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Written by Steven Bussey
on April 23, 2019

Imagine that you’ve been swept up and deposited smack bang in the middle of a foreign country, with no knowledge of the language or customs. Now imagine that you’re expected to deliver the most compelling speech of your life. Why should someone buy into your idea? What are the benefits, the barriers to adoption, and the brilliant user outcomes?

At this point, there’s nothing to do but wave your arms around in a desperate attempt at charades. You’re struggling with the same cultural and linguistic divides that come along with deciding to expand your digital presence to new international markets. They say you have the world at your fingertips with smartphones but do you, actually? Well, what helps to give this figurative statement practical implementation is called mobile app localization.


The essentials of localization

When translating your digital offerings to international users, you may think about how you design visual content, display dates and times, and develop brand messaging. There’s no reason you should have to reinvent the wheel, however, if you keep localization in mind from the start of the design process. Efficient app localization starts with internationalization - the process of making small adaptations at the start of development, in order to pave the path for quick and easy customization later.

Internationalization tweaks easy-to-implement design features to make them more universal. For example, front-end app developers should make their layouts flexible by adding extra space in text boxes, since concepts often expand when translated from English to other languages.

Localization, on the other hand, takes your internationalized template and modifies language and other cultural nuances that are unique to the specific, local region. To use the previous example, let’s say you are expanding into Chinese markets. After your developers internationalize your mobile app by ensuring that multiple languages fit in their format, you can then localize it by hiring a company to translate the app content into Mandarin or Cantonese and adjust the message to be culturally appropriate.


A necessary evil?

Localization may seem like a difficult extra step after you’ve already completed the journey of mobile app design and development; however, it’s essential. Not localizing your mobile app is akin to quitting at mile 25 of a 26-mile marathon. The extra mile is barely anything compared to the ground you’ve already covered, but finish it and you will be met with great rewards and triumph.

Don’t believe us? This year, the number of mobile phone users is projected to surpass the five billion mark. Two-thirds of the world’s 7.6 billion people now possess a mobile phone. That’s a market share of over 4 billion people, and given that only 1.5 billion speak English and only 360 million speak it as a first language, localization is a no-brainer.


Localization for Southeast Asian markets

Before laying out the basics for a successful mobile app localization project, it’s worth noting how vital this process is if you’re expanding into Southeast Asia’s rapidly skyrocketing share of the mobile market. There are more than 2.7 billion mobile users in the Asia-Pacific region, and those users are expected to install over 198.9 million apps in 2021.


A simple layout for successful localization

Optimize your app store keywords

Just as search engine optimization (SEO) helps your website move up in search engine rankings and attract new audiences, app store optimization helps attract your local target market.

Describing your application using accurate, locally-popular keywords can mean the difference between your app popping up among primary results and perishing at the bottom of the proverbial heap. Even if your app has been localized to perfection, you need to conduct careful research to understand which words your audience will use to search for your product. For example, Google Translate changes “car” to “voiture” in French. Although this is technically correct, native French speakers actually use the term “auto”.

Optimize your descriptions

Once your carefully chosen keywords direct potential users onto your app store page, your app description must also meet their requirements. It takes merely seconds for them to scan your product information and decide if it’s relevant, which means that you must engage and impress them instantaneously.

If users find grammar mistakes or clumsy transliterations, they will search for an app that has been better localized. So, it is crucial to optimize the descriptions properly.

Consider different screen sizes and device specs

In contrast to Apple, which controls both hardware and software, there are thousands of unique Android devices on the market - and these devices are not created equally. Although your mobile app may look marvelous on the latest version of the iPhone, it may not look as good on other operating systems. Internationally, mobile phone users own devices with a variety of software and screen specifications, and these can affect how users are able to interact with your application.

As a precursor to localization, internationalization can provide a buffer against resizing errors, by eliminating design elements that do not appear properly on certain hardware. It’s also advisable to discover which mobile devices are most popular with your target audience and localize to those specifications, especially if you’re forced to choose between two equally appealing layouts.

Pull out your device and test it yourself

There’s nothing worse than perfecting your application on a desktop and discovering that the design is fragmented and flawed on a different system. There are two main types of testing that you can turn to in order to prevent against such a tragedy:

  • Functional testing - determines whether the app works the way it is meant to and ensures that users can perform all necessary actions, such as swiping, saving, and switching pages.
  • Linguistic testing - checks for correct translations, since accurate word-for-word interpretation can be unintelligible when switching between languages. This step usually involves a fluent speaker inspecting your app for errors, cultural faux pas, and politically sensitive subject matter.

To rephrase the heading of this section: ‘Pull Out Your Device and Test It a Thousand Times.” At the very least, perform these tests on more than one platform to ensure that everything looks good across different hardware and software platforms!

Remind yourself that technology is less powerful in developing markets

If the software running your app isn’t powerful enough, your app is likely to be slow, pixelated and glitchy. When localizing into emerging market languages, such as Hindi, Indonesian and Brazilian Portuguese, take care to streamline and simplify your app design. Devices common across developing economies haven’t yet caught up to the software caliber of those common in the USA and Europe.

For example, Evernote - the wildly successful note-taking app heralded for its localization strategies - kept this principle in mind when expanding to Chinese markets. Since 3G was still relatively expensive for their target audience, Evernote’s developers added a “sync only with Wi-Fi” feature to adjust to their users’ budgets.

If you’re seeking to reach markets in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, this same idea of adjusting to user behaviors and technological constraints very much applies, as smartphone users often spend a majority of their time without access to the internet or recharging capabilities. How does this affect your localization project? By highlighting performance optimization, offline app options and battery efficiency as key features for your users, your team can create a mobile app that exceeds user expectations.


Localization leads to loyalty

Mobile app localization is an essential part of expanding your current digital offerings worldwide and increasing your market share and revenue. Statistics prove that users in up-and-coming Southeast Asian markets and across the world appreciate being addressed in their own language and like to be shown respect regardless of cultural differences. In essence, if you localize, you’ll be rewarded with loyalty.

As a global provider of multilingual content solutions, Andovar offers expert mobile app localization services. We employ all of the steps we’ve listed above, including optimizing app store keywords, formatting to fit different screen specifications, performing functional and linguistic testing across multiple devices, and taking into account the technology of your target audience.

While other translation services try to automate everything and make localization a numbers game, we create customized solutions to meet your needs. Rather than relying on generic interpretations, we draw upon international professional talent and use our own audio studios to provide you with the highest quality localization services possible.

Emerging markets can provide your business with impressive growth opportunities, and we’re here to help you take advantage of that. Where other translation services struggle with complex scripts and a lack of quality standards, Andovar has the expertise to help you succeed in localizing your mobile app.

Click here to get in touch with us today to know more about our services.

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