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Companies often develop top-notch software applications and release them for the “international market,” hoping that sales across the world will take off from there. But—perhaps to save time—they don’t localize. That’s a fatal error that will doom their product abroad. Software localization is essential.

Software Localization—Why It’s Neglected

The trouble is that many people think it’s unnecessary to localize their software. There are several reasons people think this way. For one, English is rapidly becoming the language of international communication, and more and more people learn it and master it enough to be able to understand English user interfaces (UI) of software, web, and mobile applications.

Also we tend to think that our native language is simpler than it actually is to foreigners. It’s like riding a bike or swimming: it is hard to understand that people are unable to do something that is so natural to us.

In addition, software developers themselves tend to be able to understand some written English even if their native language is German or Russian or something else. For them it’s simple: they write code using mostly English-language commands. And they think that other people will understand as well.

Surprise! Some foreign people can only understand the meaning of the OK button. That’s it. Is that enough comprehension to actually use your application, website, or software? Probably not.

Why It’s Necessary

Here is why one should think of localizing software.

When you look for a new mobile app for a specific purpose on the App Store or Google Play, you begin with some generic keyword, i.e. “speech to text.” You will immediately be rewarded with a number of search results. So how do consumers decide on one of those apps rather than another? Well, they look at screenshots, they may briefly scan the description, and they may read a few reviews to make sure other people are happy with the app.

When you look at a foreign language, non-localized app on the Russian App Store, for example, do you know what the top Russian-language comments displayed will generally say?

“The app is cool BUT PLEASE add Russian language.”

Often the entire comment will be all caps to make sure developers notice.

And do you think people will rate such cool apps with 5 stars? Are the users completely satisfied? They are not—so it will be 4 stars max. Or maybe 3 stars if the app is only “Ok” or “does its job pretty well.”

Confusing UI software localization
This is particularly true for two kinds of apps: productivity apps (such as office suites) and apps for fun and relaxation. In both situations it is distracting when you need to focus not only on the goal at hand but also on understanding what this or that menu item or error message means.

Another important aspect we need to take into account is that often corporate software products are targeted at people of specific professions, i.e. accountants or HR professionals. All these people may be great professionals, but they do not necessarily speak another language. They probably just don’t need it. What they do need are world-class tools (be it desktop software or mobile applications) that will help them do their jobs without distracting them. When you target such professionals with your product, software localization is a must.

For example, we at IVANNOVATION once took part in localization of software, translation of website, and mobile app localization for a major mobile carrier in Russia. They purchased an expensive product from an international software developer, and it turned out that it was unusable for them because of the foreign language UI.

During on-site training, we worked with engineers and technicians who maintained cell towers with fixed asset management software. And they had great difficulty just learning the many English abbreviations and specialized terminology in the mobile UI in order to check in at a site and record work performed.

This was when we fully realized how important high-quality software localization was for such professionals. It is not their job to speak a foreign language. It is our job to make your software speak their language – so that they could do their job. And do it properly.

So when do you need software localization?

  • You want to broaden your user-base
  • You want to tap into new target audiences
  • Your current users ask you to add their languages
  • You want to target professionals who may not speak any foreign language
  • You simply want to speak the language your users speak

Now that we have persuaded you that localization of software is important, stay tuned for some tips on how to do it right. Or contact us for a quote now—software localization is our specialty.

Software Localization Series

This is part 1 of our software localization series. See the other parts below.

  1. Software Localization—Don’t Make This Fatal Error
  2. 5 Software Localization Mistakes That You Don’t Want to Make
  3. Software Localization—How to Make It Work
  4. What Is Localization Testing and LQA in Software Localization? [Don’t Skip It]
  5. Tips on Localizing an iOS App for Global Success

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