Seven Tips for Software Internationalization

Internationalization plays a large part in today’s ever globalizing world. Aligning to business outcomes, internationalization is vital in an organization’s global business planning related to both people and revenue. For the technology industry, internationalization is a core consideration for driving usage and adoption of many programs and apps, as it enables the user to interact with an application in their preferred language.

With most software delivered online, internationalization has moved from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for many organization to compete. It is also an imperative for global operating companies with employees around the world that use proprietary software. The scale for which internationalization of software is done will always center around two important data points: the number of required languages and budgets.

Internationalizing the user interface needs careful and deliberate planning.  Working with user interface (UI) experts backed by a strong review and testing process will help ensure that you don’t alienate your intended user base.  There are some very basic considerations that need to be addressed for UI localization.  These include specialized requirements for data, such as numbers, dates, times, phone formats, text size, and the alignment of texts (left-right). Beyond the content, there are some creative and cultural adaptation considerations that can be more complex, including considerations for digital media, optimization, colors, images and use of symbols. Complexity grows even further today, as you must consider device types, browsers, multimedia and other hardware configurations in your internationalization plans.

Here are a few suggested best practices we have gathered for internationalizing software and the UI.

Support for Non-English Character Sets

All 8-bit character encoding must be supported, including non-Roman alphabets. This is key in enabling translation of a text from any language to another. Use generic data types and function prototypes. East Asian languages can be supported as long as they use either Unicode coding: either UTF-8 or UTF-16. Unicode is regarded as the standard code for most global writing systems and languages.

Create Code that is Not Dependent on Locale

Input of data should allow for variations in location, such as dates, times and currencies. Avoiding the use of hard-coded character constants, numeric constants, screen positions, filenames or pathnames that assume a particular language. Make sure developers don’t use concatenation in the source code. To save coding time, some developers join character strings end-to-end – they concentrate strings – this is known as concatenation and is not good practice if software is destined for localization.

Remember Punctuation Marks

Translation of punctuation marks like ellipses and colons have to be followed closely. For example with, Save As… in any translation, three dots have to be used to avoid errors in the localized version. The same applies for spaces. French uses a space before ? – a question mark. Most languages do not follow this style. Use acceptable punctuation styles for target languages.

Text Expansion, Abbreviations and Reuse

As well as translating the meaning, consideration must also be given to factors such as word and text length, so that the formatting is suitable for the language. As a general rule, Asian languages require less space than English, while European languages such as French and German require more space. German, known for its long, compound words, is on average 20% longer than English. Consideration must also be given to whether the language requires left-right or right-left sequencing. Arabic is probably the best known right-left read language, and this has led to many a confusion over the years, especially in the early years of the World Wide Web. For example in an early version of Arabia Online, a website intended for Western readers to learn about the Arab world, the site was originally laid out left-right. While not lacking in its authenticity, this obviously didn’t work in the areas of the world it was designed for and thus did not have the best outcome for the investment. For web developers, this means keeping the content and design separate in order to make possible future translation projects easier. Space should be provided for expansion or contraction depending on the language. Don’t reuse the same text but in a different context. This will create confusion at the translation stage. Remember that some abbreviations will not work when translated and other words must be used in place of the abbreviations (or avoided all together).

Internationalization for Mobile Apps

The mobile network is overtaking software delivery, and in some areas has already overtaken the desktop market in terms of user numbers. Internationalization for mobile web users is now essential. App developers have to ensure their app accepts user-generated text in any language, independent of the language of the user interface.

Use Universal Icons Where Possible

You are probably familiar with these already. The magnifying glass representing the search function, X for close and the house icon for the homepage are universally recognized symbols that ensure a page is understood wherever in the world it wishes to target. Even simple ON and OFF commands in the UI can be simplified for global audiences by using 1 or 0. Some user interfaces use colors to represent actions, white for OFF and green for ON.

Use a Localization Expert

To design software with language in mind, partner with localization experts who will advise on developing software destined for a global audience. As part of this consultation process, you can develop tailored guidebook with best practices and guidelines for developing international software.

The tips covered for user interface are also applicable to the planning for coding and software development.  As language can impact the user experience, it can also drives general satisfaction and usability. There are many key elements for consideration in internationalization of software starting from planning, through development, to testing and design.  Consider localization as part of the strategy from the beginning, as it will save you time and money long-term.

Further information on the latest changes in software localization can be found in a blog written for Welocalize by Loïc Dufresne de Virel, Localization Strategist at Intel Corporation, Disruptive Changes in Software Localization and their Impact.


