How to check the quality of localized content

Poor localization equals a bad user experience, brand erosion, costly and embarrassing mistakes, and potential legal issues. 

Deprioritizing localization quality = deprioritizing customer experience. 

This should be the message you get across to other stakeholders when talking about the importance of good quality localization

If translations, design, and functionality don’t work for your intended audience, customers are not going to engage or convert. 

That’s why you need to check the quality of your localized content, products, and services to make sure they meet the expectations of your target market.

This process is known as localization quality assurance (LQA)

Before explaining how to do LQA to improve the quality of localized content, let’s go over some basics. 

What is localization quality assurance (LQA)?

Shortened to LQA, localization quality assurance makes sure content fits your target audience’s cultural, demographic, regional, and functional preferences.

At a high level, LQA includes checking:

  • Language: linguists or translators will typically proofread content to spot any spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation, formatting, and consistency errors. Not just in the translated text but also in the source or original text.
  • Cultural relevancy: localization experts check that products, services, and content meet the cultural, social, and legal norms of the target markets. 
  • Technical compatibility: localization engineers and designers test products and services to make sure they’re appropriate for the audience and compatible with local systems.

In short, testers and linguists meticulously review localized content, comparing it with the original to identify and correct errors, inconsistencies, or potential issues that may arise from language nuances, cultural differences, or behavioral norms.

What’s the difference? Linguistic vs localization quality assurance

Linguistic quality assurance is part of the localization quality assurance process. 

When assessing the linguistic quality, testers focus on the use of grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, idioms, style, terminology, and other language-specific elements. Always taking into consideration regional preferences and cultural context. 

But there’s a lot more to localization testing than just language. 

Testers will review usability, functionality, design, and much more to create a user experience that feels native to the audience

A quick recap of localization

Before taking a look at how to QA your translations, it’s important to understand the concept of localization. 

Localization is the process of adapting a product, service, or content to cater to the language, culture, and other locale-specific requirements of a target market. It involves not only translating text, but also adapting images, symbols, colors, formatting, idioms, currencies, and other elements as needed.  

The ultimate goal is to create a user experience that feels native to the audience, which facilitates market entry, builds brand trust, and increases customer satisfaction.

Your localization quality assurance program in 6 steps

Localization quality assurance is not something you can rush. The more meticulously you prepare for your LQA process, the smoother it will be and the higher the quality of your localized content. 

To check that a product, service, or content has been localized correctly and at a high quality across different languages and cultures, here are the steps you should follow:

1. Preparation is key for LQA testing

Define your quality or style guidelines: Create a style guide, glossary of terms, and QA checklist for your content. These will act as reference tools for your translators and testers, helping to keep consistency and quality across translations. 

Choose your QA team: It’s not enough to speak the language, your LQA team also needs to understand the culture of your target market. Variations in dialect and cultural expressions can cause serious communication gaps, so they need to be able to capture these.

Even though some markets speak the same language, they use different expressions: 

Different expressions in the same language. Red and yellow jumper (UK), sweater (US).

LQA testers are usually experienced linguists and localization experts who have a deep understanding of the target language and culture and are proficient with QA tools and processes. 

But you’ll likely need to call in other experts depending on your project: 

  • Localization engineers will need to handle any technical elements of LQA
  • Designers will need to assess things like images, alignment, and layout. 
  • And depending on the content being localized, you might need help from subject matter experts. For example, a medical expert if you’re localizing medical content.

Choose the right tools: Your team needs access to tools and technology that make LQA processes efficient. Choose tools with built-in Translation Memory (TM) and glossaries, which not only speed up the translation process but also ensure consistency. LQA tools should also be able to track issues, manage workflows, and generate quality reports.

Lokalise is a translation management platform that includes fully automated translation quality reviews if you need to move fast. You can also assign content for human review. Either way, you can upload your glossary and style guide for linguistic quality assurance checks that are on-brand and consistent. 

Discover how you can fully automate the LQA process with Lokalise in this short video:

Prioritize content to test: You might decide to QA test a portion of your content, either because you don’t have the budget to test everything in one go or because you want to launch a beta version as quickly as possible. Either way, you’ll want to prioritize content, focusing on high-priority areas such as legal documents, business-critical content, and UI elements. 

