Localizing mobile apps has become a necessity for any developer who wants to make the most out of their products. Releasing an app in English or just one language in general and keeping it at that, like many devs used to do years ago, is not a smart move anymore, especially when trying to access a global market.
A study by Statista shows that 11.3 billion apps were downloaded in the United States in 2017, while other countries like India had 12.1 billion and China had a whopping 79.3 billion downloads. It is also expected that the number of downloads in India and China will increase drastically to 37.2 billion and 79.3 billion respectively by 2022 while the number of downloads in the United States to decrease to 10.3 billion. Which is why mobile app development is now expanding beyond the English bubble and into new regions and markets, raising the need for apps to have multi-language support which is done through mobile app localization.
Now mobile app localization can be a wearisome and stressful process for developers if not appropriately managed. Which is why we have compiled a list of six important things that you need to keep in mind when localizing your mobile app to help you through the process.
More than Translation
Never think of mobile app localization as just translation because it is so much more than that. Localization is about adjusting your mobile app to work in different markets, and that includes so much more than the language aspect of it including unit and currencies conversion, date formats, numbers, and even adapting your app to social conventions, legal regulations, and different technological standards.
In 2015, Airbnb grew their Chinese travelers’ user base by 700% by creating localized signup flows for Chinese users. The new flow not only allows Chinese users to sign up using their email address, Facebook or Google accounts but offering options to sign up using WeChat or Weibo accounts, which are two of the most popular social media platforms in China. This shows that the limits of localization are endless and it goes way beyond basic language translation.
Beyond the App
When developers think of localization, they immediately think of the content within the app itself when in fact, an essential part of the process is localizing your app listing on the app store. Metadata and keyword localization is crucial for your app discoverability and should always come first, even before the in-app content localization, as in most cases users would not download an app even if it is available in their preferred locale if the app store metadata is not localized to that same locale as well.
It is advised that you start by localizing your app store metadata into as many locales as you can, even if your in-app content has not localized to those locales yet, starting with the keywords and followed by the app name, description, and screenshots. In fact, multiple studies have shown an increase in the apps downloads and revenue of more than 200% following metadata localization as well as an increase in the app discoverability by having the app downloaded within new regions.
This can also be extremely helpful for you when determining which markets to expand in, and which locales to localize your in-app content into by tracking which countries or regions are downloading your app through the localized metadata.
Tip:It is preferred that you not include your app name in the app icon if it is going to be localized.
Localization would not be possible with mobile app internationalization. Well technically, it is possible, but you do not want to create multiple versions of your code and waste your time updating every single one of them separately every time you make a minor change in your app. That is why it is smart to have localization in mind in the very beginning during the planning phase before even embarking on your mobile app development journey.
You need to have your app ready for localization, which means not hard-coding any text or UI elements to be able to extract them later on, making sure your app can handle different languages with different requirements, alphabets, numbers and plural forms. Text can also increase by around 20-30% when translated to another language so you will need to make sure that your user interface is adaptable and able to handle these cases. Speaking of user interface, your app interface might have to be changed entirely for right-to-left (RTL) languages like Hebrew and Arabic, for example, to accommodate for your user experience.
In a nutshell, you have to make sure to plan for localization by ensuring to internationalize your app as you go to avoid facing any issues in the future.
Pick the Right Tools
Mobile app development can be a tedious and tiresome process on its own, so you want the localization process to be as seamless as possible so as not to add to that stress. That is why it is highly recommended that you use a localization and translation platform, which will help you automate the translation workflow.
There are countless benefits to using a localization platform as it allows you to manage all aspects of the localization process in one place in an effortless way. It achieves this by allowing you to coordinate with your translators, manage your translations, and track the progress of your projects.
Not only do they save you time and effort but localization platforms can also save you money in multiple ways like allowing you to order professional translations at low rates and providing you with translation memory, which can recognize previously translated strings.
Make Data-based Decisions
Data is a gold mine and using data to guide your decision making during your mobile app localization process can help you immensely. Sure, a rule of thumb, whenever you are deciding on which languages to localize your app into, would be to go with the most common languages including English, Chinese, and Spanish.
However, if you have a published app and you already have a user base, it might be more beneficial for you to localize your app based on the different demographics that your app is already attracting. That way you can expand in those markets where your app is already established rather than taking a shot in the dark by trying to expand into new ones that you know nothing about.
Dive into your app’s analytics, read your app reviews, research the different markets and always keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and try to be one step ahead of them.
Tip: As of June 2017, the most common languages on the internet, by share of internet users are:
- English – 25.3%
- Chinese – 19.8%
- Spanish – 8%
- Arabic – 4.8%
- Portuguese – 4.1%
- Indonesian/Malaysian – 4.1%
- Japanese – 3%
- Russian – 2.8%
- French – 2.8%
- German – 2.2%
Take It One Step at a Time
Mobile app localization can be a huge process, and when it pays off, it really pays off. The one thing you truly need to keep in mind though is that it is an incremental process. You cannot just go all guns blazing expecting to localize your app into every single language and locale out there. You need to take calculated informed decisions on what you want to achieve out of the process and how you will get there.
The mobile app localization process is all about utilizing your resources and working on maximizing the ROI out of them. So try to focus on one market at a time, the one that you think will work best and yield the best results for you, give it your all, test and repeat. You might have to make trade-offs in the process, but that is okay, do what works for you, keeping in mind that the ultimate goal of localization is to create new opportunities for you in new territories. This will help you attract new users, increase your app downloads and number of monthly active users (MAU) and consequently increase your revenue, which is pretty much the end-goal for any mobile app.
Also, remember that mobile app localization is an on-going process that will accompany you along your mobile app development journey and that as your app evolves and changes, you will need to accommodate to those changes in the localized versions of your app as well. Which is why it is crucial that you use a localization and translation platform that integrates with your app development workflow. By doing that, it will save you a lot of headache and allow you to focus on developing your app and not worry about the localization process.