Marketing Glossary - Development - Internationalization (i18n)

Internationalization (i18n)

What is Internationalization (i18n)?

Internationalization (i18n) is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. This preparation is a prerequisite for localization (l10n), which involves actually adapting the application for a specific region by adding locale-specific components.

Where is it Used?

Internationalization is crucial in software development for global markets. It's used in mobile apps, web applications, and software products that aim to reach a diverse, international audience. By internationalizing a product, companies can more easily adapt it to meet the linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements of users worldwide.

How Does it Work?

Internationalization involves several key practices:

  • Code and Data Separation: Separating user-facing text and other locale-sensitive data from source code.
  • Unicode Support: Ensuring that the software uses Unicode, enabling support for the character sets of all major languages.
  • Flexible Layouts: Designing user interfaces that can accommodate different languages and text directions, such as right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew.
  • Locale-Aware Functions: Using functions that support local conventions for dates, times, currencies, and numbers.
  • Expandability: Designing systems that are easily expandable to include additional languages and regions without significant changes to the infrastructure.

Why is Internationalization Important?

  • Market Expansion: Enables businesses to reach a broader audience by facilitating easier adaptation of products for global markets.
  • Cost Efficiency: Reduces the time and cost associated with adapting software for multiple locales.
  • Improved User Experience: Enhances the user experience by allowing users to interact with the software in their native language and locale-specific format.
  • Competitive Advantage: Provides a competitive edge in global markets by catering to the cultural preferences and legal requirements of different regions.
  • Scalability: Prepares software infrastructure for easy scalability into new geographic and demographic markets.

Key Takeaways/Elements:

  • Locale-Neutral Design: Software architecture that accommodates any locale’s data, format, and behavior.
  • Modularity: Modular design allowing easy integration of locale-specific components.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Flexible application frameworks that support diverse user requirements and preferences.
  • Comprehensive Unicode Support: Full support for Unicode to handle all global languages and scripts.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Awareness and accommodation of diverse cultural norms and practices.

Real-World Example:

A major technology company like Microsoft designs its operating systems and software with internationalization at the core. This approach allows them to efficiently localize products such as Windows and Microsoft Office for various markets around the world, adapting to different languages, cultures, and legal requirements. This strategy significantly streamlines the localization process for each new market they expand into.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How do you start with internationalization?

Begin by assessing your application’s architecture for global readiness, modularize user-facing components, ensure Unicode compliance, and implement flexible data handling and UI design.

What are the benefits of internationalization?

Internationalization facilitates market expansion, enhances user satisfaction, improves cost efficiency, and provides competitive advantage in global markets.

What is the difference between internationalization and localization?

Internationalization is the process of preparing software for easy localization without structural changes, while localization involves adapting the software for specific local markets.