Incremental Internationalization

The Way Things Should Be?

There is a widespread desire in the localization industry that internationalization be done up-front as part of product requirements; that products should be developed, from scratch, with internationalization in mind. It certainly makes sense, because it costs a lot less to do it up-front than to fix things later.

The industry has worked hard to convince universities to include globalization training in their curricula, to convince tool vendors to better support internationalization functions and to convince software developers that it is cost-effective to consider internationalization up-front.

These efforts have yielded a certain measure of success. Some universities have modified their curricula, languages like JAVA, VB, C# use Unicode as their native character set and the major software vendors now develop international software from scratch.

The Way Things Are

Yet the majority of internationalization projects still consist in re-engineering existing products (often English ones). This is not due to a lack of training or understanding; but rather a lack of options: pay now or pay (more) later ?

Many companies will choose to pay later, simply because they want to achieve a certain measure of success in their local markets before targeting the rest of the world. If you had no idea how successful your product was going to be, how much would you be willing to spend on globalization?

New Options for Real Problems

There is a need for a third option, one that answers questions like:

  • How can I hedge my bets on a global product?
  • What can I do now, that will cost almost nothing, that will allow me to facilitate globalization later on?
  • What pitfalls can I avoid that would drastically increase the cost of globalization?
  • Are there any industry best practices for software development that could help accelerate both my core product and eventual global versions of it?

There are indeed ways to reduce costs now and later, rather than increase them. These methods are part of the incremental internationalization approach developed by i18N. For more information, please contact us at