Mobile App Localization Best Practices
Get your app ready for the global market, and avoid making common localization mistakes with these mobile app localization best practices.
Mobile App Localization Best Practices
Smart phones have become the new normal. Countries around the world have made the switch, and with it, the need for localized native apps has increased drastically.
One Hour Translation conducted a survey about mobile app usage in 2015. and the conclusion was that people want applications in their native language.
United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia had more than 70% of people answer that all of their apps are in their native language. But the number dropped significantly in non-English speaking countries. In Germany for example, only 33% said that all of their apps were in their native language.
Since then, many businesses have realized the potential of mobile app localization, and are working on adapting their products to the international market.
Product owners now consider localization an important part of development, and we can’t help but agree. Even though you have a high-quality mobile app, you’re limiting yourself by not making it multilingual. 75% of online shoppers say that they are more likely to purchase if a product is in their native language. Imagine the impact this could have on your mobile application.
Benefits of Mobile App Localization
Adapting your mobile app to the global market has undeniable benefits, from reaching more potential customers to increasing your revenue.
Just by translating your app store description you’ll position better in the app store, and gain a huge competitive advantage. And by localizing your app, you’ll be one step closer to world-wide success.
A study by Distomo showed that localizing an iPhone app resulted in 128% more downloads per country, during the first week. And the revenue increased as well, 26% per country.
The statistics prove that mobile app localization is the right move, whenever you decide to make it.
Mobile App Localization Best Practices
Now that you’ve realized full potential of mobile app localization, we’ll go through some of the best practices to make sure your localization process goes as smoothly as possible.
Start With The Top Used Languages Online
This one doesn’t come as a surprise to any of us. Focusing on the top used languages online makes the most sense if you want to reach larger markets faster. Once you localize into the top 5 languages, you can easily continue with the other languages.
It also doesn’t come as a surprise that English is on top of the list, with 25.3%. The second, most common language online is Chinese with 19.8%, followed by Spanish with 8% and then Arabic and Portuguese.
By localizing your mobile app into these 5 languages, you would be covering more than 60% of the world market.
Carefully Plan Out Your Localization Process
Seeing the potential mobile app localization has, you might want to rush into the process. Even though we advise starting as soon as possible, we strongly encourage you not to be too hasty.
Localizing your product is a big step for your business, and you should treat it as such. It involves strategic planning, and you need to take several things in account: content, translation, review, testing. Localization can be done overnight, if you want to do it poorly and risk losing customers. A well-thought-out plan will save you the headaches along the way, and will ensure you have a high quality product to market.
Choose The Right Translation Method
Once you decide on the content you want to localize, you need to think about how you’ll go about it. There are several ways to do this: spreadsheets, translation agencies or with the help of a localization platform.
Many businesses make the mistake of starting manually, and keeping track of their translation in excel sheets. This is very time consuming, prone to errors, complex and it can cause expensive delays down the road. We highly recommend automating the process, to make sure your localization process goes as smoothly as possible.
Prepare For Testing In Advance
Don’t wait until the very last minute to start thinking about testing. Prepare for QA in advance, and think about the possible issues that might happen once you localize your app into a certain language. Think about the design, think about the complex languages and special characters.
For example, Hebrew and Arabic are written right to left, French language has accents, Serbian is written in Cyrillic. Is your mobile app created to support these languages? If it is, are you sure nothing will break once they’re introduced? All of these things need to be planned ahead and tested properly, without rushing it.
Think About The Design
We briefly mentioned design when we discussed testing, and it’s so important that we need to mention it twice.
Certain languages require more space than others. For example, in English it’s “small matchbox” but in German, it’s Streichholzschächtelchen. As you can see, it’s a bit longer than in English, and it’s only one word. How would this appear in your mobile app?
When designing your mobile app, make sure you build enough space into your UI to manage language variations. Otherwise, the content will break, it will run off screen and could potentially break your entire UI.
It’s very important you test this before going live, because it could create a lot of issues.
Machine Or Human Translation
Machine translation has come a long way, and it now a reliable translation method. However, we only recommend machine translation as a starting point for your translation. You can use it to test the localization platform, or to see how certain textual changes might affect your mobile app’s UI. For more complex translation, we do advise you use human translation.
Most localization platforms, such as Translized, have the option to order professional translation within the app. You also have the option to hire a translator on your own but give them access to the localization platform to make the changes directly on there.
Organize Content That Needs Translating
This goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned. If you are using a localization platform, you can easily integrate your application using CLI or REST API, and have the content automatically in the platform. This will save you hours of manual work, and it’s the only way to be 100% sure that everything that needs translating is extracted.
Another option is to use spreadsheets to organize your content. You can pull out the content manually and then add it to the spreadsheet. However, this is very time consuming and prone to errors. It requires a lot of developer hours to carefully match all the content from the sheet to the mobile app.
Work With A Reliable Translator
Your translator can make or break your mobile app. When translating app content, you need to be mindful of cultural differences.
For example, the famous peace emoji we often use (✌️) is considered offensive in several countries. Your translator should review all of the symbols and images your app has to make sure they are respectful of other cultures.
Test The App With The Native Speakers
When localizing your mobile app into a certain language, it’s good to test it with its native speakers.
However, before you do this, you still need to test your app in-house. Testing the app with the native speakers is only there to help you add some final touches.
If possible, you can work with a group of beta testers in the country you’re expanding to, so they can give you feedback, and help make certain adjustments where needed.
Localization Isn’t A One Time Thing
Having a mobile app, means making regular updates to it. Sometimes, it’s something quite simple as changing a color of a button, but often, it also includes textual changes.
Once you make a textual change in your native language, you also need to make it in the other languages your app supports. That’s why you should think of localization as a journey.
In these cases, having a localization platform is highly recommended. Especially if they offer the Over The Air (OTA) feature. Having this option, means being able to make textual changes to your app whenever you want, without having to create a new release. You'll be able to publish translation in real-time on App Store or Google Play.
Automate Your Localization Process
When starting out, many companies decide to manually localize their mobile apps, because it’s free. This seems like a good solution, until it’s not. Soon, you’ll want to introduce new languages, the number of strings will increase, the spreadsheet will become too complex and full of errors.
Starting with an automated solution right away is one of the best moves you can make when it comes to mobile app localization.
You’ll save developer hours, and invest them into developing new app functionalities.
You’ll have a full overview of the entire localization process without having to deal with complex spreadsheets.
You’ll have high quality translation without errors and typos.
You’ll be able to make textual changes fast, without having to go through endless sheets.
The entire process will be stress-free and simple, as it should be.
Mobile app localization doesn’t have to be complicated. With a well-thought-out plan and the right tools, you could have your app ready for global market in no time.
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