Set KPIs for localized content: Set quantifiable metrics to help you understand the performance of your localized content. You might want to measure customer engagement, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction. You should also measure the quality of your translations. This could include error rates, the accuracy of translations, adherence to style guides, etc.

Draw up the LQA process project timeline: Establishing the project duration and having clear milestones helps you complete each aspect of the LQA process within the designated time frame and manage resources effectively. You might set up project milestones for the point when all initial translations are finished, the stage where all localized content has been checked and approved by your LQA team, or the beta release.

2. Start LQA testing

In this step, the quality of the localized content or product is tested for linguistic accuracy, cultural preferences, functionality, and cosmetic.

Linguistic and cultural testing

Linguists and localization experts focus on the linguistic quality assurance part of localization testing. They check the use of grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, idioms, style, and other language-specific elements. Always taking into consideration regional preferences and cultural context. They ask questions like:

  • Do translations have the same meaning as the original text? 
  • Is content consistent?
  • Are translations too literal?
  • What are the cultural and contextual factors I need to consider?
  • Are there any spelling variations, regional differences, and cultural nuances?
  • Does grammar and syntax vary between languages, even those that are similar? 
  • What punctuation rules should I follow?
  • What are the stylistic rules for capitalization and the use of pronouns or adverbs?
  • What are the appropriate formats for dates, distances, currencies, or times?
  • Is the use of humor or informal language culturally appropriate?
  • Are cultural references familiar (books, famous figures, songs, etc) and relevant to the target audience?
  • Are date, number, address, and phone number formats correct?
  • Has the correct symbol or units of measurement been used?

Creating a style guide can help you avoid linguistic errors in the first place, so always make sure you share style guides with translators before they start localizing your content.

Automate translation QA with AI

Carry out AI-powered QA checks in Lokalise, alongside your style guide and glossary.

Automate QA checks

Functional and technical compatibility testing

Localization engineers check the localized product or website works as intended in the target locale environment and is compatible with local systems and software. When adding translated content to a website or app, layout and formatting changes may occur, affecting the overall user experience. So it’s important to check that there are no broken links or buttons, text displays correctly, and forms, scripts, and other interactive elements work as they should. 

Here are some areas localization engineers will focus on:

  • Website functionality: testing the website’s usability, including searching for products, purchasing, customer support, and navigating through terms and conditions. Identifying any issues or roadblocks that may interrupt the user experience.
  • App performance: all elements, such as buttons, links, menus, and dialogue boxes should function as expected. Text should be properly displayed without overlapping or being cut off, and in the right order (especially for languages written right-to-left). The app’s navigational structure should make sense and allow for easy movement between different sections. If applicable, offline capabilities of the app should be tested for different local scenarios.
  • Feedback from native speakers: native speakers provide valuable insights into the linguistic and cultural aspects of the content. Product teams and engineers should always listen to local feedback and address any issues or suggestions users may have. Their perspective can help fine-tune the localized content and enhance the overall user experience.
  • Compatibility: Products should operate without issues across different devices, operating systems, screen sizes, and orientations (landscape or portrait mode), and be compatible with local systems and platforms, like payment methods. 

Spotify’s Global Head of Commerce and Customer Service Sandra Alzetta knows how critical payment choice can be:

“Payments are very different in each market, which means that we have to look at each one individually and figure out the right offering for our users. If we get it right, we know just how powerful that can be.”

Design and UX testing

Designers should QA the layout, alignment, fonts, colors, images, and any other visual elements of localized content. Not just to make sure the design follows the brand style guide, but also to make sure design elements are culturally acceptable. Every detail counts when it comes to the look and feel of your localized content or product, so each of these elements plays a significant role in ensuring a high-quality localization:

