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What is App Localization

In this article, we will give you the answers to the questions you may have about App Localization and Key Reasons to localize your App.

Authors: Alexandra Deloison ; Fred Visnevsky

What is App Localization and How to Localize your App the Right Way – The Definitive Guide

The smartphone market has snowballed in recent years, bringing with it the demand for mobile applications, also known as “apps”. In this article, we are going to talk about App Localization, a vital instrument for companies wishing to expand internationally and to sell and market their apps to customers in various other regions across the globe.

What is App Localization

Before we go any further, let's define Localization and App Localization and establish the difference between them:

Term

Definition

Localization (L10N) Linguistic adaptation of content for the target region and its language and culture in order to make it appropriate, easily understandable and comfortable to use for local native language speakers.
App Localization The process of translating and adapting the interface and functionality of a mobile app to suit foreign language markets. It implies that the text is not only translated correctly but that the style is appropriate for the target audience of a specific locale and its culture.

App Localization involves the adaptation of the translation to local conventions, such as the conversion of units of measurement, currencies, etc., as well as the adaptation of formatting, color schemes, and cultural markers.

It includes many other aspects essential to promoting the experience of foreign users, such as culture and aesthetics, in order to highlight the language and appearance of the App itself.

Why Should I Localize my App

App stores, such as the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, have become real relays in the distribution of Apps in other countries because they provide you with a convenient way to reach an international audience. The localized App will then allow you to enter a new market and increase your number of downloads, users, and the overall visibility of your App in that particular region, specifically by exposing it to a whole new user community. This is where the advantage of localizing your Mobile App comes into play.

Localization allows companies to open the door to an international market. App Localization helps you make sure that your App fits the needs of users who speak other languages so that everything from units of measurement to currencies and idiomatic expressions is optimized for them and their local region. The goal is for the Localized App to be perceived by a native speaker as if it had been made locally.

By ensuring that your App is appealing to users in a wide variety of locations around the world, you create tremendous opportunities for growth that you could never have achieved within the market of just one country.


And the numbers speak for themselves:

Should I Localize my App
  • In 2019, global mobile app revenue amounted to over $461 billion. In 2023, mobile apps are projected to total more than $935 billion in revenue.

  • More than 90% of activities on a smartphone are performed using apps, which is why app localization is a must-have.

  • There are over 5 billion mobile users worldwide, with global internet penetration standing at 57%.

  • There were 178 billion app downloads in 2018, up from 194 billion apps in 2019.

  • China accounts for nearly 50% of global app downloads.

Localize Your App the Right Way - What are the Risks and Consequences of Poor Localization

When it comes to the options available to localize your App, you have the choice between Machine Translation (MT) tools or the use of Professional Native-Speaker Linguists.

Should I Localize my App

Machine Translation (MT) Tools

Machine Translation (MT) consists of programmes offered by services, such as Google, Microsoft, or Deepl that translate from one language into another. Although they have improved significantly in recent years, these systems still need to grow through the use of substantial amounts of content. This process involves “training” the MT engines based on large quantities of bilingual texts (content available in the source and target languages). Even though the process is somewhat faster now, owing to the recent introduction of Neural Networks, it's still expensive and time-consuming.

For example, Machine Translation provides good translations for short sentences, Chatbots, or technical texts. However, the quality starts to suffer when Machine Translation is applied to large content pieces with a specific context or writing style, such as marketing content, websites, or Apps.

Additionally, any Machine Translated text has to be proofread by a native speaker in order to assure the output quality and edit out any linguistic issues.

Professional Native Linguists

To successfully localize your App, a better option is to find a linguist from the target country or region you plan to localize for. However, it is incorrect to assume that any non-professional bilingual person will be able to meet your needs in this regard. Instead, you should turn to a service provider that understands the field and the specifics of your App and, as a result, will be able to provide high-quality App Localization.

Low-quality localization can discredit your brand and its message. Omissions, misunderstandings, and other mistranslations create distance between you and any potential clients using your App. Professional native linguists have the experience and skills necessary to adapt to the localization assignment, the context of the App, and thus faithfully localize any content in the App. The advantage of using a native speaker is that they will follow your specific instructions and stay true to an ISO-regulated localization process, resulting in a high-quality localized app.

