Localization testing for software and websites

Once you have localized your software or website, how do you know if the localized version functions properly?

Have the images been accurately localized? Are the dates, time, currency and addresses properly formatted for each target region? Do the hyperlinks function properly? Is there any text truncation? Are all hot keys working properly? How does the Portuguese mobile version look?

How do you ensure that all these are in conformity? When you plan to take your software or website global, you typically adopt the following globalization process:

Phase I: Internationalization

Phase II: Localization

Localization testing is a critical step in the globalization process. It ensures that the localized software or website is linguistically accurate, fully functional, culturally appropriate and meets the local user expectations.

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There are times when a company chooses to skip localization testing, and decides to launch its software or website once the translation is completed. Unfortunately, this can lead to major quality issues, unsatisfied users and ultimately putting the brand at risk.

The purpose of localization testing is to ensure that bugs were not introduced during the localization process, verifying that the localized software or website functions as expected, and displays the localized content properly for each target region.

A good example is a game application. After localizing a game into multiple languages, it is imperative to test the game in each localized language, as well as on target platforms (Windows, iOS, Android) and devices (desktops, laptops, mobile). When you’re localizing from English to German, for example, you may need to re-size the buttons and menu titles of the game, since there will be around 30% text expansion. If you are localizing your game into Thai, than you will require much more vertical space.

At times, translators are required to perform their translation without having much context, on a string-by-string basis. This may result in incorrect translation. For example, the word “close” has different meaning, as in “close the book” and also “close to the table.” In most languages, these will have different translations, and thus it is important to perform testing at the system level and in context.

Localization testing is done for each language build of the localized software or website and on the target platforms and devices that the software or website operates on. Localization testing has three key components: linguistic testing, cosmetic testing and functional testing.

  • Linguistic testing checks for linguistic accuracy; grammar/spelling; missing content; and consistent terminology across user interface, help files and documentation.
  • Cosmetic testing checks for text truncation; text overlapping; character corruption; dialog boxes and menu buttons; images and graphics; and alignment and layout.
  • Functional testing checks for functionality in localized versions consistent with the source; hyperlinks; hot keys; error messages; text input; regional settings.

Localization testing saves time and money, as it detects and corrects all the bugs that come up in the localization process before the software or website is released to the target markets. Stumbling upon errors post-release is an expensive and time consuming affair, not to mention the fact that it would discredit the company and brand.

Performing localization testing will ensure that your software or website is ready for global release.

While planning your globalization strategy, always budget adequate time for localization testing, no matter how tight the schedules are. Launching a high quality and flawless software or website in every target region will create an effective global customer experience.

Sarita Desai
Sarita Desai is a consultant at Netzmarkt. She began her career in localization on the client side and later moved to the supplier side with Mayflower Language Services. She hails from Lisbon and has background in economics.


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