The App Localization Process

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If you want international success with your app you need to make it available in other languages through the process of localization.

Did you know that English speaking countries make up less than 40% of the global app store market? If you only have your app available in English, you are missing out on a lot of business.

In order to get your app ready for its new international audience you need to localize it. This may sound daunting but it’s actually a fairly simple process. This article offers a basic intro on how to prepare for your localization explaining the steps right from the development stage through to releasing and marketing the application.

First let’s look at some stats. For some up-to-date information we recommend you visit Distimo who publish useful statistics on app downloads, locations and much more. At the time of writing the 10 largest countries for downloads are United States, China, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Australia and South Korea.  Only 4/10 are English speaking countries. Distimo note that, “Localization continues to be of the utmost importance for developers who wish to succeed in many non-English speaking countries.”
An article in The Next Web, citing Distimo stats, also reveals that the fatest growing emerging markets for app downloads are Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey. Annual growth rates in those markets range between 54 percent and 115 percent, Distimo claims.

The statistics below outline the fastest growing markets based on information gathered between May 2011 – May 2012.

Distimo conclude that “localization is of utmost importance for successful global app development.” The evidence seems pretty clear.

Planning your app Localization

Even if your first version of your application is only released in English, or even if you have no current plans to release the application in multiple regions, it is important to structure the application so that it can be localized simply in the future. It adds in very little time in the initial development process, and ensures that as soon there is customer demand for a localized version the process of releasing it can be quick and painless.

There are specific guides available on how to localize apps for different platforms so this article will not go into too much depth, however the basic elements that need to be put in place are:

–    Externalise all strings, including error messages.
–    Provide comments for strings, ensuring that when it comes to translation the translator under-stands the context.
–    Try to not use images that contain text.
–    Designing your UI with text expansion in mind – You can even use pseudo-translation to test your UI’s early in the process
–    Ensure that the structure of the app is setup with multi-lingual resource files, even for English.

Finding your app

One of the first steps in making your application available to a wider audience is to make sure your potential customers can find it. A lot of developers forget that a large proportion of any app store’s users will not search for applications in English, but will use their own native language. So unless your description, app title and keywords are optimized for different languages then global users may never come across your software.

This can even be done before the application is fully localized to test out the interest for the app in any specific region. Once the description, title and keywords are localized you can then monitor the download statistics in the relevant languages and countries to gauge demand. This demand can then be used to determine which languages to prioritize for localization.

The Localization Process

Once you have identified that there is a demand for an application within a specific country or region it is time to go through the localization process. Assuming you have planned the structure of the application with localization in mind, this should be a simple process:

1)    Translate the following into the correct language
o    Text Strings
o    Metadata
o    Help files
o    Any policies – Usage, Privacy, Terms and Conditions
o    Licensing agreements
o    Push Notifications / Live tile updates

2)    Localize any images/videos/voice overs, ensuring they are suitable for the local culture

3)    Ensure any numeric symbols, date and time formats, currency formats are localized

4)    Localize the actual App Icon, ensuring suitability for the local culture

5)    Localize the colours in the Application – Certain colours represent different meanings across different cultures

Obviously the complexity and purpose of the application will determine whether all of the above activities need performing, or whether only text and symbol translation is required. However if all the items are localized professionally the potential success of your application within your target markets is maximized.

User Acceptance Testing (UXT)

Before releasing your newly localized application on your customers it is essential to go through a thorough testing process to ensure that there are no functionality bugs, and no sections of text or symbols that have been missed as part of the process.

The user acceptance testing should be performed on an actual device rather than on a simulator, ideally should be carried by a user not involved in the localization process and by a native speaker of the language the app has been translated into.

A set matrix of tests should be put together to ensure that all areas of the localized application are tested, including the following items:

–    Linguistic Testing, ensuring that all the text and symbols are translated correctly and in the right place
–    UI Testing, ensuring that the text expansion has not affected the user interface and that the UI is suitable for the target market
–    Functionality Testing, ensuring that the app still functions as designed
–    Usability Testing, ensuring that users within the target market will understand how to use the application.

Releasing your App!

Once you have localized the application, the app store titles and description and tested the new app to ensure usability it is time to release the new version!

If you are serious about making your expansion into new markets a complete success, once the app is released it is important to engage with your new target market through localized press releases, multi-lingual support services and a localized web presence. This will provide assurance to the end users that if they pay for your application and there are any issues, they will not be left having to fend for themselves.

Need an app localized? Read more about our App Localization Service.

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