What is “agile” software localization?




Localizing content plays a crucial role in the area of software development. Although some product design and development teams still believe that this phase should come after the entire development process, considering localization as an integral part of the initial software development phases helps to streamline your software products and make them more successful.

The current trend of launching products monthly or even weekly, with constant updates and changes, forces localization to keep up with this fast, non-linear pace, making it an “agile” process.

“Agile” localization includes a variety of translation/localization practices as part of an “agile” product development cycle for software. From this standpoint, translating content for a software product or an app is no longer done just after the product launch or in the “string freeze” phase but throughout the entire development process.

As such, a synchronization exists between the “agile” localization flow and the product development flow. The translation platform is often integrated into the development platform, allowing the localization team to notify when new content needs to be translated immediately. Once translated, this content is approved and sent to the development team, all with a fast and smooth flow.

This modular flow differs from the waterfall model used more frequently in the past. In the latter, a fixed timeframe would be set, with localization occurring in a later phase of product development, or even after product launch. “Agile” localization thus occurs in a timeframe with shorter but faster cycles in which content has to be translated for the target country or countries.

So, what are the benefits of “agile” localization?

  1. Ability to adapt: Regardless of the team’s size, the ability to adapt the translation software or platform to the product development platform allows content to start being adapted from the very outset of the process, so that the entire multidisciplinary team knows the current status of the localization phase.
  2. Efficiency: The quick updating of content to be translated, the high degree of automation and the integration of development and localization platforms result in time, communication and cost savings and greater efficiency throughout the process. In this way, the product team can remain fully focused on development tasks.
  3. User-friendliness: Instead of product teams having to exchange hundreds of emails with the localization team on content updates, glossaries, etc., and having to work in various different formats (such as CSV and XML) and types of translation software, “agile” localization concentrates all content into a single platform which processes all formats, is easy to use and can integrate with most software development platforms (GitHub, among others).
  4. Flexibility: Content “strings” often have to be changed over the course of the development process. “Agile” localization allows content to be modified, corrected or added during the software development phase, and not just after its launch (which could result in additional costs and delays).

With every model, “agile” localization can have certain limitations and risks which should be carefully considered. The first of these involves quality. A strict quality control must be in place in a fast and agile process to ensure a final product without shortcomings—especially when using machine translation engines. A human post-editing phase is mandatory to avoid linguistic errors and any distortion of the context.

Finally, let us discuss the best practices to follow in an “agile” localization process. First, the entire team must adopt a multidisciplinary approach and effective communication. Product, content, compliance and localization teams come from different fields of knowledge, with different (and complementary) terminology and perspectives. As such, finding “common ground” is essential to avoid misinterpretation.

Another best practice will be to create a translation guide and a glossary so that the entire localization team (from project managers to translators and reviewers), understands the style, register, product goals and target audience to keep terminology consistent, regardless of the target language. The glossary should include the names of the products and services in each country, abbreviations and acronyms, and other guidelines.

Creating a content strategy is another best practice that should be considered in this regard. Some of the questions to be included are:

  • What is the best way to divide the content into smaller parts? 
  • How and when can content be adapted and reused?
  • Where should metadata be used?

A flow should also be determined, allowing everyone involved in the area of content to control and manage its lifecycle.

Finally, these best practices should include a testing phase. It is essential to bear questions in mind such as linguistic rules in effect in a given country (especially for languages such as Arabic) and potential implications in terms of code. Performing a test with a sample group from the target audience is a best practice since it also provides feedback and opinions on the product from those who will use it in the future.

These days, the speed and volume of content creation and a trend of ambitious deadlines for the international launch of new products favour the use of “agile” practice.

At L10N, we know that launching a product in several different regions can be a challenge: if we couple the need to maintain relevance and consistency in terminology with products developed specifically for the areas of law, medicine, pharmaceuticals and finance, the challenge becomes even more significant, due to the need to comply with legal requirements and standards in effect in each country.

Here at L10N, we leverage our 20 years of experience and knowledge while integrating an “agile” localization process in developing your product. Contact our team, and we will find the best way to take your products beyond borders.

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