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Friday, June 28, 2013

How to decide whether to add another language support to the software product

The time is long gone when you could have only English as the language in which you are planning to release your software. Over the past many decades, software products have seen an increasing amount of revenue coming in from releases made in different languages, to sell in different regions of the world. So, although sales in the United States may be still your highest source of revenue, an increasing amount of revenue comes in from sales in Japan, in Europe, in Latin and South America, and in the emerging regions of China and India (for the last 2, there is another challenge that you have to meet, namely about how to prevent piracy and have more legal sales of the product in these regions).
So, if you have an English only version of your product, what will happen is that you will sell it in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, (and other English speaking nations of the world), and to some extent, you will even sell the English language versions in some of the countries, selling it to those consumers who want the English language versions of the product. But, what about the Spanish speaking world, the Japanese speaking, the French speaking, and so on ? Well, in many of these regions, there will be also a reluctance to buy the product just because the company has not chosen to bring out a specific language release. So, it always makes more sense to release specific language versions of the product, and releasing with the same set of features as the English language version.
The process of creating multiple language versions of the software is much easier. What is basically required is to translate all the UI elements in the application (includes strings, error messages, text within images, and any other text that the user can see) The way that the software code is written makes it easy to extract all these UI elements, and send them off for translation. Once these are translated, these are then incorporated back into the software, and then tested to ensure that there is no functional issue, and no cases where the translation leads into text that is messy or otherwise not right.
If it is that easy, why not just translate the software into as many languages as required ? Well, the previous paragraph was an over-statement; the process is expensive both in terms of revenue and resources. The process is not so exact. It can happen (and this especially happens with Japanese, German and Russian) that the translated text is much larger than the English language version, and there needs to be effort spent to either increase the size where the text is to be fitted (and this would need to be done in all languages) or the text needs to be re-translated into something smaller. For large products, a complete translation, which also includes the thorough testing of the product, can run upto almost a million dollars.
So this why there needs to be thought about translation into a new language. Reasons for the same include:
- Marketing estimate of enhanced revenue
- Potential sales in that region over a period of time
- Negative image getting developed because of the lack of product in that language
- Need of a partner. In many cases, when doing deals with partners, the partner would want the product to be there in multiple languages, and if the language is not supported, the deal could be in danger

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