Several Poor Translation Examples

Let's take the example of the advertising campaign launched by the Scandinavian brand “Electrolux” in the United States to promote its line of vacuum cleaners. The intended “Nothing vacuums like an Electrolux” was instead translated literally as “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Unfortunately for them in the United States, the expression “it sucks” also has an entirely different meaning.

Another failed translation attempt was made by the "Coca-Cola" Company in China, where “Coca-Cola” was translated as “Ke-Kou-Ke-La”, meaning “female horse stuffed with wax”. While this kind of mistranslation may make people laugh, it has both discredited and damaged the brand.
Those are some of the reasons why you should use a professional LSP (Language Service Provider).

When it comes to App Localization, a lot of aspects have to be taken into account, such as:

  • Linguistic differences between the source and target languages.

  • Cultural differences resulting in the need to adapt the translation for the cultural specifics of the target region.

  • Experienced linguists who follow a standardized localization process.

  • The use of various translation technologies, such as “Translation Memories”, resulting in high-quality localization and consistency across all of your localization projects.

Translation companies use localization experts, also referred to as “linguists”, specializing in mobile app and software localization, as well as local editors and professional localization engineers to provide the best app localization solutions.

App Localization – Where and How to Start

Set Your App Localization Strategy Right!

When it comes to localization strategy, the first question to ask is, “Which market should we aim for?”

Thorough market research is a crucial element of a successful localization strategy. Through market research, you can narrow down the region(s) you wish to expand into, the languages you are planning to localize your App and its accompanying materials into, and the potential for ROI calculations and future brand strategy.

Successful Localization will always boost the visits to and purchases of your App for clients that speak the target language. The core decision at this stage will be to decide between the second/third/fourth best-performing language group of your customers and further boost the sales to it by localizing your App, or to localize into a brand new language, thus gaining clients from a region you were not present in before.

App Localization – Where and How to Start

There are several ways for you to gather this relevant research information:

  • Analyze your current website and app traffic – which countries/regions your visitors and customers come from.

  • Analyze your competitors – which markets they focus on. Try to outcompete them, or enter a brand-new market niche with lower competition.

  • Sales data – which regions perform best for you and your competitors.

  • The popularity of the content of your App in the target region: you have to consider the countries where your App will attract the most users.

For example, if you have a football/soccer app, you may consider localizing your App for Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Germany where this type of sport is highly popular.

Localize your whole Brand's Ecosystem when Entering a New Market

When entering a new market, you have to keep in mind that, besides a full localization of your App, there are several vital accompanying materials that have to be localized to capitalize on your localization investment and fully maximize your ROI.

App marketplace pages: The Google Play Store and Apple App Store are the two leading platforms that allow your users to discover your App and make the purchase. Those two platforms are the key to the success of your App in a foreign market, as they will be at the forefront of your customer's journey and will be the key to convincing them to make a purchase. They provide a critical feature summary of your App and inform the potential users about essential elements of your product. This is a business card and an invitation at the same time and this page determine whether or not a user will install and use your App.

App Website Localization: Another critical component will be your App's website. A modern website is an essential digital marketing tool. It allows you to achieve goals that are crucial to the success of your business abroad, such as allowing your potential customer to discover your product, providing extensive information about your App, blogs that cover various aspects of your App or topics related to it, convincing your clients to make a purchase and leading them to your App Marketplace page.

Generally, a good website will always be an asset that boosts your online visibility.

Additionally, you may want to localize other elements of your brand's ecosystem, such as:

  • Keywords - Market-specific keyword research as part of SEO

  • Video content - Subtitles/Full Voice-over

  • Images - Text within images/Marketing specific infographics ideally recreated for the target language and locale

  • Documentation - Technical instructions/Help material

  • Ads - Advertisements on all other platforms such as Google/YouTube/Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn

  • Marketing content - Journals/Brochures/TV ads/Blogs

Optimize Keywords for your App through SEO

When it comes to App Localization, a cornerstone aspect of a successful localization strategy for your App, and its success on the international market, will be Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO.

SEO Definition SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

Keyword research represents a core aspect of the SEO strategy for your app localization.

Keyword Research Definition Keyword research is a practice used to find and research alternative search terms that people enter into search engines while looking for a similar subject.