Matthew is a member of the Welocalize global sales support and marketing team.

Click here for more information of Welocalize services in the technology sector.

Getting to Know Welocalize Development

Interview with Doug Knoll, VP of Software Development at Welocalize

iStock_000037772022_MediumIn our continuation of Getting to Know Welocalize, we want to introduce you to Doug Knoll,  Vice President of Software Development at Welocalize. Doug worked at Welocalize from 2001 to 2009 as Director of Global Solutions and recently returned at the beginning of the year to take up his new post. Innovation is one of Welocalize’s key pillars, which underpin everything that the company does. Driving the software development for a global localization provider like Welocalize is no small task. Louise Law spent some time talking with Doug to learn more about his new global organization and some of the key development activities taking place at Welocalize. In Doug’s words, “I’m looking at the whole breadth of what we want technology to do for us.

Where are you and your team based?

I am primarily based at the Welocalize office in Portland, Oregon, although I have traveled so much over the past few months! I have 40 full-time team members, which is supplemented by contract resources based globally  in the US, China, Europe and India. We have talent and skills all over the world. We are focused on software development for all of Welocalize platforms, tools and applications and we drive the overall research and development strategy at Welocalize.

You are pretty busy developing a new software development strategy for Welocalize, can you tell me a bit more about some of your key initiatives?

I am excited to be introducing some new concepts and technologies to Welocalize. We are increasing our responsiveness and agility by updating our continuous integration and development processes. We are also looking at our existing architecture and investigating new ways we can use it to meet future demands and requirements. One of the coolest projects we are working on is developing predictive analytics using machine learning.

What’s machine learning?

Machine learning explores algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data. Any global language service provider collects and processes huge amounts of data and we can use this data to help project managers make decisions. For example, we have developed a model that looks at all the characteristics of a task and assigns it a risk score, something like a credit score. Tasks with a high-risk score have an elevated chance of being delivered late, or having quality compromised. The score is calculated when the task begins, so we have the chance to alert the PM responsible and allow them to take action in time to address the situation. Applying predictive algorithms to help us see ahead is key to our development strategy and can be applied used across the whole organization, not just for the PMs. We are also using in assessing our entire talent pool.

What are some of the other development initiatives?

Overall, the team is looking at the whole breadth of what we want technology to do for us. It is our job to provide the optimum service delivery software platform for the Welocalize business. We do this by continually assessing projects and identifying the gaps and areas for improvement. The Development teams have to deliver a unified architecture and a consistent backbone for service delivery by using our existing software technologies, like GlobalSight, and also introducing new tools and emerging techniques.

To use our data intelligently, we have to ensure that it is clean, consistent, and centralized, while still supporting the unique workflows and business requirements that each client brings. Striking that balance in our designs is an interesting challenge.

Being able to predict what is coming down the line is a pretty radical shift in the way we do things in our industry. This new approach will set the bar higher in terms of delivery, velocity, responsiveness and agility for our client-facing teams and ultimately our clients.

What are some of the things that happen to you in a typical day?

Right now I’m splitting my time evenly between the strategy and the team. Software developers spend all day making decisions that everyone has to live with for the next ten years or more. It’s critical that we build an environment here that attracts great people, and gives them the support to do their best work.

One piece of that puzzle is to use technologies that people are excited about, and give developers some latitude to experiment. Being able to do that while still pulling in the same direction means having very clear strategy and spending a lot of time communicating it. Right now, we’re working to support the growth that Welocalize as a whole is experiencing and that means the team is growing too. I am investing a lot of time into the recruiting process as we add key leaders.

What are the current disruptive technologies in the localization industry?

It has to be machine translation (MT) and post-edited MT going prime-time. MT has been around for many years; however, now it is really finding a place in the translation process. We continue to see MT and PEMT playing a key role in active projects.

iStock_000059066980_MediumIf you had a crystal ball, what do you think the technology landscape of localization will look like in five years?

We will see a radical improvement in velocity of translator output, levels of 10,000 words per day. This will be because they are working in a tool-assisted environment, which will give them powerful capability and the ability to perform to very high levels.


