Starting Software Internationalization and Localization—Are You Prepared?
Software internationalization and localization processes can become incredibly complex fast

Software internationalization and localization allow companies to reach new markets and spread their offerings across the world. However, it’s also a process that can quickly get out of hand as there are wide-ranging components to consider.

By taking a measured, logical approach, it’s much easier to translate software into new languages to delight users and improve the business’s bottom line.

Comparing Software Internationalization and Localization

Preparing for software internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) requires a vast array of knowledge and skillsets. However, the first thing you need to be aware of is the difference between the two terms.

Internationalization

Internationalization, or i18n, is a broad term that can refer to commercial strategies, compliance, legal, licensing, market outreach, and critical preparations in development. It’s a critical early component of an overall globalization strategy. And it typically requires cooperation from many departments and individuals. Internationalization is an important precursor to localization and the linguistic details of software operations in different locales.

Localization

Localization, or l10n, is the linguistic component of a broad globalization strategy. However, it’s also a very broad term in and of itself because it covers all the adaptable software assets, everything from the basic user experience to international content and branding. And it hinges on sophisticated automation solutions to ensure sustainability and scalability. Localization can be used to inform the internationalization strategy, in turn.


There are two major problems that occur in both of these processes: focusing on too many markets and regionalizing the program too much. It’s important to remember that the process will become geometrically complex as you scale languages. Rarely is the development of a new linguistic asset set a matter of a few tweaks. Without the right framework, it’s a complete recreation.

For example, think of a company that wants to offer a Spanish version of their software. On the surface, they may think that an all-inclusive approach is the best way to go. They may create platforms for Mexican, Castilian, Argentinian, Caribbean, and more without considering the true complexity of the project. However, it isn’t until all those translations are complete that they realize the unfortunate ROI at the other end of it. They may spend a million dollars updating their software to Caribbean Spanish, only to find out they have very few users in the market. Following some internationalization best practices can keep this from happening.

Software Internationalization Best Practices

The best practices for internationalizing software can also carry over to the localization process, making them invaluable for planning new market entry. They all mainly center on the idea of simplicity. Through this approach, it’s possible to streamline new market launches and ensure a viable ROI.

1 — Write code that is localization friendly from the beginning.

Most people creating a new software for the first time aren’t thinking ahead. They’re focused on getting that software out to their primary markets and worrying about localization later. However, if code is written from the very beginning with an eye on expanding to international markets, it becomes much easier. For example, when a client sends us a file with JSON strings mixed with XML, we rewrite it in a structured file format. That eliminates many localization issues before they start.

2 — Take an incremental approach.

Like in the Spanish example above, it’s all about understanding your market rather than trying to cater to every cultural nuance. Roll out generalized versions of a language first, then keep an eye on KPIs to see where a more regional focus may be necessary.

3 — Research, research, and research.

You need to do a lot of research early on to make the right decisions. You need a profound degree of knowledge to operate successfully in an international market. Gaining that knowledge before the project will ensure you’re prepared for a global launch.

4 — Be data-driven.

You must look at all the KPIs, including traffic, interests, engagements, and market potential to really understand what’s happening. Sales is only a small component of KPIs. All the other data will help you understand why a product isn’t performing as well as it should so you can make appropriate adjustments.

5 — Use a platform.

It’s very easy to underestimate how many tasks are involved in translating a single page or module of content. Lots of back and forth emails and file transfers can get quickly out of hand. Using a localization management platform will allow you to monitor the process from beginning to end and reduce oversights.


Software internationalization and localization processes can become incredibly complex. By scaling the approach and focusing on only the markets that show true value, it’s possible to control expenses and minimize problems. The right partner will offer a platform to handle the localization part of the process so you can focus on expanding your reach.

Bureau Works can help with software internationalization and localization by offering a robust platform for managing collaboration, translations, linguistic assets, and quality. Contact our team for more information.

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