You may wish to think of potential international markets in terms of locales, not as countries or languages. Some countries may encompass several languages within their borders, and some languages may be used in different ways, depending upon the country. Similarly, some locales may encompass more than one country, depending upon the product being sold. In addition to language differences, different locales may handle currencies, dates and times differently.

For example, if you plan to market your application in the United States and Canada, you may need to make relatively few changes to your application’s interface to customize the product for either locale. You may need to update a few string resources to ensure that appropriate terminology is used – such as “cheque” in Canada and “check” in the United States. You also may wish to incorporate multicurrency functionality to enable your customers to handle transactions in either Canadian or United States dollars, but you wouldn’t have to do so unless your customers are likely to engage in international business.

However, marketing your application in both the United States and Mexico would probably require more interface changes, because the official languages and the currency denominators are different. If you design with both locales in mind from the beginning, you may be able to minimize the effort and resources required to adapt your product later.

Even if the interface changes are relatively minor, you may need to significantly revise parts of your application if it deals with taxes or payroll. Be sure to research these issues thoroughly when you’re localizing your application.

The process of preparing your application for customers in a particular locale is sometimes called localization. Localization includes topics such as translating text and revising graphics. In addition, localization includes making changes to the application’s functionality to reflect local accounting practices.

Internationalization is anything you do to your initial product to make the process of localization easier and faster. Most of the topics addressed here are related to internationalization.

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