An established glossary of keywords, which are relevant and adapted to the target market, will be a crucial element in the success of your app localization.

By populating your App and its accompanying content with relevant keywords, target market users will be able to discover your App with ease both via Search Engines (Google, Bing, Yandex, etc.) and within the environment of App distribution platforms (such as the Google Play Store and Apple App Store), resulting in higher sales over time and positive ROI.

A typical example is that direct keyword translation will rarely result in the desired outcome in terms of search volumes. Different markets and cultures have different search habits and patterns, especially when it comes to how they search the web and utilize region-specific keywords. It is often the case that less formal terms and phrases yield better search results.

Below are several English-based examples of search keywords.

Keyword Examples

Formal Keyword:

Bicycle

Formal Search Term:

Good Bicycle for mountains

Actual Popular Keyword:

Bike

Actual Search Term:

Best Mountain Bikes


Formal Keyword:

Film

Formal Search Term:

I'd like to see a Film

Actual Popular Keyword:

Movie

Actual Search Term:

Latest Movie Releases


Formal Keyword:

Work

Formal Search Term:

I want to get my first Work

Actual Popular Keyword:

Job

Actual Search Term:

How to get a Job


Formal Keyword:

Tongue

Formal Search Term:

I'd like to learn a new Tongue

Actual Popular Keyword:

Language

Actual Search Term:

Top Languages to learn


Formal Keyword:

Underground

Formal Search Term:

I have to take the Underground in Paris

Actual Popular Keyword:

Metro

Actual Search Term:

Paris Metro map


Formal Keyword:

Advice

Formal Search Term:

Weight loss Advice

Actual Popular Keyword:

Tips

Actual Search Term:

10 Tips to lose weight

The Importance of Cultural Differences in Localization

When it comes to App Localization, there are various criteria to take into account, one of the core ones being cultural differences.
Translation alone won't be sufficient for the Localization of your App; you need to consider the region or country it will be localized for beforehand. Each culture has its specifics, symbols, codes, and meanings.

For example, Greek or Arab people use a completely different alphabet than the Latin one, where the characters take more space, and, as a result, will most likely require changes to the interface elements to fit in all of the characters of that language.

As mentioned earlier, successful Localization is a process of adapting and translating your App for the target market, while retaining the functionality and the intent of the original App.

Some references in the source language of your App may not make sense when adapted to other cultures; for example, colors, which have different connotations from culture to culture.

Examples of Cultural Differences in Localization

In Japan, purple represents danger; meanwhile, in France, yellow represents infidelity, contrary to China, where it is a symbol of royalty.

Similarly, gestures that are considered harmless in some cultures may be offensive in others or may be misinterpreted by users of the App.

For example, a fist up in Pakistan is an obscene gesture.

In the U.K., crossing your fingers means wishing for good luck, and in Vietnam, it is seen as lewd.

Foreign censorship is prevalent. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the notion of what is “acceptable” for an audience to differ from country to country.
Some images are subject to censorship or editing because they are considered offensive or do not have the same meaning.

For example, in France, if an image with a person smoking is intended for a young audience, the cigarette will be replaced by a candy, for instance.

In the USA, there is also a lot of editing concerning the possession of a firearm. As a highly sensitive topic, censorship is widespread, particularly in cartoons, when a character is armed with a weapon.

This is also the case with blood, which will be removed directly from an image, as it can be shocking for the younger audience.

Internationalization and Localization – What are the differences between them

App Localization is often preceded by a process called Internationalization.

Internationalization (I18N) Definition The design and development of a product, App or document content that enables easy Localization for target audiences from different cultures, regions and languages. It also allows for the creation of a code that can pull location-specific data (e.g., dates and time zones).

An internationalized App does not equal a fully localized app; it's instead a preceding step. While App Localization is all about refining the details (such as language, date and time, currency, and other factors discussed above), app internationalization is about providing the App with the necessary framework for further Localization.

Internationalization generally involves:

  • Design and development of an App in a way that removes barriers to international alphabetic characters. Such as, Localization into Arabic, which is written right to left and requires a completely different interface layout.

