5 signs of poorly localised software

Localisation will be beneficial for your company and customers only if it’s of top quality and has no flaws. If the localised version contains mistakes, overlapping text strings or functional issues, all the hard work will come to nothing. Poorly localised software may damage your brand image or fail to generate profits. Here are the most common localisation errors that can ruin your product.

1. Grammatical and spelling errors

Software localisation isn’t only about preserving functionality and ensuring friendly user interface. The text plays an equally important role. Messages, menu items and commands full of typos or grammatical mistakes may confuse the users and make them lose their trust in your product or brand. To assure high linguistic quality hire professional translators that are native in the target language, rather than someone who just happens to know the language. 

2. Text from the source language

I’m sure you’ve seen this one before. While using a product e.g. in English, suddenly a German error message appears, making the situation even more confusing. You could assume that there is a chance that your users will understand another language or will somehow figure out what the message really means, but in fact, leaving text strings in the source language won’t make your product user-friendly at all. To avoid this situation run a thorough linguistic test and check if all the text strings has been localised.

Source text in the localised version            Example: Spanish and German text in the same message 


3. Incorrect character set

Even if it seems to be a minor issue, there really is a difference between “für” and “f ür” or between “cześć” and “czeœæ”. Incorrectly rendered characters will make the text unclear and difficult to follow, even in the case of very short strings. In the ideal scenario your product should be tested for correct internationalisation. One of the steps of this process is ensuring that a proper character set is used (usually Unicode.) Only then you can avoid issues such as missing German umlauts or wrongly rendered Polish and Arabic characters.

4. Not localised graphics

Even if the user interface looks great, menus and buttons are resized to fit the translation and there are no functional issues, your software may still not be perfect. Images are quite often pushed to the background or in the worst case scenario, totally eliminated from the localisation scope. It’s okay if the graphics don’t carry any cultural messages or contain no text strings. But in other cases you’ll have to make sure that the text on the images is translated as well and any cultural references on the graphics are localised properly. Also, don’t forget to check if the print screens included in your help files are from the correct language version.

 5. Localisation bugs causing software crashes

There’s nothing more annoying that application that doesn’t work. While some users may forgive you translation gaffes or typos contained in the product, they will definitely not forget about sudden crashes or unexpected errors. Software that isn’t fully functional might as well not exist at all. So, test, test and test your localised product again to be sure that no bugs were introduced during the localisation process.


Simply put, in most cases thorough linguistic, cosmetic and functional testing will help you detect these and many other errors. Remember, however, that thorough tests will come to nothing, if the changes suggested by testers won’t be implemented properly. So, focus also on smooth communication and effective teamwork.

What do you think are other signs of poorly localised software?



Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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