What is mobile app localization?
Mobile app localization is the process of adapting your app to different languages and cultures. The app's interface must be customized to meet different cultural and linguistic expectations. Essentially, your app is already open to millions of potential new users. This is the power of app localization.
The goal of mobile app localization is to:
- Takes into account language, cultural and technical differences
- Does not change the original intent or functionality of the original app
- Looks and functions similar to what was originally created for the target language
Why should you localize your app?
Ninety percent of the apps on the App Store charts are localized. It's no surprise that users prefer to download and use apps in their native language. Apple App Store is currently available in over 150 countries and supports over 40 languages, from German to Japanese. If you want to maximize your app's revenue, you'll have to consider more than just the English-speaking market.
Increase app downloads
According to 2021 Statistica research, the number of smartphone users worldwide is close to 4 billion and is expected to grow by hundreds of millions more in the coming years.
China, India and the United States have the highest number of smartphone users, with 1.46 billion users.
Android users can choose from more than 2.56 million apps through the Google Play store, while the iOS App Store offers more than 1.85 million apps.
With both stores available in approximately 40 different languages around the world, your app must stand out from the competition and convince users to click the download button.
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Personalize the user experience for app users
A global survey by CSA Research shows that shoppers using smartphones are more likely to interact with a brand if the app is in their native language.
- 65% prefer content written in their own language
- 40% would not buy in another language
- 73% want product reviews in their own language
Today, 90% of activity on mobile devices happens in the app, not in the browser. However, most apps are downloaded and deleted within minutes. Therefore, the correct localization of your app has never been more important. Properly translated apps increase brand value and create meaningful interactions in the native language of your target customers.
When all of the above is tailored to the specific cultural norms of the user, the app helps provide a more favorable user experience, which increases engagement and conversions as well as positive reviews.
Improve searchability in the app store
Users prefer to download and use apps in their native language. Therefore, localizing app listings - by changing the text in all titles, subtitles, descriptions, captions, screenshots, keywords, etc. to the native language - will significantly increase the chances of downloading the app.
A study from Distomo 2016 found that companies who localized their apps for iOS saw 128% more downloads than others. Localizing only keywords to increase the visibility of the app in the store can increase downloads by 767%.
Android and iOS app revenue reaches $111 billion in 2020, up 24% year-over-year. Localization can increase your app's visibility and exposure and maximize its reach by opening it up to new target segments.
Keep in mind that the Apple and Google App Stores do not cover all international markets. App localization allows for readiness on a variety of screen sizes and operating systems around the world.
Research has proven that having an effectively localized app can improve your ranking in the app store, leading to an expected increase in total downloads, which in turn generates greater revenue.
Presenting apps that are accessible and easier to navigate for all new users helps expand the number of downloads, which in turn generates more revenue.
How to localize your mobile app?
If you've decided it's time to take your app to the global market, then you'll no doubt want to reach as wide an audience as possible. This means you'll need to take into account localization for both Android and iOS platforms. While the process is not that different, you will encounter some rules and issues, but here is a basic step-by-step guide on how to localize your app.
Internationalization is creating globally ready code. Without it, your content cannot be localized without writing additional code.
Localization is not possible without mobile app internationalization (i18n). Well, actually, it's technically possible, but you don't want to create multiple versions of your code. This would result in wasting a lot of time updating each one of them separately every time you make a minor change to your app.
Therefore, internationalization allows localization to happen in the first place. It happens in the coding and development phases. To ensure that your product can be localized, it must first be internationalized.
Don't forget about local interests
You should also consider where your app is likely to be popular based on local interest. For example, if you make an app dedicated to soccer news, it is likely to be of interest to users in countries where soccer is a cultural base (e.g. Brazil or Argentina).
Keep your ear to the ground
Keeping your ear to the ground is a good strategy for identifying potential new markets. Regularly visit online forums and technical recommendation sites to see if your product is being discussed by users in other countries.
The assets or resources of your app are elements that have nothing to do with coding. So, this includes your content, images, tutorials or any other data files that accompany your program's executable code. In order to get the best localization for your mobile app, you need to externalize your resources in order to start the translation and localization process, creating new language versions for each file.
Consider the layout
Just like designing a website for a global audience, space issues are equally important in app design.
Therefore, when designing apps with localization features, be sure to consider the length of words and the fact that different languages take up different amounts of space. Keep your design flexible to accommodate these language differences. Make sure your app allows for expansion and contraction of text. For example, French, Spanish, and German may take up 30% more space than English.
As you know, some languages are written vertically or right-to-left. If you know you will be localizing in Arabic or Farsi, consider implementing support for RTL layouts. Check out these resources for Android's RTL support and IOS. if you design with these factors in mind, you should be able to use a set of layouts for all the languages you support. But you may have to create some alternative layouts for any language that doesn't fit.
Translators Need Context
Any good product manager knows that translators need context in order to properly convey meaning from one language to another. When you send resources to translate text into regional languages, make sure you provide them with context. Your translators will work more accurately and efficiently if they know the meaning of the words they are trying to translate. Providing translators with context will greatly speed up app translation, where screen and layout sizes may vary from device to device.
Use locale, not just the language
Considering language is an important first step, but as your international customer base grows, locale becomes even more important.
Consider this scenario: you specify French as "fr" as your language code, but don't take into account regional differences between French-speaking countries. What if you want to show different (but culturally relevant) content to customers in Belgium and France?
Similarly, what if you want to show CAD as the currency of your Canadian customers and EUR as the currency of your French customers? You can easily do this if you design for locale. Add a 4-letter ISO code for different language environments, e.g. for Belgian French (fr_be). Use locale settings to display the correct currency without changing the language.
Separate text from images
This means that you should not embed text into images whenever possible. If you can, create a translatable text layer using a translation management system (TMS) with optical character recognition or a connection to a dedicated design tool such as Figma. When you localize content into other languages, you do not want the image to contain text in the source language. Separating text from images will allow you to easily localize images so that people can better relate to photos, illustrations, and other visuals.
Apply localization tests
Once your strings have been translated and returned to your resource, it's time to move everything back to your app for testing. You will need to implement rigorous localization and language testing to ensure that there are no issues with your content or layout. The best way to test is to create a test environment that contains multiple virtual devices and different screen sizes. These will vary depending on the market you decide to target, and you will need to gather this information from prior research.
Be prepared for certain common problems, such as line breaks, sentence and string breaks, and incorrect layout. You may also find some text that has not been translated. If you can't resolve the language out of design boundaries, you may have to create custom layouts for it.
Involve people who understand the language and culture, and reach out to fans or users in new markets to see what is most important to them.
App Store Optimization (ASO)
Like its sister Search Engine Optimization, App Store Optimization (ASO) is about optimizing your content for higher visibility in the app stores. You need to research your local audience in detail and make sure you are using the right search terms and optimizing content for their region. Correctly translating your app's name, description and keywords will help local users find it more easily.