The Need For Agile Localization In The Software Development Workflow

Localization workflows have to align with the need for shorter release-cycles and the trend towards agile software development. So why then do we need a continuous localization workflow supporting agile development?

In today’s business climate, product teams don’t always foresee the impact of a particular feature on localization, and localization teams are often unable to influence design or development until a feature is already implemented.

Developers confronted with translation issues such as the manual extraction of source content from code and databases and sending them to translation, can find this work tedious.

This means that translation and localization often delay releases or cause certain features to be localized and lag behind in the release cycle or product roadmap.

As software companies can often release updates to customers multiple times a day or week, the rapid speed of the development processes requires a continuous localization process aligned with on-going deployment.

You can no longer afford to send translation files by e-mail or cut and paste strings from a spreadsheet to a source file.

It is important that the translation workflow and supporting tools are seamlessly integrated into the development process and that all aspects of translation and localization are automated, managed and monitored through a centralized system.

In order to streamline this process, more and more companies are adopting agile development methodologies to the translation and localization workflow, to allow for global product launches that ship simultaneously in multiple languages.

When talking about a typical translation workflow we have to bear in mind more than just the steps that a Language Service Provider (LSP) or translator takes. These are part of the workflow we focus on and support. We also include additional steps required to manage the content as it moves through the entire internationalization and localization process.

The process we see emerging in many tech companies is as follows:

01 Preparing For Translation / Internationalization

Internationalization – or i18n if you want to know the industry jargon and sound cool – is the process of making sure a piece of software can be adapted to different languages and regions.

This requires the use of mechanisms that offer the ability to change content dynamically based on the selected “locale”. This includes text fragments, time and date formatting, currency selection and even different images for different “locales”.

This results in a generalization of the product so that it can handle multiple languages, scripts and cultural conventions.

02 Extracting Copy For Translation / Locale File Creation

The results of fulfilling the requirements of the internationalization process are resource files that mostly contain key-value pairs mapping identifiers to strings in a development language.

After translation there will be other mappings for the respective target languages. These are used in the software to display proper content depending on the user’s “locale” (the combined setting of language and country).

These resource files must be extracted – which can be a separate step – and sent to the translation vendors.

Supporting systems such as PhraseApp provide vendor management. Vendor management allows you to work closely with your own team of translators, use machine translation or simply order professional translations from translation vendors.

They also help with file conversions, as systems support different localization file formats across platforms and programming languages.

03 Briefing Of Translators / Styleguide

Translators are often given content in a context-free format and as such providing reference material is the key to ensuring high quality, comprehensive translation.

Aside from glossaries and style guides, there are different channels that could be used to provide context where there may otherwise be none.

Translators are able to be given access to the software and developers can leave relevant context information as comments in the resource files.

04 Review

When translation work is finished the work is then reviewed for translation accuracy and overall correctness.

Measuring language quality is difficult. Systems that integrate review functionality can improve translation quality and accelerate localization in a timely manner.

There is automatic support that will verify that certain formal aspects are met – for example; verifying the same number of line breaks in source and target language, or same HTML tags in both languages.

Additionally, a proof-reading service can be used to allow someone else more familiar with both languages to review the translation and avert any potential embarrassment.

05 Integration Of Translation Files

The translated resource files must be transferred back from the translator to the development team for integration with the code. This might require another conversion to the required target file format.

06 Testing

After the translation files are integrated, testing and quality assurance are of the utmost importance.

Most tools and frameworks have support for in-context preview systems and collaboration between translators and developers.

07 Publishing / Release

After the translations have been added to the software and tested, your localized software is ready for release at long last!

A Note On Progress Overview & Team Collaboration…

Translation projects involve many parties including but not limited to product managers, developers, and translators.

As the volume of translations, number of target languages and the frequency of updates increases, team collaboration functionality becomes more and more vital.

When this happens it also becomes important to oversee resource allocation and monitor feature-wide translation status and progress from the localization side in real time.

Supporting tools can help with these needs by providing dashboards that give accurate statistics such as time spent, number of issues, status per content or language in order to provide a real time overview and to track performance. This can help to improve the localization process.

Conclusion

A continuous localization workflow is absolutely essential for fast-growing, tech-driven software companies.

A well-designed localization ecosystem wherein the translation / localization workflow is fully integrated with the overall development process is invaluable to the translation workflow in order to have all dependencies and accountabilities clear.

And with the right approach to workflow, resources and technology these challenges can be met successfully.

Your modern translation management software should provide:

  • The ability to adapt to your workflow
  • Robust editing capability of XLIFF content for translation agencies
  • Support for your software platform
  • Status reporting on translation progress
  • Team collaboration / communication

We designed PhraseApp to support the need of an agile and continuous approach of localization.

PhraseApp is used by clients to accelerate the overall localization process and to get higher-quality translations at a lower total cost. It automates the translation and localization process, so that your business and developers can focus on continuous product development.

By using PhraseApp your API strings can be automatically collected and submitted for translation to make it as easy as possible to launch new language versions of your product within hours while staying on top of the whole process.

PhraseApp facilitates simplicity and efficiency. It enables you to stop struggling with the handling of multiple language projects so that you can get back to production.

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Also published on Medium.

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