The Getting to Know Welocalize blog series highlights our team members around the globe and the work they do for our valued clients.  In their words, it gives you a look into how Welocalize’s diversity, culture, and expertise empower us in doing things differently. You can view all here Getting to Know Welocalize posts here:

Getting to Know Welocalize CEO Smith Yewell

Getting to Know Welocalize in Germany – Day in the Life of Antje Hecker, Production Business Director at Welocalize in Germany

Getting to Know Welocalize and Agostini Associati – Day in the Life of Guido Panini, Sales and Marketing Manager at Agostini Associati, a Welocalize Company

Getting to Know Welocalize Quality and Training -A Day in the Life of Liz Thomas, Senior Director of Quality and Training at Welocalize

Getting to Know Welocalize in the United Kingdom – A Day in the Life of Joanna Hasan, Enterprise Program Manager

Getting to Know Welocalize Marketing

Getting to Know Welocalize Business Development Europe – A Day in the Life of Steve Maule, Welocalize Business Development Director in Europe

Getting to Know Welocalize Interns by Louise Donkor, Welocalize Global Marketing and Sales Support

Getting to Know Welocalize Business Development in North America – A Day in the Life of Monique Nguyen

Getting to Know Welocalize in China –An Interview with Alex Matusescu, Director of Operations

Getting to Know Welocalize in Japan -Interview with Kohta Shibayama, Senior Project Manager in Tokyo

Getting to Know Welocalize Development -Interview with Doug Knoll, VP of Software Development at Welocalize

Getting to Know Park IP Translations Operations – A Day in the Life of Nicole Sheehan, Regional Director of Operations at Park IP Translations, a Welocalize Company

Getting to Know Park IP Translations

Getting to Know Welocalize – Ten Interesting Facts You May NOT Know About Welocalize

Getting to Know Welocalize Staffing – A Day in the Life of Brecht Buchheister

Role of Quality in Four Stages of Software Localization

479077975Based at the Welocalize office in Beijing, China, Judy Chen is Technical Services Director. In this blog, Judy shares her thoughts about the role and focus of quality during software localization.

During our routine work in the localization industry, we live and breathe quality every day, everywhere. What is quality? ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.”

How do you satisfy stated or implied needs? For software product localization, final localized versions must be bug-free for final product sign-off. For any software localization program, as well as the software product itself and for each software launch, patch and new feature, there will be a range of supporting materials including marketing materials, internal training and communications. All require different levels of quality.

In this blog, the following details the quality focus used during the software localization process for all content types.

There are four main stages to every simple translation project or complex software localization project requiring translation, software engineering, testing, document engineering, multimedia, DTP and art work: Project Scoping, Project Planning and Preparation, Production Execution and Product Delivery and Sign-Off:

Stage 1: Project Scoping

This stage is to fully understand quality expectations, customize quality standard depending on client requirements. It is the foundation to help client to best utilize their localization budget and set localization plans in place.

  • Perform evaluation about source content
  • Define work types
  • Figure out localized languages and workload
  • Raise any source bug queries
  • Provide localization suggestions and quotation

The main input for all of the above activities is understanding the client quality expectations. If the client quality requirements are understood, we can carry out appropriate scoping: neither over scoping nor under scoping. Based on different purposes of localized materials, we can customize different quality standards.

Using some of the local terminology we have in Beijing, here are some examples of how quality expectations differ, depending on content type and impact:

  • If the localized materials are for company internal staff training, we can set quality requirements as “accurate translation, simple DTP/engineering.”
  • If the localized materials are for marketing or online customer support, we can set quality requirement as “accurate and beautiful translation, fine DTP/engineering.”
  • If the localized materials are for localization of product code, we can set quality requirement as “technically accurate, debugged, full of beauty for DTP/engineering.”
  • If the localized materials are high impact to the brand, like company slogans or taglines, we set the quality requirement as “perfect transcreation, full of beauty for DTP/engineering.”

Stage 2: Project Planning and Preparation

This stage is the process that transforms a client’s quality expectations to a series of production activities and measurable KPIs.

  • Workflow Customizing
  • Environment and Tools Deployment
  • Quality Measurement (SOPs and Checklist)
  • Work Scheduling
  • Risk Evaluation (Risk Factors)
  • Resources Reservation and On-boarding
  • Training of Involved Resources

All planning and preparation activities are based on exact quality requirements and those stated purposes confirmed at the scoping stage. Based on different quality requirements, we can customize different workflows, choose different resources and work out different quality matrices. For example, aiming at the quality requirement, “accurate and beautiful translation, fine DTP/engineering,” we can use standard translators and engineers to complete the work. We can arrange one cycle translation, DTP/engineering work with quick QA cycle.

