Mobile App Localization: How to Get Started

By United Language Group

A study shows that companies with localized apps saw 128% more downloads within just the first week of adding more languages. Global consumers want to use apps that are available in their native language.

The global app market is constantly growing meaning that taking the time to make an app available to an international audience will only pay off in the long term. Although mobile app localization is complex and time consuming, following the steps below will help you navigate the process and optimize the globalization of your app.

How to Localize Your App – Strategy

It may seem like the you should try to expand your app into as many languages as you can, but that may not be the most efficient plan.

Start thinking about the languages and countries that would be the most beneficial for you to expand to. When devising your localization plan, there are two strategies to choose from:

  1. Deep Localization. Choose only a few markets to localize your app for and localize everything. Only choosing a few markets for this process allows you to focus and work on completely localizing your app for a small list of languages.
  2. Minimum Viable Localization (MVL). This process simplifies a mobile app by making it understandable to local users. Then localization gradually scales up as an app gets more traction. This is best if you want your app to reach a broader audience quickly.

When deeply localizing your app, you’re localizing its entirety for a limited number of new languages. On the other hand, the MVL approach allows you to test the potential of your app in new markets faster.

Typically, this means only translating/localizing your app title and description to see if there is any interest. Once promising markets are identified, the mobile app can then be deeply localized necessary content (i.e. user manuals).

The only precaution to take with the MVL approach is that the first stage of only localizing the title and description could possibly lead to negative reviews. Consumers may be disappointed when they download the app to find it is not fully localized.

Yet this is a small price to pay, considering the money and time you are saving by ensuring an international market is interested before completely localizing everything in the app.

TRANSLATION

Human translation is a key step when it comes to localizing your app. Here are some approaches to consider:

Crowdsourcing: If you already have a large, varied customer base, you could take advantage and use it to help with the localization and translation of your app. Although it gives you little control of the quality and the timeline, the approach has proven effective in the past for apps like WhatsApp.

Outsourcing: The best way to ensure quality is to hire a professional Language Service Provider (LSP). An experienced LSP can connect you with qualified translators who will deliver a fully localized product faster and more accurately than a crowdsourced audience.

COMMUNICATION

Once you have identified your translators, whether crowdsourced or professional, it is important to give them as much information about what you want as possible. When preparing information for your translators, be sure to:

  • Have a designated internal employee to oversee the whole process. This will assist in formulating a structure for the translation procedure.
  • Give as much context as possible. There is no such thing as too much information when it comes to translating.
  • Create reference materials beforehand. Documents such as translation glossaries or style guides will give your translators a complete understanding of the text they’re translating and what the final product should look like.

Organize a translator forum. Give the translators the outlet and time to ask any questions they have about the project. A forum is much more efficient than individual questions throughout the process.

INTERNATIONALIZE

Internationalization enables an effective localization process by making strategic design changes to your app. Taking steps towards internationalization, like downloading an app’s text onto an external or resource file, allows for complete localization without altering the code of the app itself.

If you have an app that has a lot of text, make multiple resource files and label them accordingly to keep it organized. Other steps towards internationalization, like writing all text in the style of Global English, will also ensure a smoother localization process.

ASSESS

Once everything has been localized, every aspect of the mobile app must be tested. Native speaking testers should be used to perform a full audit of the app’s interface and capabilities.

Prepare materials/navigation instructions for the testers. This includes specific actions they must do to trigger certain screens (i.e. error messages). Also, have a list of common errors to look out for (i.e. line wrapping, incorrect layout, etc.) to make sure your bases are covered.

Following the above steps will streamline the app localization process, allowing for higher quality product to hit new markets in less time. Translation, internationalization and proper localization testing will leave you with a localized app fully ready for a global audience.

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