This post about localization testing has been updated from an original post, dated July 2014.

When you’re ready to have your software or website adapted for new markets, there’s a lot to consider. For example, what kind of testing will you require to ensure your final product is top notch?

If you haven’t thought about it, consider that localization testing is crucial throughout the entire globalization process. You wouldn’t want to ship a localized product to China, for instance, with unreadable, corrupted text that runs off the page.

Adequate testing ensures that you deliver a high-quality product, catching—and correcting—any bugs that come up in the localization process before it’s released. It saves you time and money, too. After all, finding these errors post-release can mean costly rework and having to address them multiple times (for each target language).

Let’s take a look at three localization testing methods so you can avoid any and all setbacks.

1. Internationalization readiness testing

How primed is your software or website for localization? That’s what internationalization readiness testing can tell us. Think of it as taking preventative measures to ensure localization will go smoothly.

This phase of testing can show us how well your product functions in an international environment—including how it interacts with native language operating systems and third-party applications. We assess how your product can handle different characters and writing systems (for example, bi-directional scripts).

We’ll also check to see that your product can support a multilingual user interface and locale-specific formats for time and dates, currency symbols, phone numbers, address and zip codes and so much more.

We then supplement this with pseudo-localization, where we “fake” how your strings will look in a given target language, which helps us to identify hard-coded strings and potential over-translation issues (for example, if a user interface string is also referenced within the code, which would impair functionality). It will also highlight any probable design issues with how the product can accommodate a translated interface.

UPDATE:

In short, benefits of internationalization testing include:

  1. Increased product quality—if built to support internationalization
  2. International visibility to the product
  3. Reaching a larger audience worldwide
  4. Global product release with lesser expense comparatively

Check out Pseudo localization 101: Localizability testing for software and websites to learn more.

2. Localization testing

While internationalization readiness testing occurs before translation, the next two testing phases take place after a significant portion of translation work has been completed. The purpose of localization testing is to ensure that bugs weren’t introduced during the translation process, that the translated content displays correctly, and that the localized product functions as expected for the target market.

Here are some areas we look at during this test:

  • All localization resources are translated correctly
  • The generated build includes all the necessary files
  • Functionality in localized version(s) is consistent to the source product
  • The localized screen has the same number and type of elements as that of the source product
  • All locale-specific characters appear correctly
  • No words run over buttons or get cut off on the page

Of course, this is just a mere glimpse into the many elements we look at during this phase. But basically, we want to be sure that everything appears correctly and functions how it should after translation happens.

UPDATE:

Localization testing also must take into account differences in culture, such as:

  • Local holidays
  • Personal name and title conventions
  • Aesthetics
  • Comprehensibility and cultural appropriateness of images and color symbolism
  • Ethnicity, clothing, and socioeconomic status of people and architecture of locations pictured
  • Local customs and conventions, such as social taboos, popular local religions, or superstitions such as blood types in Japanese culture vs. astrological sign in other cultures

And of course, different countries have different legal requirements that must be considered. Regulatory compliance may require customization for a particular jurisdiction, or change to the product altogether. Examples might include privacy law compliance, or consumer labeling requirements, or even additional disclaimers on packaging. This process will ensure you don’t end up dealing with a legal mess post-launch.

3. In-context review

An in-context review puts the final polish on your website or software. This test has much more to do with translation quality than product functionality. With this form of localization testing, a qualified linguist reviews the translations in the actual product build (which is extremely valuable). Why is this so crucial?

You see, a linguist can view the strings in the environment where they naturally reside instead of in an isolated source text file or a translation tool. This allows the reviewer to get a better understanding of the context and flow of the product and gives greater clarity into which translation is best to use—which means better translation quality.

Let’s look at an example. The word “home” has many meaning possibilities. It can refer to an action button that helps you return to the homepage of a website. It can also be a noun indicating that you should enter your home address on a contact form. Seeing the translation in context, therefore, clears up any ambiguity around which translation is correct.

For more information on context and translation, check out How context makes language translation crystal clear.

UPDATE:

The in-context review step—and even the localization testingis typically done by the native speaker of that specific language. This means you’ll have separate linguists for these steps in the globalization process.

During this step, the linguist will also give the final sign off on translation quality, making sure that the copy fits the locale as well as matches your company’s branding preferences.

Want to learn more?

Localization testing is just one of the ways to reduce the cost and minimize the number of potential pitfalls on the software and website localization road.

Check out our two best practice briefs Software localization strategies: Advice for ensuring a smooth process and Website localization: Best practices for going global to learn more ways to make the journey easy.

Of course, you can always lean on our expert teams. Contact us to see how we can help you with your next project.

If you’ve localized your website or software, what tests did you use to make sure your end product was high quality for each locale?

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