If we are aiming for the quality requirement of “perfect transcreation, full of beauty for DTP/engineering,” we need to on-board experienced translators and engineers with specific skills and arrange more reviews and QA cycles to ensure final quality.

Stage 3: Production Execution

An integral part at this stage is the LSP management system, which must manage and track production activities for software localization activities, including a quality tracker and bug management system. This means all quality information can be extracted and checked for the following main activities:

  1. Production Process Control – All procedures are monitored to ensure that work is being handled according to customized workflows and using reserved resources.
  2. Inter-Operation Management – Constant team interaction to ensure no breaking within consequent work steps and processes. Client information is fully shared with all involved parties to ensure everyone is on the same page and aware of all targets and deadlines.
  3. Risk Management – Based on risk evaluation, routine checks are performed at the risk points with appropriate remedies used, if necessary. Version control method and bug management systems are put in place.
  4. Results Checking – Any work results are checked based on the defined quality measurement. Any non-conformity item should be evaluated and handled before delivering to client.

Stage 4: Product Delivery and Sign-Off

In theory, at this stage you have a bug free localized product. During this stage, final checks are performed and the product is prepared for sign-off. If in the unlikely event of bugs being found, careful risk evaluation is undertaken, especially for complex software localization projects. Each bug case is evaluated case-by-case and communicated with the client to decide whether to fix or defer. In stage 4, achieving quality means to deliver an acceptable product without introducing significant risks to users.

During each stage of localization, there is a different quality focus. By further strengthening our quality consciousness and achieving a deep understanding of the quality focus during our routine work, we will work smarter, more agile and produce quality levels that exceed our software client’s expectations.


Based in Beijing, China, Judy Chen is Technical Services Director at Welocalize.

For more information about software localization and bug-fixing, read Welocalize White Paper: A Bug is a Bug in Any Language.

Website Localization and the Rise of HTML5

Write Once, Deploy Everywhere by Ronan Kavanagh

523184357If your organization has multilingual websites and a large number of mobile device users, adopting HTML5 could be an important move for your business. Many companies are already deploying it to better manage their websites. In fact, HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard.

Why HTML5? According to Ian Jacobs, recommendations editor for the World Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, “There are two driving forces behind this evolution. First is the proliferation of diverse devices that, coupled with the variety of browsers, greatly complicate life for developers, who want to ‘write once and deploy everywhere.” He also noted, “…the Web has now embraced the social networking model and when you can tap into that, you can reach many more customers.”

So how does HTML5 fit into this movement? It makes development across multiple platforms more efficient. “Developers of software for the World Wide Web say the new HTML5 standard is revolutionizing the way the Web evolves, works and is used,” noted technology writer Gary Anthes. “It is simplifying the work of programmers, harmonizing access to diverse devices and applications, and giving users amazing new capabilities, they say.

HTML5 also includes new markup features that directly help the website translation process, improving formatting and making multilingual web content easier to understand.

  • HTML5 supports a more semantic style of markup that allows for meaningful tags, and simpler, more understandable coding when dealing with multilingual content. For example, HTML5 users can apply a new attribute – a simple “no” or “yes” code – to direct their translation partner as to which content to work on. This eliminates the previously drawn-out process of annotation or list making.
  • HTML5 makes it easier to handle both left-to-right languages like English, and right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Using other tools, developers often come across formatting problems, particularly when both kinds of languages are featured side by side. HTML5 includes a new ‘bdi’ element to help authors of bi-directional content override the Unicode algorithm that sometimes results in mistakes in punctuation, numbers and bullet points.
  • HTML5 offers an enhanced version of ‘ruby’ annotations commonly used when marking up East Asian languages that use characters. The markup is usually used to help explain pronunciation to readers. The new HTML5 tags are helpful when authoring content and in translation from, or into, non-alphabetical languages.

In truth, HTML5 isn’t the second coming and it isn’t an officially ratified standard — yet. The spec continues to edge closer to completion; however, and when combined with JavaScript and CSS3, HTML5 can do some really incredible things. This is particularly true for mobile devices.

A de facto requirement for any modern mobile operating system is the inclusion of a modern HTML5-compliant web browser. The leading modern mobile platforms — iOS and Android — both use WebKit as their bases. Likewise, BlackBerry and HP/Palm are also using WebKit and Microsoft has released a mobile version from Internet Explorer 9 for Windows Phone 7 and above.

What this means is that out-of-the-box, modern smartphones and tablets support the bells and whistles that make HTML5 so special. It also means that developers can feel free to use those technologies when creating their applications and not have to worry that the device itself won’t support a particular function.

