Internationalization: The Best Path To Success

Internationalization: The Best Path To Success

Connecting with a new audience is a tricky process and that’s why so much money is spent each year on branding. 

While everyone recognises global brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Nike, other companies will have to work very hard to even get close to the level of exposure they enjoy. 

According to research by BrandZ, almost all of the firms that have managed to improve their value worldwide in the past eight years have done so by moving into new territories. Indeed, global presence has driven growth in sectors such as luxury goods, fast food and soft drinks.

This demonstrates the importance of being able to interact with international audiences in a consistent and engaging manner, as it is the best way to ensure success in the long term. 

What is internationalization? 
Internationalization (i18n) is the process by which content is adapted for a wider audience. By generalizing a product or service, it will be able to handle multiple languages and cultural conventions without the need for redesign thanks to its flexible and neutral nature. This will lead to significant savings in the localization process and typically takes place in the early planning stages. For example, creating a series of illustrations when developing a user manual means there is less text to translate. 

How do you internationalize?
Central to the process is isolating constants from the variables. According to web globalization expert John Yunker, constants refer to anything that remains the same regardless of the market. For example, a brand’s logo, its navigation bars and company-specific style guide will not change no matter what country is being targeted. On the other hand, variables refer to all elements that will change from one location to another, such as date and calendar formats and currencies. By internationalizing, a modular approach is adapted to design, which means the software or website is able to incorporate international characters, address fields and other location-specific elements without any problems. 

Why should you internationalize? 
The process makes the planning and implementing process as efficient as possible, as no major redesigns are required. Also, because products and services can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures, time to market is reduced, while additional costs will also be scaled back dramatically. Other benefits include:

-Global-ready software: No need to make significant alterations to software for local markets, as key issues will already have been dealt with.
-No re-engineering, product delays or extra development costs: By readying your software for international use and localization from the kick-off, all of these issues will be avoided.  
-Faster and smoother global expansion: There will be no severe delays thanks to internationalization, as all of the bugs will have been fixed during the planning stage.
-Repeatable and scalable: Once a product cycle has been completed successfully, brands can repeat the process and train other workers on how to do it.

Common problems
Of course, there are always going to be speed bumps along the way as problems occur. One of the biggest problems is text expansion, as some languages can expand up to 70 per cent, while words can expand to almost 300 per cent once the translation process has been completed. This is why you need to consider what language pairs will be used at the planning stage, as this means some standard adjustments can be made to the user interface and graphics to accommodate text expansion.

Date, time and currency formats will differ all around the world and this is something that needs to be considered in the internalization process. Address will also differ in different parts of the globe and therefore it is essential firms do not hardcode a specific address format. The best solution is to have separate fields for each entry, such as flat/apartment/building number, street, zipcode/pincode/postalcode, city and country.

Casing is another issue, as the first letter of a word is typically made uppercase, but this will not always work. For example, uppercase does not exist in Hindi, while the days of the week are never uppercase in Russian, as it can change their meaning. 

So, the next time you are thinking about developing a product or service, think in terms of internalization. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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