Best Practices for Localization Testing

Localization testing is crucial to the growth of your business. But what is localization, and how can you execute it effectively? Find out below. If you're looking for localization services, you can get started by hitting the big blue button instead.


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Localization Testing | Definition, best practices, and technqiues


Recap: what is localization testing?

Localization testing is any set of testing practices which determines your product is without issues in a local environment. Localization testing typically takes place in order to verify that localized changes are without issue, or that they have not created issues elsewhere in your product. 

Most obviously, that localized change could be a translation: but it might also be connection with a local banking partner, or any number of backend changes based on the whereabouts of your product. Localization testing can also occur to verify that an unchanged product works everywhere. Products dropped in environments they weren’t built in might exhibit functional bugs or non-functional issues related to language and culture. In one example, 40% of Indonesians have no last name, and it’s common for onboarding forms to mark surname as a required field. So, common test types like smoke testing or regression testing can both be kinds of localizaton test. 

Global App Testing offers all kinds of localization testing including tests which are built bespoke to specific businesses: for example, gambling products which need to ensure that they are not available in some states but are available in others in line with local legislation. In that example, we’d test via “localized testing” – literally testing the software from the target market –  in order to ensure your product works well.


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Categories of localization testing and localized bug

One useful exercise to determine the scope of your localization tests is to break down your risks by category. The simplest way to divide localization testing in four buckets by the type of bug or issue we’d associate with it:

1) Translation & linguistic

2) Cultural Nuance

3) Usability & Functional Testing

4) Access Testing

These are Global App Testing’s four pillars of localization testing. But they are not the only way to divide localization testing. While there is a clear use case and objective, localization testing by scope and technique is varied in part because it reflects different responsibilities across different departments in most international businesses. We use language around “testing” and “bug” in Global App Testing in part because many of our products and services are for engineering teams. But a cultural faux pas, while not a “bug”, shares many of the same attributes as a bug: it’s a mistake which has made it to production which negatively impacts your product and business.

Another way of sorting testing schemas is by the department responsible for eliminating them:

Engineering team

How well is my product working in new markets?

Product team

How well is my product working for users in new markets?

Marketing team

What could improve user adoption in new markets?

Localization team

Some mix of the above


Again, these distinctions are mostly to ensure that a localization strategy is being met with a team which can implement it: there is no point in endowing a marketing team with a framework of functional tests. Depending on your role, Global App Testing would suggest a different process, from benchmarking and cultural nuance checks to regression testing in multiple countries designed to fit within development sprint cycles.

Global localization statistics.

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Why is localization so important?

If you plan to expand into a new country, localization is crucial. Making sure that your product looks good and works smoothly in a specific region will lend you authority as well as popularity—leading to increased market share and revenue.

In a fast-moving world, most people don’t give second chances. Customers are more likely to stick with a localized product that works for them, and those who encounter linguistic or cultural gaffes will be put off. In short, better UX equals more sales.

Localization also offers scalability and a reduction in overall costs. Although the roll-out of initial testing might take time, putting this process in place will ensure that future releases and tests can be carried out much faster. This means you’ll be ready to move into new markets as soon as they emerge.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at how localization can boost your business by:

  • Embracing global opportunities
  • Building in scalability
  • Improving the testing process
  • Engaging with customers

How can localization boost your business?

Technology has connected the world like never before, and companies need to take a global perspective in order to remain competitive. Using localization is a great way of sending the right message to a global audience and generating extra revenue streams.

Embracing global opportunities

We won’t lie—setting up a successful localization process takes hard work, commitment, and resources. But don’t look at it as a one-off expense. Instead, think of it as an investment in opening up your business to global opportunities in the future.

It’s not just your major global competitors to think about either. Local companies in your target region may also want a piece of the pie—and they have the advantage of knowing their audience. Localization testing is vital for maintaining your product’s competitive edge.

It’s worth taking a moment here to mention internationalization testing, which is the process of ensuring a product supports multiple languages and locales (whereas localization testing focuses on the validation of one particular locale or language). The two together are referred to as globalization.

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Building in scalability

One of the great things about localization testing is that it’s scalable. That means your business has more scope for further expansion whenever the time is right for you. By focusing on localization at the development stage, you can build that scalability potential into the process—and ensure that localized versions of your product reach the market as quickly as possible.

