For every software development company, there may be a need for expanding and introducing their products to foreign markets. In order to achieve this, plan on Internationalization (I18N) of your software from the start. This basically means having the ability to add new languages to your software with greater ease and reduced effort. When developing the product consider potential target languages, culture or any country specific requirements. This process is called Software Localization (L10n).
Before the localization process begins here are a few recommendations on how to develop a localization-friendly software.
Think about the target market first!
Understanding different culture is crucial. For example, hand gestures (such as a thumbs-up) are commonly used in North America while they might not be considered appropriate in other cultures.
Think about the target language!
It is very important that the software supports multilingual formats, encoding being one of the key elements. Unicode encoding provides a unique number for every character, no matter what language. For example, if the software uses “Western European” encoding then most of the Asian languages such as CJKV (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese) will not be supported and will appear corrupted as shown below:
Think about the text!
Always keep in mind the language that the software will be localised into. In general, expect a text expansion of approximately 30%. The layout should be designed to accommodate text expansion. Perform pseudo-translation and then test your software to see what the text will look like after it expands.
Think about the fonts!
Choosing fonts that support languages universally makes life easier. This enhances uniformity across multiple locales. When applying multiple font styles, ensure these styles are supported by the target language.
Think about the icons!
It’s good practice to use universally recognisable icons in the software. For example, instead of using a Currency Symbol, use of bank notes should be considered when dealing with currencies, as show below. Self-explanatory icons (without text) fosters efficiency and reduces cost.
The list we present here simplifies the issues a little, but it’s a good place for you to get the basics. The most important takeaway is to think about localization very early in the process, because fixing your mistakes later will cost you more.
If you are interested in a real-life example,