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Mastering Internationalization Testing: Best Practices for Global Businesses

Internationalization testing is a crucial step in the software development process designed to ensure that applications function effectively across different regions, languages, and cultures. With the global digital economy’s expansion, businesses must prioritize such testing to meet their diverse target audience’s needs and expectations.

Internationalization testing enables software applications to adapt to different languages, regions, and cultures without requiring changes to the source code, ensuring a universally positive user experience.

This article will explain the challenges of internationalization testing, best practices for global businesses, and the solution for simplifying that process: a strong translation management platform.

The Challenges of Internationalization Testing

Despite its importance, businesses often encounter obstacles during internationalization testing. The process can be complex and time-consuming, requiring meticulous attention to details like formats for dates, currencies, and telephone numbers. According to a 2017 report by CSA Research, more than half of global websites were not “global-ready,” underscoring the widespread challenge of internationalization.

One major challenge lies in managing the enormous variety of localizable elements, from the user interface elements like toolbars and buttons to back-end processes and file transfers. Failing to externalize these elements can complicate the localization testing process, leading to errors and usability issues. Additionally, managing different encodings and ensuring compatibility across diverse systems and platforms can be an intricate task requiring skilled testers and advanced testing tools.

Best Practices for Internationalization Testing

Overcoming these obstacles requires adopting a strategic approach towards internationalization testing. Here are some best practices:

Design for International Use from the Start

Designing for international use from the start, often referred to as an “internationalization-first” approach, is a crucial aspect of software development for several reasons:

  • Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: If international considerations are an afterthought, developers will likely need to re-engineer the software later to accommodate different languages, cultures, and regions. This process is usually more complex, time-consuming, and expensive than designing with internationalization in mind from the start.
  • Usability: Internationalization is not just about translating text; it’s about making sure the software is usable and makes sense to people from different cultures. This includes everything from the user interface to date/time formats, numeric formats, and even color choices. Designing for international use from the start ensures the software is adaptable and comfortable for all users, regardless of their location.
  • Scalability: Building internationalization into the design from the start makes it easier to scale your software to new markets in the future. You won’t need to worry about significant redesigns or codebase alterations when you decide to expand to new countries or regions.
  • Better Quality: Internationalization-first approach allows developers to catch potential localization issues early in the development process. By thinking about these problems upfront, you can avoid them entirely and improve the overall quality of your software.
  • Competitive Advantage: With globalization and the expansion of the internet, businesses are increasingly competing on a global scale. Designing for international use from the beginning can give you a competitive edge and enable faster entry into new markets.
  • Smooth Localization Process: When software is designed with internationalization in mind from the outset, the localization process (adapting the software to a specific language and culture) becomes much smoother and more efficient. It reduces the potential issues that can arise during localization testing, such as text expansion, character encoding problems, and layout issues.

In summary, designing for international use from the start aligns with the best practice of proactive planning, leading to more successful and cost-effective software development projects.

Use Unicode

Using Unicode and externalizing all localizable elements are critical best practices in internationalization testing, particularly when preparing software or web applications for localization.

Unicode is a universal character encoding standard that represents virtually every character in every language. It plays a significant role in ensuring that your software can handle text in various languages, especially those that use different scripts. By adopting Unicode, you are creating a more inclusive and globally adaptable software product.

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Externalize All Localizable Elements

In addition to using Unicode, externalizing all localizable elements such as text strings, images, dates, times, and currencies, means separating these from your source code. This is vital because it enables localization engineers to access and modify these elements without needing to interact directly with the source code. By externalizing these elements, you simplify the localization testing process, reduce the risk of introducing errors into the code, and make it easier to update localized content in the future.

Both these practices, therefore, contribute significantly to creating software that is ready for the global stage. By using Unicode and externalizing localizable elements, you’re making your software more adaptable, scalable, and efficient in addressing the needs of various markets around the world.

Perform Pseudo-localization

Pseudo-localization is a software testing method used to check the readiness of an application for localization. It involves creating a “fake” (pseudo) localized version of your application by replacing the text in your application with an altered version of the original language.

The importance of performing pseudo-localization for internationalization testing lies in its ability to identify potential issues that may arise when your software is translated into different languages.

One key reason to use pseudo-localization is to check if the user interface can handle the characteristics of different languages. For instance, some languages, when translated from English, can expand and result in longer text. German, for example, can have words that are significantly longer than their English counterparts. Pseudo-localization can artificially extend the length of strings (increase the number of letters) to ensure that the user interface can cope with such changes without any layout issues.

In addition, pseudo-localization can help verify that all the text in the application’s user interface is localizable, and no hard-coded strings have been overlooked. It is done by replacing characters with visually distinctive alternatives or adding notable prefixes or suffixes. So, if any text in the specific language of the pseudo-localized application still appears in the original language, it indicates that those strings have not been externalized correctly.

By using pseudo-localization in the early stages of software development, you can identify and fix potential localization issues before they become costly or time-consuming to resolve. Therefore, it is a best practice in internationalization testing.

Automate Testing

Automating testing for internationalization is a best practice due to its effectiveness and efficiency in managing the extensive and complex scope of internationalization testing. Automation enhances the testing process by ensuring that checks are comprehensive, consistent, and time-efficient.

Testing automation tools such as Selenium are particularly useful in web application testing. These tools enable you to write scripts that simulate various user interactions and assert expected outcomes. Selenium’s capability to support multiple browsers and languages makes it especially suitable for internationalization testing.

In the context of internationalization testing, automated unit testing can help in ensuring that smaller parts of the code, like functions or methods, behave correctly when subjected to different locales or cultural settings. Automating these tests can help find and resolve potential issues quickly and in a more manageable scope before integrating these units into the larger application.

Furthermore, automation allows repetitive and regression tests to be performed effortlessly. As your software evolves, it’s crucial to test that new changes haven’t negatively impacted its internationalization. Automating these tests saves a significant amount of time and resources, allowing your team to focus on delivering new features and improvements.

Overall, automating your internationalization testing leads to higher productivity, faster time-to-market, and a more reliable, globally-ready product.

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Leverage OneSky for Internationalization Testing

While these best practices can guide internationalization testing, businesses often benefit from leveraging a translation management platform. These platforms simplify the process, offering automation features for usability testing, compatibility testing, and security testing. They can also handle performance testing, ensuring your application maintains optimal functionality under different loads and conditions.

As businesses expand globally, internationalization testing becomes more critical. It helps ensure that your software application is ready for global audiences, enhancing the user experience and bolstering your global brand. Remember, internationalization testing is not a one-time process but should be part of an ongoing strategy to keep your software relevant across different regions.

Streamline your internationalization testing process with OneSky, a trusted translation management platform. Not only will it alleviate the manual testing burden, but it also provides seamless end-to-end solutions, ensuring that your software application resonates with its users, regardless of their language or location.

Mandy Fong

Head of Sales, OneSky

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