Localization introduction

Localization of a product requires that the product be adapted to both the language and the culture of a particular market. Unlike a translated book, the product must adhere to a particular locale's conventions and culture. In fact, the final localized version of the original product should look and feel as if it had been designed in the user's home country. Avoiding sensitive geopolitical issues is one important consideration in making sure a product is well received in the international market. Some examples of other things that need to be adapted based on locale include currency, address, number, and date formats; the sort order; and for many Asian languages, the fonts and the font size. RTL languages such as Arabic and Hebrew require layout not only of the text, but of the whole user interface, including buttons, menus, and dialog boxes. There are many user interface elements that are modified in both software and content localization. These include text, layout, graphics and multimedia, keyboard shortcuts, fonts, character sets and locale data, as well as the product's build process and packaging.

The features of a good localization tool include the ability to change dialog font names, sizes, and styles; to resize, move, and hide controls as necessary; to change the encoding of the text; to replace graphics and icons with localized ones; to modify keyboard shortcuts; and to extract and edit different resource-file formats. In addition to obtaining capable tools, you will need the right assortment of individuals to carry out a successful localization project. A large localization project requires a team consisting of a program manager, one or more localization engineers, and many localizers. The localizers should possess not only excellent language skills but also sound technical knowledge.

Establish clear guidelines for ensuring effective localization, for scheduling international releases, and for localization outsourcing. The initial product specifications should consider localization an intrinsic part of the product cycle. Delaying localization to the end of the cycle can delay the shipping date because of any unexpected localization problems that require code changes. The product team and the international marketing team should decide what the delta between the shipping dates for the original product and the localized product should be. If you are outsourcing localization, provide vendors with a localization kit.

Content localization involves printed documentation, online content, and help files. In contrast with software localization, content localization can usually be translated as one big piece, without the localizer ever having to wonder about strings or what their meaning is. The content should be written in a way that is compatible with localization tools. Additionally, the content's text needs to be isolated from the layout and structure tags. A localization strategy that is well planned and executed will help you produce a successful localization project.