Essential App Localization Best Practices for Developers
A quick visit to any platform’s app store shows us the demand for internationally accessible applications. Consumers today want more than responsive, feature-packed apps. They want a customized user experience that includes native language fluency. App localization considers both these demands, providing brands with a framework for fulfilling customers’ needs.
1. Internationalize to Set the Stage
Internationalization is the precursor to app localization since it involves early development factors like editing code, which makes later modification simpler. Setting an app up for localization requires forethought and attention to region-specific details.
Employing Unicode is the first step since the encoding solution covers many big brands and systems. However, prepping for other details such as variations in dates, prices, and symbols allows for customization at a per-market level in localization efforts.
In addition to coding specifics, global leaders like Apple offer guides to internationalization for developers. Simple checklists will get your tasks on track, making localization easier down the line.
2. Strategize for Success
Although the intention is admirable, no company is equipped to roll out 6,500 versions of an app, one to accommodate each of the main languages spoken across the world today. Scale that ambition down a notch, and strategically select a small number of markets to infiltrate.
Define a target market, or markets, for app localization and decide the depth of localization. Does your app lend itself to customization based on text alone? Or will adapting to each target market require image swapping and audio changes, on top of language translation?
The depth of your localization strategy will dictate the scope of your international expansion, so establish those parameters first.
3. Research & Resources
Studying your intended market, and compiling resources and figures based on its traits, will help develop your app localization game plan. Offering unique features to location-based audiences positions your app to meet their needs better than market alternatives.
A preliminary test of your target market will tell you how deeply you’ll need to localize. In some cases, simply translating text is sufficient, but in others, marketing materials and social media content will require an overhaul.
4. Designing for Accessibility
Google survey data, as reported by Forbes, showed that poor design was a key factor in consumers’ decisions to delete downloaded apps. Further, the research noted that non-standard graphic features like scrollbars or text that resembled hyperlinks frustrated users, increasing the likelihood that they would abandon an app.
Tiny click targets and a design modeled after limited screen sizes are other frustration factors for users, showing that layout is a vital component of a successfully localized app. Also, app translation often wreaks havoc for the program’s spacing and layout. Creating a layout that accommodates those changes is simplest, but developing alternative layouts for particularly tricky languages is often necessary.
5. Context for Translation
Whether you plan to outsource translation or have an in-house team to head the effort, directly copying and translating text often leaves much to the imagination. Meaningful translation requires context, as you’ll know if you’ve ever downloaded an app that was machine-translated into your native language.
Consider creating a guide for translators working on the app, particularly if they’re unfamiliar with the interface. Understanding the overall intent of a section of text is crucial to accurate and meaningful translation.
6. Employing Agile Translation
Dropping your app’s text into Google’s translation software isn’t enough. While the investment seems intimidating, professional translation is crucial for successful mobile app localization. The Google survey data found that one of the top app usability design mistakes is the lack of localization.
Making the user experience more difficult for consumers whose first language is not English won’t earn your app any accolades. In fact, half of the countries that make up the top 10 for download and revenue numbers are not primarily English-speaking countries. Sloppily translating text won’t give you skyrocketing sales, and it might turn consumers off your brand entirely.
7. Fluent Testing for Accuracy
Just because your team of translators is experienced and familiar with your product doesn’t mean they’re infallible. Sufficient testing of the app—both for accessibility and language accuracy—helps detect any errors before its debut.
Testing that includes a variety of screen sizes and devices will help pinpoint any design flaws, while native speakers can note discrepancies or confusion in translation efforts.
8. Optimization for the App Store
App store optimization, as explained by Phrase, is optimizing your content for the best visibility in the app store. Customizing search terms and optimizing content for individual regions will set your app apart from competitors.
Design tweaks to icons and logos can help your app stand out whether it’s in the Android or iOS store, or both. Also, consider the advantages and disadvantages to each app store, and submit to one or all accordingly.