Localize Your Mobile App to Reach New Markets

In eight of the 10 largest iPhone and Android markets, the predominant language isn’t English. Additionally, industry forecasts predict explosive mobile app growth in China, India, Japan and Brazil over the next few years. App localization helps you make the most of international opportunities.

What is localization?

The W3C defines localization as the adaptation of mobile application content to meet the language and cultural requirements of a specific target market or locale. Beyond translating words, localization takes linguistic nuances such as slang into account, and includes numeric, date, time and currency formats, symbols, icons, colors, texts and graphics.

Edith Yeung, head of marketing for Dolphin Browser, recommends targeting these specific areas when localizing:

  • Text string
  • Metadata
  • Launch tips
  • Push notifications
  • Help tips
  • Privacy policy
  • End user license agreement (EULA)

The reality of localizing mobile apps

Due to time and resource constraints, most developers don’t launch with a fully translated app, and that’s okay. Believe it or not, the next best thing is to launch in English only. You’ll still attract early adopters from different countries, a great indicator of where your app will perform best. The worst thing you can do? Use Google Translate. It’s not there yet and frustrates everyone.

Localize beyond the app experience

We’ve found that most apps are fairly universal and can be implemented to the whole world with minimal changes to language. However, the following must be localized before your app can fly:

  • App store descriptions, correctly translated
  • Meta description and keywords on a country-by-country basis
  • Requirements of local payment systems
  • Requirements of preferred social networking services you’d like to integrate with

Tip: Avoid concatenated strings. They may streamline apps in one language, but make translation way more difficult.

Leave room in design

When you do decide to localize your full app, keep in mind that text is often longer when translated from English. For example, German expands by about 30%. Languages using complex character sets may also need to be displayed at higher resolutions.

When building your app, think about how elements like buttons, instructions, error messages and audio clips will play out when translated. For example, a horizontal button treatment may look better as a vertical row of buttons, expanded to the full width of the screen. Also consider your imagery and if it will resonate with the desired cultural design aesthetic.

Ready to translate and localize?

Think about localization ahead of time and you’ll be in good shape to conquer international markets. Remember, you don’t have to be everywhere at once. Look at your early users and check out the best-selling apps in various countries to get a sense of if your app is a good fit.

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