  • Allowing the code to support local, regional, language, or cultural preferences. Typically, this involves incorporating predefined data and localization features derived from existing libraries or user preferences. For example, date and time formats, local calendars, and others.

  • Separating localizable elements from the source code or content, so that localized alternatives can be loaded or selected based on the user's international preferences, as required.

Internationalization facilitates future Localization, so it needs to be conducted as a preceding step before starting the actual localization process, as your code needs to be prepared to handle the localized content.

As opposed to Localization, Internationalization involves extensive technical planning, which is necessary to achieve a smooth localization process. It is significantly harder to modify the code of an App after it has been localized, as the developer will commonly not understand the target language.

Internationalization Localization
Is conducted and built before the launch of an App Can be initialized at any time post-launch
Backend technical structure of an App The actual content of an App
Extensive tweaks to code aimed at the accessible accommodation of Localized content Setting up various language-related tools, such as currencies, local time and keyboard layouts
Developed around support for non-Latin texts Accurate translation of the source content
Aimed at consistency across the language locales and speed of implementation Aimed at quality of Localized Content

App Localization – Steps Involved

To successfully localize an App, you have to go through several stages of Localization:

  • Market research: Having your App localized opens up new markets. You need to take into account the economic, social, political and legislative context of the market you are targeting. It is essential, before you start, to understand the importance of adapting your offer, services and communication to the local market. Finding the country or region where your App is likely to be most successful is the key to Localization.

  • Keyword research: Searching by keyword is one of the most critical steps in Localization. When completed correctly, it can show you which words your users are looking for in relation to your App. Keywords help the users find and understand the purpose of your App. Keywords in your description and title must make sense and be readable to your users. As with most marketing strategies, it is essential to keep checking where your App is ranked and which keywords are highly searched.

  • Internationalization (I18N): The corporate strategy of making products and services as adaptable as possible, for example, to ensure that they can easily enter different national markets. Internationalization often requires the assistance of experts in their field, technical experts and people with international experience. The process of Internationalization is based on the preparation of an application to different languages and cultures. Prepare your App for Localization by separating language and locale differences from the rest of your user interface and code. The initial task of Internationalization is to prepare the encoding scheme and the technical structure of the App.

  • Localization: The process of adapting a product or content for a specific location or market. It gives the product design and layout that is specially tailored to the target market, regardless of language, culture, or geographic location. Once the above steps are achieved, the App and its content are ready for a full localization into the target language.

    A successful Localization is highly dependent on the quality of work conducted in the preceding steps. Additionally, in order to achieve a high-quality Localization, your linguistic team has to follow a strict ISO-regulated workflow aimed at high-quality translation outcomes.

    We have a recent article that covers the risks involved in low-quality translations, and how they can harm your brand.

    Your best bet is to involve a high-quality translation service provider, also known as an LSP (Language Service Provider) (adverbum.com), that will follow a strict ISO-regulated translation process that involves only experienced linguists with previous experience in app localization.

  • Technical and Linguistic Testing: Extensive testing has to be conducted once the app localization process is finalized. Not only do you have to assure that the functionality of the App is fully retained following the Internationalization and Localization process, but you also have to keep an eye out for any potential human errors that may arise during the translation process. A typical example is incorrectly placed localized text.

    To assure the success of this step, it is advisable to use only experienced bilingual software testers with proficiency in both the source language of the App and the target language of the app localization.

    In the translation industry, this service is commonly referred to as LQA (Linguistic Quality Assurance), you can find out more about it on our website.

App Localization – Specifics of iOS and Android

The modern global app market is divided between two major players, Apple and Google, and their respective platforms: the App Store and Google Play Store.

While the two platforms share a common purpose, the workflows involved in the Localization of your App for them differ significantly. To successfully launch in a new market, it is ideal that you offer your App on both of these popular platforms. Below you will find some of the core distinctions between the app localization processes involved:

iOS App Localization

When it comes to iOS App Localization, Apple provides a highly sophisticated tool called Xcode, which allows you to simplify and streamline the process of exporting the code in order to prepare for Localization.

Additionally, Apple has a beneficial page when it comes to App Localization with various tips and processes to follow, check it out.