    • Images and graphics: the use of metaphors, colors, icons, symbols, and imagery vary between cultures. You can avoid cultural misinterpretations lby doing thorough research and interviewing native speakers or locals.
    • Layout: check that the layout accommodates longer text. Some languages, like German, Italian, and Russian have a longer average word length, reaching up to 30% longer.
    • Font and encoding: Different languages may require specific fonts or encoding formats. Consider the visual presentation of the content in different languages and ensure that fonts are legible and appropriate. Take encoding requirements into account to avoid any issues with displaying non-Latin characters, which you’ll come across in languages with unique writing systems, like Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and Greek.
    • Directionality: Some languages flow in a different direction compared to the source language. Ensure that content is directed appropriately, considering the reading patterns of the target language. This includes adjusting text alignment, navigation, and overall visual flow.
    • Text Display: All text should be properly displayed without overlapping, truncation, or being cut off. It should also appear in the correct places and in the correct order, especially for languages that read right-to-left like Arabic or Hebrew.
    • Buttons and Links: All clickable elements should be clearly identifiable, properly labeled, and large enough for easy interaction.
    • Spacing: There should be appropriate spacing between lines, paragraphs, and different elements on the page for readability and a cleaner look.

3. Evaluate customer experience with a test run

OK, so the hardest part is out of the way. What’s next?

Before reaching the final review stage, it’s a good idea to do a test run with some of your customers. 

This ‘trial and error’ approach helps identify potential issues in a controlled setting, preventing them from escalating when the content is released. 

This stage is iterative and should be repeated until content is error-free and meets the quality standards you set at the beginning.

4. Final review

After all the changes have been applied, a final review is performed. This step ensures that no error was overlooked in previous reviews. Check to see that improvements added value, didn’t introduce new issues and that they align with the initial project objectives. 

When you’ve confirmed that the localized content is error-free and ready for end-users, you can start preparing it for release.

5. Release and post-release monitoring

After the final review, the localized content or product is released for use by the end-users. However, the work does not stop there. Post-release monitoring is initiated to collect user feedback and usage data, allowing the team to swiftly identify and rectify any unforeseen issues that may arise. This continuous monitoring helps maintain quality and user satisfaction, ensuring long-term project success

6. Create a localization quality assurance report

Finally, you’ll need to create a localization QA report outlining changes made, areas for improvement, and giving evidence to support recommendations from your LQA team. The quality assurance report not only serves as a reference for the current project but also offers valuable insights for future localization efforts.

Let’s break down what you’ll see in your report:

Simplified UI of a linguistic QA report, showing correction, language, error, severity, and an explanation of the issue.

Each language will be displayed on a separate sheet in the report.

At the top, you will see the quality metric scorecard with all the detected errors. Here are some of the metrics you should pay attention to:

  • Evaluation word count: number of words that have been evaluated for this language.
  • Max score value: maximum quality score that a language can get. The default value is 100.
  • Threshold value: the quality score threshold that determines whether translation quality for this language passed or failed. The default value is 85.
  • Overall quality score: primary quality measure for your translations. 
  • Pass/fail rating: indicates whether the quality score has passed the threshold or not.

Below the scorecard, you’ll also get a detailed report that shows the exact errors. Besides error and severity level, you can also see:

  • Suggested correction: the AI will provide a corrected translation to fix the issue. 
  • Comment: the AI explains why it has flagged this as an error.

An LQA report serves as a powerful tool for continuous improvement. Even though this is the final step in the LQA process, LQA is an ongoing process. You’ll need to regularly collect feedback, learn from your mistakes and successes, and continuously refine your LQA process based on these learnings.

Create a QA report in one click with Lokalise AI

Use AI to create a QA report in seconds and share valuable insights with your team.

Create QA report

Is localization quality assurance worth the investment?

Absolutely! Quality assuring your content is a worthwhile investment for businesses expanding into global markets. By making sure that it’s accurate, culturally relevant, and functional, companies can improve user experiences, establish credibility, and build trust in new markets.

So, again yes, LQA is worth it, and here’s a quick summary of why:

  • More accurate and culturally appropriate translations
  • Improves engagement and click-through rates
  • Keeps customer satisfaction high
  • Builds brand credibility
  • Gives you more confidence to expand into new markets
  • Improves the overall localization process.

By conducting thorough evaluations, addressing linguistic and cultural nuances, and refining the user experience, businesses can create content that resonates effectively with their global audience.

Get QA reports in minutes, not days with Lokalise AI.

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