Digitalization has brought the world closer together more than ever before. It has facilitated transnational trade and instantaneous collaboration from anywhere in the world.
Software is the basis of today’s digital economy, but the logistics of developing products intended for use in foreign markets often present serious challenges.
For software to be useful outside of the market in which it was originally developed, it has to be accessible. Consumers need to understand information conveyed by that software; therefore it has to be available in different languages.
Read on to understand some of the most significant issues any developer must overcome before succeeding internationally.
Challenges in Collaboration
Software must be optimized at every touchpoint to ensure that it is easily understandable.
The individuals who create the interfaces and documentation that users see often need to work closely with the stakeholders who understand the technical and strategic factors that lead to the development of particular features.
Unless these key features can be properly conveyed to users, they will likely become difficult or impossible to use effectively.
When software is localized for a foreign language, individuals who tailor its elements must start by acquiring a strong understanding of the software itself.
If localization is done for dozens of nations and language groups, everyone in charge of the project will need to collaborate closely with the creators of that software.
Finding enough time for fruitful collaboration without bogging down any processes is a serious challenge.
If mismanaged, it can lead to enormous mistakes, missed opportunities, and cost overruns, so it should be handled with care.
Adapting to Cultural Nuances
Significant cultural differences between countries result in contrasting behavioral patterns.
Developers need to bear these differences in mind, as they will be reflected in the way users approach software.
Some of these variations will have to be accounted for as early as the development stage, but they will be central to the process of localization.
The vocabulary used in an app will have to be carefully selected to avoid misunderstandings, of course, but additional cultural factors will also have to be taken into consideration.
Some of these issues include the understanding of interpersonal relationships, privacy, or even timekeeping within a particular culture.
Regulatory factors and the alternatives currently available in a local market must also be considered in software localization.
These differences can justify redesigning interfaces, adding new features, and creating new forms of documentation.
Maintaining Multiple Versions of Software
Sufficient tailoring of software to a local market almost always necessitates developing multiple versions of the same software.
Each version will have to be maintained, and the cost of this can be very high.
Development cycles can also be lengthened due to localization efforts, and mistakes can easily lead to service outages, so best practices have to be maintained at all times.
The prevalence of data breaches and crippling software errors is also often increased, especially when multiple teams with little shared oversight or connection are involved.
Ideally, software companies customizing their solution for local markets should have a person or team responsible for each market. Localization can then be managed in an efficient way.
Unfortunately, most software developers cannot afford to have staff in every country and having a physical presence in a foreign nation can also be hindered by substantial legal barriers.
Therefore, developers often have to go without adequate localization, and this can leave them open to risks.
Slower Update Cycles
Routine updates are crucial for adapting to market shifts and for keeping users engaged with the introduction of new features.
Updates are also important from a security standpoint since they can quickly patch vulnerabilities that get discovered. However, since localization necessitates the maintenance of multiple versions of the same software, the implementation of updates can take much longer.
Companies can often overcome the challenges associated with localized updates by having different software elements managed by different teams.
The most successful implementations have usually involved using a modular approach to provide all regions with the core functionality developed at the corporate level.
Localized teams then issue updates whenever a new version of the core modules is released while separately issuing their own updates whenever the localized modules have been improved.
Localization Is Often Perceived as Dull
If software is localized by a centralized team, developers will usually perceive the task as a burdensome chore.
Although developers ideally engage in activities regardless of their personal feelings, the reality is that even the best developers are ultimately human beings who will find direct and indirect ways to avoid tasks they perceive as painful and monotonous.
However, studies have shown that decision-making is ultimately emotional in nature.
In practice, the perceived dullness of software localization is one of the primary barriers to the sufficient tailoring of software solutions to local markets.
Unless development organizations take concrete steps to systemically mitigate the dullness associated with localization, enormous opportunities will be missed as localization tasks are swept under the rug.
Preferably, this incentive for task avoidance should be leveraged to facilitate the development of automated solutions.
Internal developers should be encouraged to discover opportunities to efficiently and securely outsource undesirable tasks associated with localization.
Resources should also be dedicated to automating the management and development of solutions for localization.
Managing Localization Mistakes
Whenever updates are implemented, every local version of a software solution must be checked for errors and unexpected mistakes. Checking for these mistakes takes time.
In the best case scenario, localization teams will collaborate among themselves and with central corporate developers to minimize them.
Reduce Errors by Opening Communication
Connect developers with translators using our Localization Q&A spreadsheet template.
Download the Q&A Template
Learning to eliminate localization mistakes can take an unacceptable amount of time unless the proper level of expertise exists within an organization.
Development organizations need to include talent experienced in strategically managing localization to avoid mistakes.
These organizations need to be able to adapt to opportunities that are discovered along the way. Steps also need to be taken to account for the challenges associated with scaling.
Translating Documentation Takes Significant Time
Thousands of pages of documentation are often accumulated over the years as software developers publish manuals for specific issues that customers face.
Some developers also create support modules, blog posts, videos, and other items of documentation for their customers.
Learn about technology for authoring and translating technical documentation from our articles:
What is DITA XML? | An Introduction
How to Translate DITA Projects [Step-by-Step Guide]
The proper implementation of localization necessitates that all documents be available in multiple languages. Additionally, documentation must be developed to account for issues that users in local markets uniquely face.
Finally, software features developed for local markets must be documented. Creating and updating all of this locally can be expensive and require highly specialized expertise across a wide range of markets.
All of this can be time-consuming, which has to be taken into account in the planning stage.
Support Challenges in Multiple Languages
Many software solutions require customer service to supplement automated services. The need for customer service is equally important in foreign markets.
Offering adequate customer support in dozens of foreign markets requires significant resources that many smaller organizations cannot afford.
Customer service often needs to be done locally. This can entail substantial overhead costs and bring about the challenge of managing a wide range of localized organizations.
However, software companies that succeed at overcoming support challenges will earn a considerable competitive advantage over alternative solutions in the international marketplace.
About the author: Heather Redding is a content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.