Android app localization

The Android platform offers more options in comparison to Apple when it comes to App Localization, which can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your workflows and approaches.
The main suggestion from Google with regard to App localization is to use the so-called “strings.xml” file. As opposed to hardcoding the strings, Google suggests declaring all of your code strings as resources in the strings.xml file, which should result in the simplification of the whole process.

To further improve the translation process, provide sufficient descriptive comments for all of your strings, as they will be invaluable for the linguists working on the Localization of your App.
Here’s an example:

<!-- The action for submitting a form. This text is on a button that can fit 30 chars -->
<string name="login_submit_button">Sign in</string>

Additionally, make sure you mark the parts of your strings that should not be translated, as this can prevent costly errors during the Localization Process. In order to do so, you should place the part of the strings you don't want to translate into an <xliff:g> tag

Here’s an example:

<string name="countdown">
  <xliff:g id="time" example="5 days">%1$s</xliff:g> until holiday
</string>

For further in-depth information on the Android App Localization, you can refer to the Android Developer website.

App Localization Tips

Launching an App is not a simple task, and there are a lot of elements to consider the localization process. Here are some tips on how to successfully launch your App in a new market:

Analyze the Market

Identify whether there is a demand for your App and find opportunities to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Some websites allow you to research, analyze, and determine the perfect market location for your App. For example, by analyzing your data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console – you can evaluate the sources of your traffic, such as the websites and geographical locations that your visitors originate from.

Based on this information, you can narrow down the key languages that your visitors will speak and localize content for them.

Consider Cultural Sensitivity and Norms

Find out where your App is most likely to be successful despite some cultural criteria.

App localization requires carefully avoiding content that affects cultural sensitivity in other regions.

For example, there is no point in launching an English only layout keyboard product in France.

Gather App Reviews

Prepare your project in advance, internationalize your App by separating your code-related tasks from your content.

Internationalization carried out in advance will allow for a smoother localization experience.

Choose Native Linguists

Working with a Native Linguist is the best way for a successful localization, as they can assure the highest possible quality and will have knowledge of the cultural norms of a target region.

Your best bet is to use a Professional Translation and Localization service provider, such as AD VERBUM, to assure a high-quality Localization of your App.

Test Your Localized App Thoroughly

When you receive the localized resources, integrate them into your App, and test them rigorously.

You have to check everything to ensure the layout is not affected and that there are no bugs. Use a test environment that offers multiple virtual devices and screen sizes.

Make sure that your language and code are in pristine condition.

Ask for Reviews

Analysis of customer feedback, whether positive or negative, is critical to the success of your App in any region.

User feedback allows you to see how your App is perceived by customers, and represents an opportunity for implementation of various improvements and even potential new features that may turn your App into a significant success when entering a new market.

Follow Local Laws and Regulations

Localizing your App for a new market also includes accepting, respecting, and following local terms and legislation (such as the GDPR requirements for the EU).

Thorough research has to be conducted beforehand to exclude any potentially costly mistakes in the near future.

Continuously Optimizing your Multilingual Keywords for SEO Success

Keep improving and optimizing keywords for your App. The aim is to be at the top page in the Google Play Store or App Store by matching popular search terms on your app product page.

For example, it is better to use the term “Bike Rental” instead of “Bicycle Rental”.

The Bottom Line

App Localization can be a highly successful strategy when it comes to boosting the sales of your App in a new market.
We have shown that full App Localization is the linguistic adaptation of content for the target country, its languages, and cultural particularities. Often mixed up, Internationalization and Localization are two distinct aspects of the same App Localization process.

While Internationalization is the process of preparing the encoding scheme that enables Localization, Localization focuses on the translation and adaptation of the source content for the target region and language.

As previously mentioned, the App Market is growing considerably year-by-year, and one way to exploit this global market is to localize your App.

Localizing your App can be a long and challenging process that needs to be conducted by localization experts that take into account many criteria, such as cultural differences, local regulations, technical specifics, and most critical linguistic aspects of the target language to avoid risks of inadequate translation.

However, if conducted correctly, App Localization can result in a significant boost to your sales in a new market, but also an influx of new clients to your existing markets as a result of an SEO boost.

Start localizing your App with the help of a professional translation and localization provider – AD VERBUM.  We have decades of experience when it comes to App Localization and will assist you in all of the stages of your journey.

Start Translating Today

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