It’s helpful to make sure your source content and user interface are flexible enough to be adapted for a different locale. For example, you can standardize expressions and phrasing in the original language, make embedded text editable within source graphics, and ensure subtitles on video tutorials are overlaid rather than burned.

Improving the testing process

The aim of localization testing is to pick up errors in translation, or issues with cultural differences. But you’ll also find that a well-designed localization strategy helps to streamline the QA workflow by coming up with ways to save time and money.

Localization is hugely important for your global outlook, but it needs to work in conjunction with the other areas of the software development life cycle (SDLC). For instance, there should be overlap with the functional testing team, to give the localization team an understanding of the product architecture.

Regression testing should be applied to localization too—if you’ve added a new feature or fixed a glitch, all teams must check that this hasn’t impacted the basic functionality. When testers are scrutinising your output for language-specific errors, they’ll probably spot opportunities for improvement in the original language too!

Engaging with customers

Localization is the number one way to build a sustainable rapport with your global audience. As we mentioned earlier, customers who feel the product is both relatable and usable are most likely to embrace it—and to share their opinions with others.

Users genuinely appreciate attention to detail, especially if they’ve previously had to put up with apps or websites that are glitchy regarding things like translation. Optimizing your product for a specific locale will show customers that you care about them and want to meet their needs.

Research shows that internet users from non-English-speaking countries prefer to buy products in their native language—so you’d be crazy to release an app with an American keyboard into a market that uses a different alphabet! By taking cultural differences into account, your company will demonstrate sensitivity and awareness.

Customers also want full compatibility with their preferred devices and operating systems. This makes hardware compatibility tests a crucial element, with real users testing products on real devices in the target locale.

Top 5 best practices for localization

Localization brings many challenges, including slower time to market, harder to measure ROI, and the process taking up a lot of internal resources. Here are our top tips to help you meet those challenges and ensure that your business grows as a result of localization.

  1. Take your time

    Localization won’t happen overnight—it will take time to assemble the resources and the team to carry out the testing. You also need to factor in research time for learning about your target audience and the local market conditions.

    It’s important to learn everything you can about the target users in order to tailor the localized experience for them. This is one area where automation can’t do the job for you. Human testers need to walk through the customer journey and perform extensive research to create highly specific test cases for the product.

    Take time to ensure the accuracy and appropriateness of your translation. Think about when you put a paragraph through Google Translate, translate it to a different language, then translate it back to English. It often doesn’t make sense at all. That’s because language nuances often don’t translate accurately without the help of an expert


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    A popular tonic water company once introduced its product to the Italian market without realizing that its name actually translated in Italian as ‘toilet water’! This was an expensive blunder, and it did not fill global markets with confidence. It goes to show that some bugs will only be found by native speakers with local insights.


  2. Test early and often

    “Test early, test often” is a common mantra in software testing, and it definitely applies to localization. However, too many companies treat localization as an afterthought, tacking it on to the end of the process when the product is almost ready. This is a mistake.

    Let’s say you leave localization testing until the late stages of your development process. You are confident in your app and ready to release, and decide to quickly translate it into the target language to try and make it accessible to other markets.

    Suddenly, the text doesn’t fit in buttons or boxes, and everything looks out of whack. The whole design might go badly wrong if you’re switching to a language that reads right-to-left, such as Arabic, Hebrew, or Urdu.

    Your team then needs to spend a considerable amount of time editing code to make sure everything fits. The whole process would’ve been less costly and faster if your company conducted localization testing early.

    As well as carrying out localization testing at an early stage, regular testing and retesting is necessary to iron out any bugs or glitches during the development process. Automation can save you time, especially if you use a localization testing tool such as Selenium WebDriver.

    However, due to the nuances we mentioned earlier, you need to combine automated technology with human input. This is where the Agile methodology comes in handy, with its principles of adaptability and continuous feedback.

    Localization testing methodology.Image Source

    In an Agile team, the product is thoroughly tested and debugged as it’s created, rather than waiting until it’s complete. Testers not only find defects earlier in the process, but they also develop an intricate knowledge of the product.

    The Agile approach condenses the development cycle and constantly provides user feedback, ensuring the product adapts to the market during development and reaches customers as soon as possible. This lets the team prioritize product usability, and ensure it’ll suit any market you release it to.

