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Top Ten Tips for Flash Localization

Be prepared before starting your Flash project

The plans for your beautifully designed corporate website, cool new app or training materials include Adobe Flash — and you'd like to optimize them from the get-go for new language markets as your business expands globally. With our tips to make your Flash global-friendly from the start, you can create animations that are easier to translate and adapt to markets abroad, thus smoothing the localization process and saving you money along the way.

Read our top-10 tips to efficiently managing your Flash localization project and creating international-friendly animations.

  1. Get your engineers and designers on board with multilingual from the start. Make your design and development teams aware that you’re building for more than just one language, because this will have consequences for every phase of the product development cycle, from initial planning and design all the way through ongoing maintenance. Seek out Flash developers and designers who have experience in building multilingual applications, and you’ll be one giant step closer to a smooth and efficient localization process.
  2. Confirm your target language(s) before you begin. Determine up front which countries and languages you’re targeting, as this will influence the decisions your designers and developers must make around animations and fonts.
  3. Get the latest version of Flash. If your application targets Cyrillic/Slavic, double-byte (e.g., Japanese) or bi-directional (e.g., Arabic) languages, for example, you’ll definitely benefit from working with Adobe Flash CS5 or 5.5 as opposed to the CS4 version. The latest versions offer great help with character display problems, ultimately paying for themselves in time and development dollars saved.
  4. Review your artwork for global appropriateness. Images, icons, graphics, and colors that are positive or completely neutral in the U.S. may be off-putting or even offensive in other cultures. It’s important to conduct a full content review of your photos, illustrations and other artwork. Your localization partner can help you intelligently adapt these assets.
  5. Externalize text. Avoid placing text directly in Flash files, as this will create major inefficiencies during the localization process. Externalizing text will spare you the costly manual process of having to extract any text that needs to be translated and then re-inserting the translated text back into place. Also, if you have a lot of content and multiple target languages, you’ll want your text content to reside in external XML files that Flash can pull from dynamically at runtime (see tip #10).
  6. Prepare for lots more text as you translate. Since English is one of the shortest Latin languages out there, prep for 130-150% expansion of your text in your target languages. Make sure that every text field and graphic design layout you develop are built to accommodate the longer length of your text as it’s translated.
  7. Select your fonts with care. Select font types that include all characters needed for all target languages, taking into account that less-established or mature fonts may only include characters needed for English. For double-byte languages, use device fonts, or as an alternative, font SFWs — external SFW files created to embed character sets for the many languages in your multilingual app, which are loaded only when they’re needed. In general, Arial and Lucinda Sans Unicode are good font choices because of their wide range of supported characters. This overview of Unicode fonts and their supported character sets is a helpful resource. Also note that languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese are detailed and will require at least a two-point font size increase over most English fonts to be legible onscreen.
  8. Make animation decisions early in development. If you have a sizable application supporting a multitude of languages, including some with large character sets, you are probably best off not embedding character sets in your dynamic text fields, and employing the fonts on your users’ devices. However, movie clips with dynamic text fields without embedded fonts don’t allow for even simple tween animations like alpha fades or motion tweens. You’ll need to plan to include these movie clips with no animation, and work with your developers and designers to find other ways to present your content in a compelling manner.
  9. Do your quality assurance early on. Plan for quality-assurance sessions early on in your development process to fix bugs before multiple languages are introduced. Waiting to test other language versions until your application has been completely finished can be a costly mistake. Then, schedule test runs with translated content, and leverage your findings during the remaining build phases.
  10. Consider workarounds. The Flash string panel solution is one excellent workaround that supports many languages and provides great Flash animations for a good user experience. It provides the option to export all contents of dynamic text fields to an XML file — a single file for each language version. After translating the XML files, you create a new language version of your Flash file by simply importing the translations.

This feature saves your team the time and trouble of extracting text strings for localization by copying and pasting, then replacing them manually. The Flash string panel solution also makes it easier to preserve animations. By importing translated strings you can then embed only the characters you’re using for each text field instead of embedding the complete character sets.

With these top-10 tips and an experienced localization partner, your path to multilingual Flash sites will be a smooth one. When you’re ready to get started, contact Acclaro — we’re proud of our Flash localization expertise and are prepared to work with you every step of the way.

It's all about global-friendly Flash. We get it.

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