New Ideas for Effective Localization Testing Practices in an Agile Cycle
By: Rajini Padmanaban
The past decade has seen the rise ofagile development, leading to a significant change in the way software is created, released, and accepted in the marketplace. Today’s software organizations are more nimble and more receptive to end-user feedback than ever before. In the market, there is healthy competition amongst players with a true drive for the “survival of the fittest.”
While internal challenges continue around team and project management, largely speaking, the industry has embraced the agile implementation fairly well. A survey conducted in late 2012 and early 2013 asked how agile organizations claiming to be agile truly are, and of the five points they were evaluated on, most organizations fared well with the criteria.
A New Challenge: Localization
Agile teams tend to think of releasing one product per iteration, and that shift from “every year or two” to “every week or two” is a good thing. More challenging is the simultaneous release of multiple products, each tied to a different language. While this endeavor might seem reasonable with versions in English, French, or Spanish, some teams have to support Greek, with special letters; Hebrew, written right to left; or Japanese and other character-based languages.
In the waterfall days, localized releases were often handled sequentially, and localization functional testing was carried out after a product was first certified in English. This was not a coincidence—it was because of the time required to carry out additional activities such as finalizing strings, getting them translated by linguists, and retrofitting them into the application. Given all of this work, it was intentionally taken up later to keep localization operational costs low after having tested and cleared defects from the English implementation. However, we do not have that luxury in time now, and global markets expect to see localized products released along with or soon after the English release.
While effective practices in localization testing have been suggested for optimal operations in any environment, it is becoming even more important to have such a list for an agile localization test effort. This is a list of practices to help ensure on-time, on-cost product releases, a synchronized effort with the English development effort, and a good handshake between all team members to keep their motivation levels high. For easy reference, I will categorize this list under three broad groups: technical and testing practices, team processes, and team positioning.
Technical and Testing Practices for Localization
As mentioned previously, traditionally localization schedules have run behind the English releases so as to get a localization testing-ready build that has translated strings retrofitted into it. In my experience, what is helping in an agile mode of operations is taking on feature-level localization. For instance, if four features are ready of a total of twelve features planned for a certain sprint, teams are encouraged to go ahead with the localization effort on them rather than waiting for all of them to be ready.
Picking up a small set of features to localize is very efficient and enables all teams (core/English, localization functional, and linguistic teams) to work in parallel. This helps verify the selected features in all languages, including English, in one go. Also, working up front with the content team to identify strings for translation even before they are ingested into the system helps the test team take on linguistic testing early in the game.
While the product team and specifically the test team are busy with core English testing, they may not set aside adequate cycles for internationalization and pseudo-localization testing. Even if these are done right, people may question the value of localization testing. Creating the right awareness in the team for all three areas of testing is worth an upfront investment from the test management team. Once the awareness has been created, a robust testing strategy for globalization testing with a specific focus on automation and regression testing is very valuable. These are areas where a lot of reuse can be built in—reuse where you leverage the work done by the English testers. Often, the lack of collaboration between the English testers and localization testers leads to a lot of wasted effort where potential reuse opportunities (such as test cases, automation framework, etc.) are missed out on
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