Update: I corrected some grammatical errors and confusing expression with help from Chris Stone. Nothing substantial has changed, but it may have become easier to read.
Update2: I corrected some of the quotes by James Thomson where I had misrepresented him.
Macintosh developers looking to increase user base might have something left to consider. As soon as you upload your software to MacUpdate or VersionTracker, people will find your creation and start downloading it. Those downloads will go on 24/7 because people not only from the US but from around the world will always be online. When it is midnight for the Californian, it is already 9am for Parisians and only 4pm for Tokyoites
But this will only happen if you design your software with internationalization in mind.
If Frédéric in Paris, اهمت (Ahmet) in Dubai and 一郎（Ichiro) in Tokyo realize that your software can’t display their name correctly, things would be a little bit different.
Imagine having your name displayed in ASCII code on your birthday card like this:
Happy Birthday, 4A4F484E!
That’s why internationalization is very important.
You can be successful focusing on the US market only. But if you internationalize your software, you can extend your reach and can enjoy even greater success. Plus, your self esteem would be much higher.
Let’s see what someone with that expertise has to say.
James Thomson of TLA Systems Ltd., the author of DragThing, is perhaps one of the best known shareware authors in the Mac community, partly because he started internationalizing his product very early on.
He has just recently published some interesting numbers on his web site.
(The article doesn’t have permalink, so if you don’t see the statistics at the following URL, look for article written on May 23, 2007).
According to the article, 46% of his sales comes from the US, the single most dominant market for Mac software. Add 4% from the UK and 1.7% from Australia and a portion of the 3.52% from
Canada, and you will have almost 55% market coverage if you use only English in your software. If you at least support English, then, you will be in good shape.
[ Those of you reading this article from non-English speaking countries should definitely consider adding English menus and buttons to your products.]
But this doesn’t mean English is enough. It means English-only software authors may be able to double their sales through internationalization.
James certainly sees the benefits. He said, “Generally, I think Japanese people are more likely to register software than those from other countries.” At its peak, he confirms, the registration from Japan accounted for almost 30% of
sales for DragThing.
The latest statistics from the last 12 months show only 12.28% sales from Japan, but James think it is because so many people in Japan have already purchased DragThing five years ago. He said that among
those people who have used DragThing in the past three months, 24.6% have chosen Japanese as their primary language.
He advises, “It’s worth it to do Japanese, German and French.” And as a Mac journalist seeing so much software since the ’80s, I can assure you that if your software supports Japanese, it is ready to support
almost every other language; although it might still have some problems with languages using Arabic characters (I happen to speak and read a little bit of Farsi, which uses Arabic characters).
Internationalization happens at many different levels.
It starts with correctly displaying international characters, of course, but should also allow the user to easily enter international characters as well as search international strings.
It may sound difficult, but if you are using Cocoa or at least following Apple’s best practices, you are almost done with this part.
And once you are done with this part, the rest can be done much more easily.
On the other hand, if you don’t start thinking about internationalization today and then change your mind after your next major update, the transition can be a bit more painful.
So start taking action today. And if you are planning to attend WWDC next month, consider joining some of the internationalization sessions.