We are already seeing and advising some of our major clients on how to approach the conversion and localization of online content, such as Flash courses to HTML5. With Welocalize’s in-house experience and expertise, we are truly plugged-in to key, emerging technologies that help develop and localize truly brilliant global websites.


Based in Dublin, Ronan Kavanagh is Software Lead Engineer at Welocalize. He has a degree in multimedia and web mastering and has over 10 years experience in the localization industry.

Welocalize Office Exchange Program: 6,730 miles from Beijing to Boston

2013111617_andover&boston 010Eva Zhi is a Senior Project Manager and Team Lead at Welocalize. She is based in the Welocalize office in Beijing and manages a team of PM’s. She recently spent a week in Boston as part of the Welocalize Office Exchange Program. She tells us about her experience.

Why did you apply to the Exchange Program?

My team of PM’s work on some of Welocalize’s major global accounts. These accounts are handled out of the Welocalize office in Boston. We are in such regular contact, I wanted to strengthen relationships across the virtual Beijing-Boston team.

Tell us a bit more about what you do for Welocalize?

I’m a Senior Project Manager (PM) and also a Team Lead. 70% of my time is focused on PM work for clients and the remaining 30% is spent of team management. For example, assigning a new China PM to a new account in Boston, load balancing team members and sometimes figuring out and resolving issues.

What surprised you the most about working in the exchange office?

Everyone was so helpful and hospitable! It wasn’t easy for me to get a taxi back to my hotel but it didn’t matter as my colleague gave me a ride every day. Plus, I was surprised that most people drive to work rather than using a bus or subway. The traffic in Beijing is quite bad so we tend to always use public transport.

Did you try anything new?

Boston Lobster! Delicious. I also learned that chicken can be put into a salad. It seems we only have vegetable or fish salad in China.

How do you think the business will benefit from your exchange experience?

We were able to discuss Operational Excellence (OPEX) and see how we can optimize the localization process for our major client accounts. We discussed and agreed actions. I believe we will now work even better on these major accounts after our face to face discussions. It was certainly a worthwhile trip.


Why Global Software Companies Should Run Agile Localization Processes Alongside Agile Development Cycles

F-secure case study - agile_Page_2Agile software development plays an important role in modern software engineering. The term “agile development” refers to a group of methodologies based on iterative and incremental development. Common themes include continuous and ongoing planning, testing, integration and feedback. What is important with agile development compared to traditional methods is that decisions and developments take place quickly and effectively.

For global organizations, agile development needs agile localization. The localization workflow must be adapted and integrated into the agile development cycles. Welocalize and F-Secure have implemented an agile localization process. In this blog, Mika Pehkonen from F-Secure tells us just how agile he is in localization.

By Mika Pehkonen, Documentation and Localization Manager at F-Secure. 

At F-Secure we need to be able to send out incremental software updates, patches and new features – quickly – in ALL target languages.

These updates have to be developed & distributed quicker than the source product. We use an agile localization process (with one of our main LSPs, Welocalize) meaning localization and translation runs parallel to the agile software development process. Development AND translation for updates and new features are continually processed in regular “sprints”.

Key differences between traditional and agile localization lie in the drop frequency of projects (high), size of projects (small) and turnaround (quick). The Agile cycle has small incremental “sprints” – concentrated bursts of activity that produce swift results. Localization is continually part of the agile cycle compared to the traditional cycle, where localization only starts to play a significant role at the end, as the source product gets closer to its international release date. Having a regular team of translators consistently involved in the localization process also means linguistic bugs in language variants are identified earlier. Calculations show that it can cost €1000 to fix a linguistic bug – the less bugs, the more cost savings.

If you starting localization late, when you’re well into the development cycle, it leaves little time to amend some of the user experience related elements . Translators are experts of the culturally adapted end user experience AND are able to identify bug and quality issues. Having them as part of the continual process means there is time to take their feedback on board. Agile methodology allows us to have the translators continually involved in the development cycle. Resources and processes can be set up and scheduled to deal with a more predictable flow of translation projects.

It seems logical that agile software development needs agile localization. As a localization manager, being able to schedule and therefore predict my future resource requirements – we keep a consistent team of translators through Welocalize who have in-depth knowledge of F-Secure’s global product range and therefore can contribute to its success.


Mika Pehkonen manages localization at the global security software company F-Secure. He is based in Finland and has over fifteen years’ experience in localization and is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Read the entire case study here: