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10 Most Common Localization Fails in Websites and Software

10 Most Common Localization Fails in Websites and Software
10 Most Common Localization Fails in Websites and Software

Written by Henry Mcdowell, follow him on Twitter.

Localization of an average website or software goes beyond a standard translation that would fit for a document because it takes more than a basic grammar check. In practice, it is a complex adjustment process where each element represents a local culture of the country, mentality, and even the slang that is not used anywhere else. When developers ignore this important stage, they face the bugs that must be fixed.

Most Common Localization Fails

In most cases, the bugs in localization appear because of a lack of resources and time that a developer puts into the testing stage. When the multi-language product or a large website is about to be released, an average programmer checks the code and clarity of commands, so localization is briefly checked without looking through each button or a menu message. The best part is that localization should be done by a dedicated person who can check more than grammar and clarity but will also notice stylistic mistakes and will point out the most common bugs.

1. Unclear outline and the goals.

The most common localization bug is a lack of clarity, which means that there is no clear outline of what has to be done or what goals should be achieved. When there is a website, it is much easier because there is already an example of what has to be translated, yet when there is a video game, things get challenging. The best part is to let a software localization specialist play a game for 2-3 hours and see what menus, what situations, or the windows work through the plot, game’s characters, and so on. Such an approach will help connect the dots and understand the project’s concept.

2. Supported encoding.

Since there are different locale-based keyboards, specific charsets, and the language databases, this bug is the most common. In practice, it means that if your application cannot recognize particular characters, it will switch to what is available, which will result in a line of squares or a blank space. This bug relates to video games localization as well because each module has to support a language specified with the same font and database. While different file formats contain your text, a localization specialist must know what tools will fit the best for an upcoming job.

3. Different local calendars.

This is the most common bug that appears in the Asian video games market. When there is an unsupported local calendar, date, and time in software, it results in crashes, GUI issues, and scalability problems. It usually happens when the video game or the server settings differ from what the operating system has. In certain cases, there will be an alert message, yet with online certifications or secured websites, it will not let one proceed further without fixing the issue.

4. Ignoring Bug Management Systems.

Without a doubt, it is not always possible to notice every bit of text when there are more than five languages. While a translation expert has done the most, using a bug management system helps to find a missing translation or underline the over localization, which means that some phrases or international terms should be left in its original form. It will also help with the GUI issues when a graphic element is not wide enough and the text cannot fit well or has a color parameter that makes it blurry.

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5. Slang and subculture meanings.

It is one of the most difficult parts when it comes to checking for bugs in localization. A good example is a difference between American English and British slang where the same word has a different meaning. Things are even worse when one deals with Spanish or German. When it comes down to video games, there are subcultures where the users have familiar terms, so when a localization specialist uses something else, an end-user will immediately recognize a stylistic bug. In this case, it is a manual part of the work where the game or a website must be tested by a native speaker to test that everything looks right.

6. User Interface bugs.

Now, this localization bug happens even when an average pseudo localization method has been used to get rid of any trouble. A reason for that is the use of flashy fonts, large buttons, small elements, and a plethora of drop-down menus. Although it might make the game attractive and complex as it is in Civilization or space strategies, if the system messages use completely different GUI fonts, it might cause some trouble when the same language module manages both branches.

7. Under translation challenges.

This is where it becomes necessary to attract only professional linguists and native speakers. The under translation bug means that there is a word or a sentence that does not make sense in a foreign language. Sometimes an English phrase has to be left as it is, while in some cases, it is necessary to provide an additional description for particular languages, for example for Arabic. The same relates to small buttons and alerts where a detailed check must be done as well.

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8. Attention to details or Font Affairs.

The key to avoiding any mistakes with font affairs is finding the right balance. Some programmers avoid large fonts in favor of small fonts, which is only getting to extremes. The best way is to check with each module that an implemented font works right through all the menus, buttons, and layouts. The same relates to different browsers and screen resolutions. Just remember to add special characters to the fonts before starting with a localization process. Since an outcome will always have more text in most languages, keep some free space, if ever possible!

9. Misunderstanding of the context.

It is not always mentioned, yet most of the bugs in localization happen because it is very little to no understanding of the original context where a foreign language translation takes place. Be it a website that deals with Chemistry or Aerospace Engineering or a game that has a complex plot, a localization specialist must be aware of all the details. Likewise, a programmer must be present during the localization process or conduct virtual meetings to explain certain modules and the changes that can be made while in progress. The key is cooperation, where everything is discussed as no automatic debugging can find a solution that would not force the programmer to change the internal coding.

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10. Lack of error log.

Do you remember the bugs when you click on a Help button in your native language only to see a text in German or even Chinese? While there is a wrong link that can be fixed by adding a correct string, it is much better when there is an errors log that contains all the fixes and improvements, so both localization specialists and developers can look into similar issues or check for localization bugs that might be present in the other languages.

Last but not least is the poor context when localization is being made in a hurry or with very little effort. Only a professional translator with an experience of work with localization projects can handle every little detail that will help avoid the bugs. Remember to ask for a special certification to prove that a translator has a legal right to work with particular subjects. If your website contains legal documents, ensure that you approach a relevant specialist in addition to localization experts. It will keep your company’s legal status correct and will let the international markets see that you are a serious business player.

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The reason why even the most talented software developers and managers fail to see the localization bugs is that they are not the target users. A localization specialist is a native speaker who learns the website or software exactly in the same way a target user does.