Localization QA: How important?

Quality Assurance (QA) of localized products is often an afterthought to the localization effort – despite the fact that it plays a major role in the localization process.

QA is not to be confused with the level of quality in each step of the localization process. Quality workmanship is part of every task:

  • Properly defining the project requirements
  • Preparing a complete localization kit.
  • Accurately translating and correctly editing the text.
  • Performing accurate dialog box resizing and professional desktop publishing.

It follows through right up to the release of the localized product, website, or document.

Localization QA should be the last step in verifying that the released localized product can accurately deliver its intended function to the end user. It is performed before committing to expensive production, duplication, or shipping costs to avoid having to remediate due to undetected errors. In the software industry, it might be called “beta testing” or “pre-release testing.” In the localization world, we call it “post-compilation QA,” “run-time QA,” “post-layout QA,” or simply “localization QA”.

If your documents or products are released with what appears to be acceptable translation but are plagued with inconsistent quality (corrupted fonts or source text; truncated strings; inaccurate sentence structure; incorrect gender, plurals, conjugation, or declensions) you have a localization QA problem on your hands, not necessarily a translation problem! Don’t fire your translators and editors; instead, revisit your localization QA process.

The two most important criteria to achieving successful localization QA are these:

  1. Access to the built localized product.
  2. Proficiency in the product and the target language.

QA is best handled by in-country representatives, technical staff, or client beta sites. They can run your localized application, or review the localized website and documents. Involving expert users in providing constructive feedback to confirm the accuracy of the translation is very helpful to the localization team. End-user feedback can bridge quality and expectation gaps between users and the localization team.

In the absence of third-party QA, you may engage hired contractors to perform this step. The criteria for selecting these contractors are the same as before. The time needed for localization QA is based on specific requirements, which vary widely. The project manager should work with engineering, localization, and the production teams to determine metrics for the work to be done. Knowing exactly how much time is to be spent on “QA’ing” the application itself helps define how much time will be required for each localized language.

For example, QA may include any of the following steps:

  1. Setting up the build environment.
  2. Compiling or building the localized application.
  3. Acquiring the hardware/software and setup needed to run the application.
  4. Acquiring application and test plan learning curve familiarity.
  5. Generating and adopting the formal QA plan with team buy-off.
  6. Implementing the QA plan in runtime according to plan.
  7. Applying any localization changes where necessary, together with any engineering changes required by localization.
  8. Rebuilding the corrected application.
  9. Verifying corrections.
  10. Generating a final QA report.

Some of these steps are usually handled by engineering, which allows the localization QA team to focus on items 3-4, 6-7, and 9-10.

Before commencing localization QA, engineering and the QA team must agree on the QA plan, including the time and resources required to complete it accurately, completely, and within the prescribed timeframes.

Localization QA may appear costly, but its costs are only a fraction of the overall localization and production costs. Yet, it is often the sole task that separates excellence from mediocrity. If you use a localization vendor for your localization activities, insist upon that vendor being involved in defining the localization QA process. Do it soon, since all localization tasks influence how the localization QA activities might be performed. If we can offer assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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