5 Reasons Why Software Localization Fails

Back to the Software Business Network

Localizing a product for international markets is now faster and more efficient than ever. And, the growth in online resources – wikis, blogs, mailing lists, and more – allows smart professionals (like you) to learn about localization before they make their investment.

And yet, even in the 21st century, we hear of failed international product release attempts or mishaps. Why?

The following are the top five reasons why software localization falters. Avoiding these mistakes will increase your success rate by orders of magnitude.

  • Improper or incomplete internationalization of the product

  • Lack of process

  • Crippling budgets

  • Crippling schedules

  • Inexperienced staff




1- Improper or incomplete internationalization of the product
Many internationalization efforts fail because they are inaccurate or simply incomplete. Are you covering all of the following?




  • First, following established internationalization standards to prepare code for localization is a must: Adopt Unicode and externalize user strings.

  • Next, perform pseudo-translations and carry out quality assurance steps.

  • Once this is done, create a complete localization kit. Your kit should include the resource bundles, install script, help manuals, and any other files that end users see when they’re using your product.

  • Finally, double-check your localization kit. Be sure it’s complete and accurate before the localization effort starts.




2- Lack of process
Not having a localization process (or using an outdated, unproven, or incomplete process) can have long-term consequences for your product’s future updates and success. Before you begin localization, design your plan for each of these key steps:


  • Preparing the files

  • Building the translation database

  • Leveraging the translation

  • Reusing the translation




Every company should establish a localization process that permits easy file processing and translation reuse. A collection of project reference materials for each language in your target market – style guides, translation databases, glossaries, and translation knowledgebases – is also essential.

3- Crippling budgets
There are very inexpensive ways to produce translations. Machine translation is one way that can be effective when all that’s needed is the gist of a document. But “the gist” is seldom enough, and it’s never acceptable when international releases are the goal.

Professional translations and localization will require a financial commitment: first, for the initial effort, and then, for the ongoing maintenance. Before setting the budgets for localization, try to estimate what the cost of a failed attempt would be.

4- Crippling schedules
Yes, dedicating the right strategy, a strong process, and a large team can help expedite localized releases. But there is a minimum time investment for a quality result that a rush job simply can’t satisfy.

Give localization projects the time they deserve, even if that comes at the expense of time-to-market. A short delay in a successful product release should always be favored over a fast release of a potentially failed product.

5- Inexperienced staff




  • Your localization project calls for good project managers, translators, engineers, and layout staff:

  • Hire experienced translators armed with an excellent command of the source and target languages, as well as a good knowledge of your product’s subject area.

  • Complement them with competent layout and engineering staff.

  • Then, delegate authority to a capable project manager tasked with delivering results on time, on budget, and within per-established quality standards.



In short, the recipe for software localization success is simple: the best technology, people, and processes. Sidestepping the budget and schedule ax requires experience and stature. The most cost-effective way to avoid these problems is to engage an experienced localization vendor, one that offers support at a moment’s notice.

This article is an excerpt from Enabling Globalization.


For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.


anonymous's picture

Thanks for sharing these ideas. This is like an eye opener to translators who practiced those being mentioned above.

anonymous's picture

Thanks Gustavo for your input. I fully agree with you. Understanding the culture is indeed an important factor in ensuring product localization success.

We rely on 3 groups of people to address culture-sensitive issues that may be encountered in the localization and translation effort.

1. Our translators are often in-country professional translators that are familiar with the country’s culture nuances. They will report cultural issues and inquire back with the client when changes are required.

2. Our translation reviewers, which have very experienced second pair of eyes, review the entire translation against the source text. Their trained eyes are sensitive to catching problems that may have slipped through the during the translation stage.

3. We lastly always recommend a run-time quality assurance step to be performed after the localized software is built by product experts in the countries it is intended for. This step is similar to the beta-testing that takes place on the source language software locally. International runtime QA should detect any translations made out of context.

In our experience if all three steps are performed correctly, it is much less likely to run into cultural issues with the localized software.

Unfortunately, many companies side-step 2 of the above 3 and some even rely on inexperienced staff or even machine translation to perform the first step! Read my most recent blog pertaining to localization and translation quality at: http://www.globalvis.com/what-happened-to-quality-in-localization-and-translation/

anonymous's picture

Nice topics, but i think everybody needs to consider one more... The culture. I mean, incorporate someone to your team that knows the culture and country that you want to make your software localization. Some times the "standard" translations between languages is not enough and others aspects that would impact your UI and functionality.

Lauren Dankiewicz (Intel)'s picture

Thanks sbtech. What other topics on localization have you been looking for? We'd love to help bring you the information.

sandeep-p's picture

thanks for the information .
I was looking for this topics for the past few days .....

Add a Comment

Have a technical question? Visit our forums. Have site or software product issues? Contact support.