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The dangers of inadequate localization testing

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Ronald Cummings-John Co-founder, Global App Testing
 

Today, many companies aim to succeed globally, so they can achieve wider brand recognition, increased ROI, and exponential growth.
 

With apps and web pages, especially, online products have huge potential to go global. Think of Zoom, which has helped teams work remotely across the world. This has led to awesome levels of growth.

However, scaling up software at a global level is not easy. It requires a complex understanding of new markets because every new market brings with it new hardware, operating systems, and network challenges. And that's just the start.

Once you contend with the technical side of global growth, you also need to take into account cultural nuances, language differences, and everything that comes with those things. It is not a simple process.

This is where localization testing comes in.

What is localization testing?

Localization testing is the process of testing your app or web page in the country you have chosen to operate in. Software testers from that country explore your app to try to uncover bugs that may affect users down the line. They report on those bugs, and you receive the results.

Your engineering team then fixes the bugs and … ta-da! But the importance of localization testing runs deeper than that.

Localization testing is all about ensuring that you build meaningful connections between the user and your product. Without that crucial connection, your customer has nothing to feel emotionally invested in. If your product isn't effectively localized, the likelihood of ensuring a meaningful connection is extremely low.

The goal of localization testing is to make sure a product looks, sounds, and feels right to users who don't speak your native language. When it feels right, you can build those connections.

Often, localization testing is simply not considered or is seen as just a small part of the scaling process. In the same way that QA can be an afterthought in the software development lifecycle, localization can be pushed toward the end. As your developers rush to release, a quick QA approval is all your team wants so they can ship by deadline.

But the decision to ignore localization can lead to a host of issues.

What happens when you ignore it

When Pepsi tried to launch in China to compete with Coca-Cola, it tried to use its famous marketing slogan of the 1960s, "Come alive! You're in the Pepsi generation." It was a big hit in North America. But in China, this tagline translated into, "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave."

A fail like this is hardly going to inspire faith in your brand. It looks clunky and makes customers in new markets feel as if the product isn't tailored to them.

Only 25% of Internet users speak English, so non-English speakers encounter inadequate localization every day.

Quality consultant Paul Carvalho once said, "The risk of offending people is really at the core of localization testing."

By localization testing, you are "sense-checking" your product. Does it make sense in the target country, and if it doesn't, how can you adjust it? Most importantly, you want to check that your product doesn't offend local users.

If a translation fail or aesthetic failure causes offense, that's going to cause a huge impact on your brand, and in the age of social media, you could face a backlash within hours of release. That would have long-term implications.

How to localize effectively

Localization is hard, but that doesn't mean it can’t be done effectively. With a detailed localization strategy and careful consideration of a new market, you can ensure that your product is of a high quality. A high-quality product is the key to success.

The fact is, to localize effectively, you need to consider all of these points with every new release:

  • Language

  • Cultural differences (verbal and non-verbal communication, customs, and habits, etc.)

  • Time zone

  • Population

  • Major cities; densely populated areas can impact load testing and the number of device combinations 

  • Ethnic groups

  • Age distribution

  • Gender distribution

  • Income

  • Smartphone usage

  • OS distribution

  • Popular devices

  • Major telecom companies

  • Payment methods available

  • Public holidays and other occasions

  • Migration history, to understand how many people may speak different languages and have different cultural norms than the country they're living in

  • Education levels

  • Religion

  • Hofstede Cultural Dimensions; this is a framework for cross-cultural communication and highlights cultural nuances that QA teams should consider and what cultures value in terms of communication

That's an extensive list, but an important one. When you consider each of these points, you can avoid the risk of offense that is central to the reason localization testing exists.

Of course, you need to recruit testers in new countries as well. One way to do this is by partnering with a crowdtesting provider. A proper localization strategy doesn't need to be a huge drain on your time and resources, and crowdtesting can unlock the potential for speedier release.

Avoid the dangers of inadequate localization

Localization testing is the process of validating that your product is appropriate for new, global markets. By ensuring that your product is tailored to the countries you release to, you can develop meaningful relationships with your new customers. Meaningful relationships are the key to brand loyalty and ensuring future ROI.

Localization testing is about saving your company from issues further down the road. After all, panic-driven fixing of bugs post-release because a feature doesn't work in Spain is enough to keep any developer awake at night.

So take the list of localization requirements into account when launching your product global. Recruit testers worldwide, and get testing.

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