What Does Localization Testing Involve?

Imagine buying a watch that only tells you what time it is in Switzerland … but you live in New York City. Or racing to the airport on May 6th because your flight app reads 05/06, only to realize you’ve arrived a month early for a flight on June 5th.

If you can picture your frustration in these imaginary scenarios, then you already have some sense of what localization is and why it’s so important. In this post, we take a look at what localization is, why testing it is so essential, and what buyers should understand and consider about the localization testing process.

What is localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product so that it’s customized for a specific country, region, language, and/or culture. When done well, localization should deliver content that appears perfectly suited to the needs and demands of the people living in that locale. It goes well beyond simple translation into some of the trickiest areas to translate: humor, current events, cultural norms, and more.

For example, a Netflix user will see a different library of television shows and movies depending on the country they’re watching from. McDonald’s has developed regional menus to cater to local tastes, featuring everything from a seasonal McLobster Roll in New England to a vegan McAloo Tikki “burger” in India.

What is localization testing?

Localization testing is a form of quality assurance—checking a localized version of a product, service, or piece of content to make sure its localization has been done well.

Sometimes, companies leave localization testing until late in their product development and launch cycle, assuming it’s just a quick final skim for any typos. However, localization testing involves far more than surface language errors.

First, testers must gather key data and context on the product, the brand, and the target region. Then, they must carefully check all linguistic and regional features for accuracy and effectiveness, as well as the local version’s overall usability. They also carefully track any bugs and errors throughout.

Their work generates a polished final product that is not merely linguistically correct, but feels as though it is written and designed by someone from that region.

Why is localization testing so important for businesses?

Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to own a custom-made piece of clothing, rather than a mass-produced garment off the rack?

The concept behind localization is not so different. Tailoring products to buyers’ tastes is more likely to increase customer loyalty to your brand, and there’s little more important to consumers than language. Indeed, research shows that 72% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product with information in their native language—and over half of buyers care more about finding information in their own language than about the price tag.

Localization testing also ensures a product will hit local markets without any embarrassing translation blunders. Slogans, in particular, often need careful testing to make sense (and avoid offense) in the idioms of other languages and cultures. In the 1980s, for instance, KFC’s slangy “Finger-lickin’ good” slogan accidentally launched in Beijing with the unappetizing translation “Eat your fingers off”!

What does localization testing look for?

Localization testing goes beyond getting rid of awkward grammatical constructions. In fact, it reviews everything from the user interface and regional hardware compatibility to graphics, text, and color schemes.

Here are some of the areas localization testing might consider:
User interface features: A mismatch here can quickly lead to issues like translated words overflowing their menu buttons or text not fitting in a website’s dialog box.

  • Regional formatting: Different regions use different date, time, number, and calendar formats, including how telephone numbers, zip codes, or addresses are written out.
  • Keyboard and language formatting: Symbols (like umlauts or Spanish eñes), characters and scripts, and the direction a language is written in will all have an enormous impact on local effectiveness.
  • Currencies and units of measurement: As anyone who’s tried to convert miles to kilometers or dollars to pounds using mental math can tell you, accurate measurement systems will save a lot of customer headaches.
  • Cultural awareness: Colors, images or graphics, names, and slogans often require a keen knowledge of local customs. For example, the friendly thumbs-up in the U.S. is an offensive gesture in Greece, while the color red is lucky in China, but associated with mourning in South Africa.
  • Legal requirements: Different regions vary widely in their laws surrounding data usage, copyright, and other legal concerns, highlighting just how important localization really is.

This is merely a sample of the wide range of elements a good localization tester might help you review.

How to find good localization testing

But where can you find a skilled tester who can take all these things into account?

Such a complex, yet rewarding endeavor is best handled by experts. Professional translation services like Trusted Translations already have translators who know the ins and outs of the target language and culture. Thanks to their wealth of experience, our translators can also offer nuanced advice on localizing for different industries, markets, device types, and more—everything needed to make the localization process go smoothly.

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