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What is Mobile App Localization and How to Do it Right: Best Practices and Useful Tips

Mobile App Development
Mobile App Localization Process

In the modern globalized world, business becomes less and less limited by geographical boundaries, especially when it comes to digital products like websites, mobile apps, or various types of software. When you bring your products to other markets, its localization process is an important aspect.

Mobile app localization presumes the process of adapting its interface and functionality to make it operate using a language other than the default one.

Due to this, it becomes attractive to more geographic target markets and provides a positive user experience for users living in different countries and representing diverse cultures.

When you localize your app for another market, the following aspects are subject to translation and adaptation:

  • Interface design elements
  • Text, including use policies/conditions, user manuals
  • Currency, date, and other numeric formats
  • Images and graphic elements belonging to a particular country or culture
  • Audio recordings containing spoken language, etc.

That is an important subject indeed. So, let us talk about all the important aspects of mobile app localization for iOS and Android.

Why Localize a Mobile App?

In case you aim to expand your mobile app into the global market, localization should become an important element of its product evolution business strategy.

Even though we can call English the universal communication language, obviously any user will be more pleased to interact with the product offering the possibility to use their native language and taking their cultural peculiarities into account. Even books and movies adapt their titles and sometimes even their covers to ensure efficient promotional activities in different countries.

Product localization example

For instance, there are currently more than 2.7 billion mobile users in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is expected that these users will install almost 200 million apps in 2021.

Here is a list of the top 10 languages ​​and respective countries for app localization:

  1. English — USA, UK, Australia, Canada
  2. Japanese — Japan
  3. Mandarin Chinese — Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong
  4. Hindi — India
  5. Russian — Russia
  6. Korean — South Korea
  7. German — Germany
  8. Spanish — Mexico, Argentina
  9. Portuguese — Brazil
  10. Indonesian — Indonesia

Source: Alconost

Mobile app localization provides the following advantages:

  • The possibility to enter the global market
  • Increased visibility in the App Store and Google Play
  • Downloads and revenue growth
  • Improved return on investment
  • Better user experience
  • Improved overall app ranking due to a combination of factors like the growth of views and downloads in different countries, more ratings from users, etc.

We can expand this list even further. Though, I think you have already figured it out: localization is obviously important for mobile startups, and it should be part of your growth strategy.

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Differences between Localization and Translation

People often mistake these two terms for each other. However, the difference between them is significant. For example, by default, localization may include text or other elements translation, but the work itself is more complex than just translation.

We talk about adapting the context to the specifics of a particular culture, region, or country. For instance, you need to convert pounds to kilograms, kilometers to miles or the other way round, replace icons and symbols, or adapt calendar systems (Muslim, Chinese, and Gregorian calendars). So, the process implies a certain deviation towards personalization.

Besides, there is such a notion as mobile app internationalization — it implies that its design and development use the program code independent of language or cultural peculiarities of the region/country, and this approach simplifies and accelerates the process of product localization in the future.

In the ideal scenario, using this method, developers will not have to change the source code of the product when adding a new locale to it.

How to Localize a Mobile App: Best Practices and Useful Tips

According to IDG, there are several key localization challenges that any company solving the task may face:

Application localization challenges

Image source:

Below, you can see some tips and proven practices to help you avoid problems and complete such work successfully. Feel free to use the recollected points as a checklist when working on a project.

1. Include the necessary possibilities at the start. Mobile app internationalization allows you to separate user interface elements (text, images, etc.) from the code itself, simplifying the localization process in the future.

2. Study analytics. If you connect Google Play, App Store, and third-party analytics services to your app, it will allow you to know your audience geography and comprehend for what market you should plan a release in the first place.

3. Involve experts. It is important not just to translate the app directly but to understand the context, linguistic nuances, and cultural peculiarities. For example, users in different countries may perceive the same icons and symbols differently.

4. Adapt the design. Words in different languages ​​can occupy different amounts of space on the screen, for example, 10% less or up to 30% more. When you translate an app into another language, you may need to make changes to the design layout.

5. Consider the context. Depending on the context, the same word may have different meanings when translated. To make things easier for translators, you can leave the appropriate comments in the code.

Localization strings in the code

6. Separate text from images. When you use images with some text on them, you may have a hard time localizing your app. So it would be best to avoid this practice.

7. Add a language switch option to the settings. This feature may prove convenient for people living in multilingual communities.

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8. Consider measurement units and standards. Different calendars, metric systems, currencies, address formats, and other formatting elements are used in different parts of the world.

9. FAQs and additional resources. Provide people with the opportunity to use manuals and reference data in their native language. Some developers forget about it.

10. Add support for right-to-left languages. It is about Hebrew or Arabic, for instance. Just imagine how drastically it can affect your app interface design. To avoid problems, you should use localization tools supporting such a way of writing.

11. Optimize for App Store. To add a foreign language product version to the appropriate store section, you have to prepare localized versions of metadata, content, and visuals.

App Store localization fields

12. Test the results. Create an environment able to cover a wide range of real-life use scenarios for the localized version of your app. Check how information is displayed on different screens, test the functions, etc. It is better when you reveal localization errors rather than users do.

Let Us Summarize

App localization has many advantages, and all well-known mobile app brands give particular emphasis to it to consolidate their position in the global market. This process takes time, effort, and skill, but once done correctly, it can help you bring your business to the global level.

In this article, we have covered the important aspects you need to pay attention to when developing a multilingual app and shared practical tips to help you build a truly good product.

If you have an idea for a mobile app and are looking for a team of technical experts to help you make it a reality, contact us, and we are ready to become a reliable partner for you!

August 26, 2021

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