Developers love speed. It’s so wonderful to get an idea at morning coffee, complete the design by lunch and flaunt a working demo over Martini with stakeholders! Boss is happy and we are so cool…
But we broke so many rules that haunt us later in a demo to a key international (for example, Japanese) customer, that will determine the future of our company: an error message, left deep inside the code may show up in English after you went through all the effort to localize your screens to Japanese. Now, instead of Kanji (the Japanese pictorial script) bits of English show up.
We may start with the clichés of good software development practices, but let’s be practical. Delivery pressures are usually high in early start-up stages. Stress and uncertainty make us push seemingly trivial matters like internationalization to a later time that never comes.
There is a better way. We call it to pseudo localize. Pseudo-localization is a software testing method used for testing internationalization aspects of software. Instead of translating the text of the software into a foreign language, as in the process of localization, the textual elements of an application are replaced with an altered version of the original language. Let’s address the “How” first and it all becomes clear:
- Our IDE (like Eclipse) helps us externalize all UI and error message strings that are NOT hard coded (See here how Eclipse does it)
- There are many tools custom and even open source that will append and/or prefix all strings with Japanese or other native characters of your choice (e.g. “漢字”) to messages/text resource files.
- At this point all the externalized (i.e. “good”) strings are decorated with this phrase you chose (“漢字”).
- Build your pseudo localized version and test it with the most common (Demo) scenarios and observe if something on the UI appears pure English with the missing prefix.
- This is your offending hard-coded string
This will not only ensure that we are better internationalized but will also help the process of translating the software to another language for our localization provider/vendor.A lot of effort and thought goes into building and stabilizing a solution by the founding team of a start-up. Small, simple steps can ensure non-English speaking markets are within your reach. We do that and we open opportunities without exerting too much effort and little additional investment. Isn’t it a wonder that someone you may not be able to converse with due to language barriers is able to use your product fluently in their own native and find value.