  3. Make sense of the data

    Analyzing data and customer feedback is vital for measuring your product’s performance and identifying areas for improvement. But here’s the thing—it won’t work unless you have a sense of what you’re actually measuring.

    The localization process helps companies to think about differences in language and culture, in order to create an appropriate user experience. It stands to reason that the way you measure success and interpret the data will differ from country to country.

    To prove ROI, you need to establish appropriate metrics for the specific region you are targeting. Decide on the number of downloads, purchases, and sign-ups you want to measure your success against, and focus your efforts on achieving these goals in a global market.

    You could analyze the number of new customers acquired in global markets, the percentage of market share, web traffic by country and language, and increases in revenue. Build support throughout your company for the project by delivering on key metrics which support your business.

    And if you aren’t hitting the right numbers, ask yourself why? A Swedish tech company, for example, found that they weren’t delivering on their key performance indicators in Indonesia. They had low numbers of sign-ups and couldn’t see the issue.

    After a round of localization testing, they realized that it was due to the fact that their onboarding process required a last name, which just under 40% of people in Indonesia don’t have. A large number of Indonesian people were not signing up, only due to the fact they were unable to do so. Once the company fixed that bug, a whole new market of 262 million people opened up.

    "Emojis to avoid when localizing software.Image Source

  4. Be culturally aware

    Localization isn’t a straightforward translation process. Cultural nuances also don’t often translate easily, or at all. For example, when a famous diaper brand tried to expand its reach to Japan, they printed the typical image of a stork carrying a baby onto the packaging. When sales seemed to be dwindling, they gathered some local insights to try and figure out the cause of the problem.

    They quickly discovered that, in Japan, the story goes that giant peaches bring babies to their parents, not storks! The cultural reference was utterly lost, and the company suffered as a result. By implementing localization testing, you can avoid any embarrassing, or even worse, offensive mistakes that could come about as a result of cultural differences

    Apart from mistakenly causing offence, another pitfall is failing to make your product adaptable for all language content. For example, the user interface should be tested to ensure it can accommodate text with larger lengths without distorting the alignment—and cater for alternate writing directions

    Standards around the world

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    It’s not just different alphabets and characters that must be accommodated. Think about spelling variants, numerical systems, currency symbols, hotkeys, HTML, and hyperlinks. The date and time format will need to change for different countries, as will phone number formats. Then there’s weights and measures, calendar differences, and licensing laws particular to the region.

    This is an area where human testing needs to be deployed across a wide range of scenarios. Crowdsourced testing is a good way to do this, as it gives access to a large number of testers in different countries with different languages.

  5. Choose a partner with global reach

    Getting localization right can be a challenge—but you don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of experts who already have the infrastructure in place and a guaranteed ability to test and deploy products in global markets. These companies can help you implement a highly efficient localization testing process, meaning you will save time and valuable resources.

    By partnering with a professional crowd testing company, you can achieve a global reach without having to hire separate testing teams across the world. Global App Testing has 70,000+ testers in 190+ countries that speak 120 languages - who are on hand to test your product. This will ensure that your translations are correct, your functionality is to a high standard, and that you have understood any cultural nuances that may apply to new markets.

    LiveSafe, for example, is used by major educational institutions and corporations to allow users to communicate in real-time with their organization’s security team. Livesafe relies on Global App Testing to ensure that their apps work globally in highly critical security situations. By testing in over 19 countries with Global App Testing, LiveSafe have ensured that their app works in the countries they are targeting, ensuring global growth and the safety of their global users.

Reap the rewards of localization testing 

Localization testing is a must if you intend to become a global business. If you get it right, you’ll be opening the doors to literally millions of new customers across the world—and massively improving your revenue potential.

Accurate translations and cultural sensitivity are the cornerstones of the process, as well as ensuring your software and content are compatible with a wide range of devices, operating systems and browsers. Attention to detail will let your customers know that your company cares about their needs.

The importance of researching your target market cannot be overstated, and it definitely pays to bring in a linguistics expert or a localization firm with proven expertise. That way, you can avoid any embarrassing and costly misunderstandings.


Need help with localization testing?

If you’re ready to bring localization testing into your development process, why not let Global App Testing help? We will manage, execute and analyze localized test results to help you release high-quality software anywhere in the world and access new markets

Visit our website for a personal demo, or a chat with one of our friendly team. You can also read more about localization testing and its challenges and solutions. 

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