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Localization of mobile apps: how to make your app go global

Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-of-smartphone-icons-267350/ 

By this moment, few haven’t felt growth in the popularity of mobile apps over the past few years. The statistics proves the point: in the first quarter of 2021, there were about 2.22 million apps on App Store and about 3.48 million apps on Google Play Market. Today, when the pandemic is hitting the world with a new wave we have already lost count of, mobile apps are among the primary sources of entertainment and education for people who choose to stay in the safe space of their home.

For app developers, it significantly broadens horizons. Who wants to miss an opportunity to gain more users when there’s plenty of them all around the world? And so, you enter international markets and immediately face a challenge – now you need to adapt your product to other user segments so that they can enjoy your app. And that’s where app localization becomes a must!

Why do you need to localize your app?

If you are an app owner, you may be thinking, “Okay, but my app is doing quite well already. There’s steady growth in downloads, and people are making in-app purchases. Things are going great! Why put extra effort and money?”

Well, what if we reminded you that your app on Google Play and App Store can be shown to users from any country of the world? Let’s imagine it’s the product somebody really needs, but what’s the point of the app’s value for them if all they can see is just a bunch of random symbols? You can target your local audience, but it significantly narrows down your chances for increasing the number of downloads, and you will never get to know if your app is a hit elsewhere. 

So let’s take a look at the list of pros in favor of localizing your mobile app.

Access to the global market

When you localize a mobile app, you expose it to an incredibly vast audience and tap into an opportunity for unlimited sales.

Increased ROI

Mobile app localization leads to a significant increase in revenue — up to 26%, to be specific. Consequently, localization urges the growth of ROI.

How exactly does it happen? Sure, you invest a certain amount of money into app development — but the growing volume of in-app purchases, downloads, and app advertising profit fully covers the investment and eventually pays off. And if you introduce your app to several markets instead of just one, the chances for quicker ROI growth significantly increase.

Greater user loyalty

Numerous statistics prove that users are more likely to download an app that is available in their native language, and they’re also more likely to make in-app purchases. Hence, localization not only increases ROI but also significantly boosts user loyalty.

It’s a well-known fact that users prefer personalized products and services, and this pertains to localized apps as well. Thus, localization plays a major role in building and promoting user engagement and satisfaction. This, in turn, results in greater profit and a larger number of downloads.

Localization vs internationalization: what’s the difference?

When talking about app localization, it is very important to understand the concepts of localization and internationalization and to know the difference between the two. While many people use these terms as synonyms, they actually mean two different (though related) things.

App localization is the process of making it look native to a certain target audience. An example would be the use of specific visual elements, colors, and patterns, or the use of the metric system vs imperial. Usually, it’s all done by app localization services.

Localization also includes translating the app’s content into the required language. To sum up, localization mostly focuses on the app’s content. Examples of localization practices would be:

  • translation of the text into the required language
  • conversion of all necessary metrics
  • design of a UI layout that supports different text sizes
  • inclusion of culturally specific visual elements
  • consideration of local regulations

Internationalization, for its part, focuses on the technical side. It includes all the processes that are related to the app’s structure and architecture. Internationalization is aimed at preparing an app for future localization from the start, and includes the following practices:

  • support for multiple languages (not Latin text only)
  • separation of UI elements and text from the source code
  • support for different text formats (e.g., vertical writing)
  • encoding

Hence, both internationalization and localization are aimed at making a mobile app suitable for a specific region or target group. However, internationalization focuses more on the technical aspects of app development, while localization is more about understanding the specifics of a certain culture and adjusting the app’s content to it.

Important things to keep in mind

With mobile app localization there are many other aspects that must be considered to create a positive user experience.

  1. Provide context to the translators

Whether you work with a localization agency or the community, it is important to always provide context so that the translators clearly understand what the text is about.

There have been numerous cases when translations went terribly wrong, all because the translators had no idea what the actual intent was behind the text. To avoid such mistakes, it is recommended to provide relevant context in the form of screenshots or comments.

Specialized translation platforms usually offer an easy and efficient way to share context with translators via an intuitive user interface, making the process much easier and faster.

  1. Remember about different metrics

Different countries use different units of measurement. In the US, weight is measured in pounds, while Europe measures it in kilos.

It’s quite easy to forget about metrics when you’re focusing primarily on quality of translation and UX localization. Nevertheless, such little things can have a big impact on the user experience.

  1. Never hard-code text or UI elements

Text and UI elements are something you will be changing constantly throughout your localization. If you hard-code these elements from the start, this means you’ve hardcoded the text and its grammatical rules, which prevents you from changing the language in the future.

  1. Use specialized translation

It has been already stated that for best results it’s highly recommended to use both community and professional translation. Professional translation has a number of significant benefits:

  • speed of service (delivery of orders within a day or two)
  • a huge variety of languages available for localization
  • easy document management
  • a single localization point — all processes happen in one place

You can also use localization platforms. The difference between a localization platform (such as Crowdin) and a service is that the platform is a comprehensive type of software that offers combined support for both project management and translation.

Although you can take advantage of both professional and community translation, consider a couple of things. First, community translators are not able to guarantee the required turnaround time. Second, while the community is well aware of certain language peculiarities, community members can make severe grammatical or semantic errors. This, in turn, will have a negative impact on the user experience and may lead to users uninstalling your app. To sum up, the community is good for checking translation of specific terms and gathering feedback. But if you go with community translation, you’re likely to need proofreading services afterwards.

  1. Perform continuous localization

The traditional method of localization follows the waterfall approach: as soon as part of the work is done, it is passed on to the translators. However, there are a number of issues with this approach: it can be too slow, developers have to redo certain things if needed, and in general the process makes customers wait for too long.

Continuous localization, however, employs the agile methodology. In this way, localization becomes ongoing, with changes made immediately and developers using specialized localization tools to speed up the process.

While this approach initially requires more time and resources, the outcome is much more rewarding and produces better user satisfaction and higher-quality results.

A localization case study of the Clue app

Clue is a feature-rich mobile app for tracking menstrual cycles, and it has a huge amount of information that needed to be presented in various languages. The localization team at Alconost followed the continuous localization approach via the Crowdin platform.

Hence, during the translation process, translators were immediately notified about any new strings so that they could adjust their work accordingly.

Likewise, the platform provided the option to integrate a glossary of terms and to attach app screenshots with the assignment of new lines.

All this made it so that the translators always knew what to do and how to prioritize their tasks. Because everything was corrected on the fly, a fully functioning product has been launched with zero localization errors.

Conclusion

Localizing a mobile app is an absolute to enter the international market, boost your revenue, and gain new and loyal users. But in order for localization to be successful, it is essential to get prepared in advance and employ the agile methodology. 

All in all, the professional localization contributes tremendously to a great user experience, and helps to boost the number of app downloads.

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