Localization Testing for Software and Websites – Best Practices

Localization Testing for Software and Websites – Best Practices

Localization Testing for Software and Websites – Best Practices

Recent history is full of blunders made by some “big boy” companies that made the decision to go global. Gerber Baby Foods decided to expand into Africa and used the same label on its jars – the cute baby. What it did not realize is that, because the literacy rate is so low in Africa, food cans and jars contain pictures of what is inside to be eaten. Obviously, they had to change the labeling.

Kentucky Fried Chicken expanded into China, with its famous phrase, “Finger-lickin’ good.” Unfortunately, the literal translation in Chinese was “Eat your fingers off.”

Recent history is full of blunders made by some “big boy” companies that made the decision to go global. They failed to localize their content, images, etc. for the targeted foreign audience and then had to go back and clean up their mistakes.

Localization. Any business that is going global has at least of cursory understanding of the term. It is more than just internationalization (deciding if a piece of software or a website is a good candidate for moving into a foreign market). And it is more than just translation. It is a myriad of factors and elements that will make software or websites suitable and appropriate for the targeted foreign audience.

There is only one way to ensure that suitability and appropriateness, and that is through testing – testing every element and function of a piece of software or a website to ensure not only that it “works” but also that the targeted foreign audience will receive it well.

Here are the best practices for such testing:

1. Begin by testing the translation

Whether it’s a game, which is certainly a complex piece of software, or an e-commerce website, there is text and/or script that must be translated. Quality of translation must be high, and, for this reason, many companies use professional translation services. The key will be to find a service, that has natives of the target language to manually prepare and/or edit all translations. Literal translations can result in wrong word usage and even offensive phrases to a receiving audience. And, as a final check, it is always a good idea to select a few consumers of the target audience to review and give feedback.

Take a game as an example. There is a huge difference in the ways in which young people may speak to adults in the U.S. and in Japan. If a script/dialogue does not take this into account during the translation process, people will be offended.

2. Testing the Images, dates, time, currency, purchasing and checkout procedures, contact information, addresses, etc.

Again, it is easy to offend a target audience with images and other visuals. A native will be a huge help here, as well as local testers. And this goes for any visuals that are used in software too. As well, test the functionality of all hyperlinks, truncation of text, etc.

And in terms of software testing, you have to be certain that no bugs were introduced during the localization process. This can happen when buttons must be enlarged, when vertical space for text or visuals must be expanded, or any of the other above-mentioned elements are changed.

The other critical piece of this testing is that all of these elements function properly on a myriad of platforms and devices that your recipients may be using. Testing on all platforms and devices is an absolute “must.”

Clearly, this aspect of localization involves lots of design work upfront and multiple layers of testing as each element/function is added.

3. Does it work?

This is where the “rubber meets the road.”

Software testing for full functionality should be completed by experienced engineers who can check every element down to the small details, to ensure that the software interacts correctly with the user as well as any third-party applications. The other part of this testing will ensure that any application will function correctly with whatever systems are in use in the target country/region.

Experiences software testers have a testing regimen that combs through all functions in an organized way. When they finish, the software or website will work and be ready for launch.

What Happens When Testing is Inadequate?

So, we have three key aspects of software and website testing:

  • Linguistic: grammar, word usage, expressions, and cultural nuances must be appropriate and culturally sensitive
  • Cosmetic: truncation of text, menus, and buttons, images and other graphics, layout, alignment, etc. Again, these are design functions, and they must be compatible with systems and devices in use by the target audience.
  • Functional: Put simply, does it really work? Are all elements interacting with users correctly?

Localization takes time, some cost, and solid testing. It is easy to become impatient and skip over the testing practices that you know should be in place. But if you do, bugs will not be detected and corrected. And finding those errors after launch will mean expensive and time-consuming work. As well, these issues can damage your brand reputation with those foreign audiences. Always budget enough time and money for full testing. Successful localization of software and websites means having an expert team of linguists, native consultants and reviewers, and testing engineers. Don’t cut corners here – you will regret it.


Erica Sunarjo is a translator with more than six years of work experience. Currently, she works as an editor at The Word Point. She likes to discuss topics related to translation services, content localization, and digital marketing. Apart from work, she enjoys reading books, riding horses, and scuba diving.