Top Five Reasons Why Product Localization Fails

Underestimating the Difficulties of Translation & Localization

Product successLocalizing a product for international markets is not rocket science. And yet, even in the 21st century, we hear of failed international product release attempts or mishaps. The following are the top five reasons why product localization falters. Avoiding these mistakes will increase your success rate by orders of magnitude.

Improper or incomplete internationalization of the product

Many internationalization efforts fail because they are inaccurate or simply incomplete. Are you covering all of the following?

  • First, following established internationalization standards to prepare code for localization is a must: Adopt Unicode and externalize user strings.
  • Next, perform pseudo-translations, and carry out quality assurance steps.
  • Once this is done, create a complete localization kit that includes the resource bundles, install script, help manuals, and any other files that end users see when they’re using your product.
  • Finally, double-check your localization kit for completeness and accuracy before the localization effort starts.

Lack of process

Not having a localization process (or using an outdated, unproven, or incomplete process) can have long-term consequences for your product’s future updates and success. Before you begin localization, design your plan for carrying out these key steps:

  • Preparing the files
  • Building the translation database
  • Leveraging the translation
  • Reusing the translation

Every company should establish a localization process that permits easy file processing and translation reuse. A collection of project reference materials – style guides, translation databases, glossaries for each language in your target market – is also essential.

Crippling budgets

There are very inexpensive ways to produce translations. Machine translation is one way that can be effective when all that’s needed is the gist of a document. But the gist is seldom enough, and it’s never acceptable when international releases are the goal. Professional translations and localization are costly, and will require a financial commitment, first for the initial effort and then to maintain on an ongoing basis.

Before setting the budgets for localization, try to estimate what would be the cost of a failed attempt.

Crippling schedules

Yes, dedicating the right strategy, a strong process, and a large team can help expedite localized releases. But there is a minimum time investment for a quality result that a rush job simply can’t satisfy. Give localization projects the time they deserve, even if that comes at the expense of time-to-market. A short delay in a successful product release should always be favored over a timely release of a potentially failed product.

Inexperienced staff

Your localization project calls for good project managers, translators, engineers, and layout staff. Hire experienced translators armed with an excellent command of the source and target languages as well as a good knowledge of your product’s subject area. Complement them with competent layout and engineering staff. Then, delegate authority to a capable project manager who’s tasked with delivering results on time, on budget, and within pre-established quality standards.

In short, a policy to have the best technology, people, and processes is still the best recipe for localization success. Sidestepping the budget and schedule ax requires experience and stature. The most cost-effective way to avoid these problems is to engage an experienced localization vendor, one that is capable of offering their experienced staff’s support at a moment’s notice to help you fulfill your global vision.


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