UI layout.

Translation of Software Strings

It involves translation of the extracted text, integrating the translation back to software files, using proprietary tools, reviewing and proofreading the translated text to ensure translation has been fully and properly implemented in the final output file.

Testing for Quality Assurance

This involves Localization Readiness Testing, Linguistic Testing, Functionality Testing, International Testing, and Regression Testing; localization issues are fixed in the light of any possible failed test cases.


Final Quality check for the localized files is performed before delivery as per previously prepared checklist. Final output files are delivered as scheduled.

Challenges in software localization?

As suggested previously software localization is a complex process requiring specific expertise. Listed below are some challenges software localization may pose;

  • Translators must understand Device User Interface, Device Resolution, Software Terminology, Graphic Representation and Software Process Flow to localize software properly.
  • Integration of translated content is always a challenge and that can only be done by professionals who are familiar with software processes and understand smart devices.
  • There are some basic characteristics that make localization projects challenging and demand attention.

Different lengths of languages

Some languages are longer than others and pose a challenge for software localization professionals. This problem stems from decisions made by developers who initially write the software.
Developers set the limits of text lengths by defining how much space is given to the text. Buttons, boxes, navigations and other items can be too small for the localized text. If the space size can’t be changed, the second-best option is to tell the translator how much space there is.
This way, it is possible to modify the translated text to fit the space. An inexperienced Translator however can cause unfit text to cut randomly which will make the software look sloppy making it difficult to read the text.

Script direction in different languages

In addition to varying in length, languages differ in direction. The goal of a successful localization project is to make the software feel equally natural and original in all the target languages.
If the natural direction is to write from top to down or from right to left, it needs to be considered in the localization project. This challenge is also related to the process of making the software.
If the original software doesn’t allow for any changes in terms of text direction, the localization project needs to take the long road with more changes to the code. Any shortcuts won’t lead to the goal.

Different scripts and characters

Many languages have special characters that make software localization challenging. There are many scripts in the world.
Even Western languages which use Latin based scripts vary within themselves in terms of characters, while the rest of the world uses completely different characters. Software localization can end up at a dead end if the software is not able to display target language scripts properly. Any issues during the translation process will create even bigger problems during the software integration phase.

Combination of technical and natural languages

Any translator involved in software localization should have extensive technical knowledge. Although the translatable material would be totally code-free, the context of the material will certainly be technical as it’s a part of software. Therefore, the translator should be able to understand what the software does and how it is used. Likewise, it’s important to recognize whether combination of numbers, letters and special characters are parts of the programming language or just a misspelling.

A minor error might have a huge effect

This may not be a challenge but a threat. The challenge is to be very careful with all the details. If the code is being modified during the localization process the software will probably stop working or malfunction.

How to find the right localization partner?

The field of localization is vast with many vendors vying to help you with your localization needs. While there are many options available to you it is important that you align with the right localization partner to ensure success. Here are some pointers you should consider before getting into a contract with a service provider;

Do a thorough study about the demography and people you wish to cater to

Most localization service providers will guide you on the best solutions that meet your requirement but its always good to be in the know of the prospective market you wish to venture into. Getting acclimatized with the cultural, linguistics and technical requirements of the region you wish to target, holds you in good stead. It helps you take decisions faster and can better comprehend on how the product or service should be developed. Being in the know also helps you choose the right localization partner as you are aware of your requirement.

Have a one region at a time, approach

You may be eager to launch your product or service across regions simultaneously which is for sure a possibility but over seeing the process of internationalization for multiple regions can be a daunting task. It is advisable to go through the process of localization for a product or service one region and populace at a time. This gives you a firm footing, as you can learn from the deficiencies that you might have faced localizing for a specific region, helping you improvise and improve while approaching other regions.

Vendor with end to end inhouse capabilities

As mentioned earlier there are many localization vendors in the fray. Many are mere translators looking to sub contract work with developers or it could be vis a versa. It is best to associate with a service provider who has in house capabilities that include multiple language translators, developers, designers and quality analysts. This ensures that you are dealing with a single entity and not multiple stakeholders who may compromise on quality or jeopardize timelines.