Localisation assurance: Ensure rich UX by avoiding these three common misconceptions

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Digital, today, is the de facto strategy of all businesses going global. The secret sauce of a successful Digital global business is the ability to customise one’s end user facing application to their target audience’s needs.

Customisation becomes complex when you have a multi-country customer base, as businesses and people of each region have their unique way of conducting business and distinct buying patterns. Wouldn’t you love to frequently visit a web page where you instantly find what you’re looking for, in a language you understand, displayed in a manner which aligns to your personal or business culture? This is where localisation, the ability to adapt one’s application estate as per the finer details of a specific region, plays a key role, and gives businesses that needed edge over competition.

Localisation has many key facets, one of which is an independent, holistic localisation assurance approach, tailor made for each locale. These tests go beyond the industry’s ‘run of the mill’, traditional validation aspects.

Today’s successful global organisations have mastered this important component, complimenting the customised, region specific User Interface (UI) designs. However, many organisations are yet to come onboard and tap into the benefits that localisation assurance has to offer. A key factor holding these organisations back is their lack of understanding, and the misconceptions about localisation assurance present in the industry today. The below sections list down the top three misconceptions about localisation assurance:

Misconception 1: I have carried out testing for my master template quite extensively. Why would I need another round of localisation assurance? Aren’t they similar?”

This is one of the most common mistakes that organisations tend to make. They believe that rolling out the assurance strategy whipped up for a global template, with minimum changes, holds good for every country where the application is released. Let’s look at the difference between the two with an example of a coffee machine- picture your organisation as one that manufactures coffee machines (your application), sold all over the globe (IT globalisation). Once your coffee machine is manufactured and is picked up fresh off the belt, you will do a basic test to ensure that the machine is carrying out all the basic functions- brewing 4 different types of coffees, buttons function appropriately etc. 

This process highlights Globalisation assurance. Once your coffee machine is rolled out to the different regions of the world (IT localisation), it will be tested once again by the local teams, once the installation is done. This time the tests would be a bit more thorough, such as: are the coffee labels displaying the right language? Are the right labels tagged to the right buttons dispensing that particular type of coffee? Is the taste of each coffee as per the palette preference of the customers? Etc. These in summary are your localised tests. Therefore, you will notice that there is a significant difference between the two assurances types and require a dedicated strategy each.

Misconception 2: I have tested my app for functionality in all the languages it has been translated to, hence my localisation assurance is done!

Most organisations today believe that localisation assurance is all about translating the text and doing a quick functional test and getting done with it. However, it is  much beyond that. There are three key aspects forming the foundation that makes a localisation assurance strategy robust-linguistics, regional and functionality. Let’s see what role each of these play:

  • Linguistics: This is usually the first level test conducted to ensure that the language is translated accurately, the terminologies used in the new language are correct and consistent, and there is no character corruption
  • Regional: Here, you ensure that the cultural design aspects such as colours, layout, date and time formats, currency symbols etc. are displayed correctly as per the region- visual verification. These tests are usually predominantly non-functional in nature
  • Functionality: Last but not the least, you ensure that the features are not broken after app localisation is completed- are the hyperlinks and hot keys functioning correctly? Have the drop-down menus changed as per the country or region? Are data fields accepting special characters, needed for the languages such as German etc?

To summarise, run of the mill functionality tests don’t fit the bill for localisation, and ensuring a holistic approach is extremely important.

Misconception 3: For my localisation program, I have factored in testing right at the end of the development life- cycle, and that too only if time permits. We cannot miss the release date at any cost

Yes, the golden words, the sound of which tend to make every Quality practitioner cringe. Though this statement applies to all types of software Quality practices in this day and age, the ill effects of ‘tech debt’ come at an extremely high cost when it comes to localisation- by the time the defects are detected, the cost and time taken to fix those are extremely high. Did you know that a majority of the testing activities can be completed at the wireframe stage itself via ‘Shift Left’? Tests specific to language translation as well as visual verification (UI tests) can be completed extremely early in the dev test cycle, ensuring a significant decline in Cost of Quality. In fact, the language aspect is a key influencer right at the design stage it self- your various design objects and elements should be able to accommodate the longer alphabets/ words of languages such as Russian (avoiding a text box spill over), as well as the shorter ones of South East Asian languages such as Japanese (space rationalisation, coupled with larger font size).

Listed below are a few key components for which tests must be accounted for early in the life cycle:

  • Search Engine Optimisation: Utilise analytics tools to ensure that the keywords being used in the local language are bang for the buck when it comes to search engine optimisation
  • Social Media Optimisation: Make sure that your usability test suite gives enough attention to the most popular social media platforms of that particular country or region, and their ‘call to action’ or ability to share is extremely easy for the application user
  • Visual Test automation: Yes, visual tests are Important enough and demand an automation strategy. There are state of the art tools available in the market today, that go beyond just pixel to pixel validation and have the ability to mimic the human eye accurately, which can significantly reduce effort and time- gold in today’s agile methodology driven industry
  • Language and country selector: Another key Usability aspect- it is extremely important to have a prominently displayed country and language selector. This will ensure that the majority of users visiting your website or application can immediately view your content in their comfort zone, and improve ease of doing business
  • Exploratory testing: Ensure that a good amount of effort is spent on exploratory, ‘in the wild’ testing, with a focus on negative scenarios to catch bugs early

Hence, it is critical to give localisation assurance it’s due importance, and invest enough time and effort executing a dedicated test strategy. It is a key activity that allows you to move from the realm of software testing to business assurance, enabling your business to build credibility and improve customer engagement, especially when your app or product is launched fresh off the shelf in a new region or country. Remember, a good localisation assurance strategy ensures a smooth and seamless experience, which lets your end users know that you are serious about their needs and are making an effort to connect with them by relating to their culture and appreciating their uniqueness.

Aditya G Hosangadi, Consultant, Digital Transformation Assurance, Wipro Limited
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