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Mobile is Global—the Importance of Localization

By Product Management | March 6, 2015

CATEGORIES: Mobile Quality

It says a lot about the global power of mobile when one of the remotest tribes in the world, the Ambonwari of Papua, New Guinea has adopted the technology with ease. Although the connectivity in their village is spotty, they go up into the hills surrounding the village to connect. Since 2007, they have been using mobile devices as watches, torches, music players, and toys.

Mobile is indeed global and expanding every day—the latest data show that the number of mobile subscribers has reached 7.1 billion, and the number of mobile lines in service will surpass the world’s population later this year. Asia alone has 3.7 billion mobile subscribers, and is responsible for a good chunk of global growth. Even so, the Asian mobile market is far from saturated, because more than 270 million people do not have a cell phone. In Africa, wireless penetration stands at just 81%—well below that of any other region, so there is huge room for expansion.

If you are a software developer with hopes of reaching a global audience with a game or app, there are many things to keep in mind. You may not have to consider the Ambonwari’s history of headhunting when designing and testing games, but global presents the challenges of subtle cultural differences and obvious things like language. You need to ask one question above all when developing and testing games and apps, “Will everyone around the world enjoy and comprehend the game or app in the way we intended?”

Factors to Consider

  • An estimated 7,000 different languages are spoken worldwide, however, an app does not need to get translated into all those languages. Choose five major languages to start, which is challenging enough. Plan to expand the rollout to more markets in future releases.
  • There are 20 major alphabets worldwide, with Latin used by an estimated 2.6 billion people, Chinese by 1.3 billion people, and Devanagari by 1 billion people, which comprise the top three. Apps need to accurately understand and display symbols for these alphabets.
  • Measurements should be developed in the metric system first, and secondarily use the U.S. customary measurement system, i.e. 2.54 centimeters versus 1 inch.
  • While the implementation of the Euro decreased the number of currencies a little, there are still 167 official national currencies circulating around the world.
  • Dates and calendars will likely need some extra attention and fixes.
  • Getting a gauge on cultural differences is a big challenge because unlike language, this is not finite. Although it is not possible to take into account every single cultural quirk, do some research to avoid things that are obvious offenders.
  • Major social media sites are universal, but there may be some differences when integrating apps with these sites.

Once you have taken these factors into consideration, testing processes and methodology need to be clearly defined, repeatable, measurable, and scalable. Following these five steps will help ensure better quality control and faster launch for the global market.

  • Develop a sophisticated testing strategy that covers testing criteria, functional coverage, overall goals, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Develop a test plan that addresses test goals/criteria, specific test environment specifications, reporting mechanism, defect lifecycle management, and resource management.
  • Set up a test platform for each locale according to the defined platform matrix, and perform a smoke test to verify the availability of the build candidate.
  • Execute test scripts after all documents have been approved. Run automated structure checks, TM management, monitor & control, and a clear audit trail.
  • On a continual basis, use the KPI system that you developed in the beginning to help identify areas where the team is doing well and areas that need improvement.

In this day and age of ever-expanding global mobile, it is essential to incorporate localization and internationalization into development and testing of apps and games.

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