App localization and app translation has been a growing trend in the app industry for several years and is not slowing down anytime soon as global brands are looking to develop their own apps and expand their market reach. Check out this informative piece that highlights both prevailing and emerging trends in the localization and translation industry.
If you’re an app developer and you want to widen your app market share by going global, then you probably might have come across the term app localization and/or app translation before. The translation is pretty straight forward. As for localization, it is a strategy that involves adapting your content/product that is suitable for your target market/audience.
Thus, app localization is simply a specialized avenue of localization involving app development. The main goal is to ensure that your app resonates well with your market/audience and enriches their user experience. If you want to get started on app localization, then here’s a list of 5 essential things you should keep in mind before you start localizing your app.
Why Localize Your App?
Within just one decade, the international mobile app market has grown exponentially with figures rarely seen from a single industry alone. The rise of smartphone ownership around the world means more and more people are downloading more and more apps every single day.
A growing international mobile app market means app developers have been developing multilingual versions of their app to cater to the increasingly diverse profile of smartphone users. Even if nearly every app developer is looking into doing app localization, how you do it is what will determine your app’s success.
As mentioned earlier, app localization allows you to create a tailored experience for your target market. A simple way to do this is by incorporating their language, time zone, currency denomination, etc. but is that all there is to app localization? There are many other factors in localization that will contribute to your app’s user experience.
1. Doing Extensive Market Research
Proper app localization calls for doing comprehensive market research. You might have already done some preliminary research such as what are the current gaps in your chosen app genre, the gaps in your target market, and how you can address that. This time, you should expand your market research by incorporating factors specific to your foreign target market.
Under the context of mobile apps, each country places a different value on certain app genres. This collective behavior depends on the lifestyle of the users, their respective environment, and other criteria i.e cultural and social nuances you need to take into account to narrow your scope.
For example, if you promote an app that requires constant Internet connectivity in a country where the Internet connection is not available or unstable in many areas, then it might impact your app’s success. You can make an offline version, or even look into other app genres that is less affected by your market’s infrastructural impediments.
2. Fine-Tuning Your Localization Strategies
A good general localization strategy involves having a thorough understanding of your market’s cultural & social preferences, aesthetic preferences (color schemes), and even linguistic nuances (dialects, slang).
As mentioned earlier, this is to create a contextually optimized & tailored app that resonates well with your target market.
Ever travel abroad and notice that they have a unique version of a website or app that is different from yours from the colors, layout, and even the content?
That’s localization 101 right there. It involves taking what your target market reacts positively and negatively.
In short, you should try to incorporate what they like and leave out things that they don’t want to see or hear under the context of their cultural, social, political, and even religious norms.
You don’t want to commit any faux or else it might hurt the success of your app and even the reputation of your team and parent company
3. Knowing the Right Languages & Market to Translate into
If this is your first time getting into app localization and you’re not sure of your market options, then here is a convenient list of the most profitable languages and mobile app markets that you should translate your app to.
The English market is most likely the current market you’re in. It’s common knowledge that the main markets of the English app market are America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. They’re home to top gaming giants in the industry such as EA, Activision, Microsoft, and etc.
Additionally, English is considered the contemporary lingua franca of technology, international commerce, diplomacy, academics, and sciences.
Thus, there are even more English speakers in the world and it doesn’t matter if they’re not native speakers. Many countries in Europe and Asia speak English as their second language.
One might assume that English is the largest mobile app market but it is actually the Chinese mobile app market in terms of the number of users and annual revenue. In fact, China is actually home to the largest gaming corporation in the world which is Tencent. Gaming apps and the gaming industry, in general, is an absolutely big business in China.
As for the Chinese mobile app market in general, most of the Chinese mobile users are concentrated in Mainland China. Take note that your Chinese translator’s default Chinese dialect of choice is Mandarin unless you specify that your English to Chinese translation should be Cantonese.
Even outside of Mainland China, there are tens of millions of Chinese expat populations scattered throughout the world. You essentially won’t run out of opportunities to tap the Chinese mobile app user market in many regions.
Even though the Spanish app market is not as big as China and the English market, it still is a prime market for app developers. The Hispanosphere comprises of countries from Spain to North America, South America, and the Caribbean. So providing Spanish translation for your app will give you access to hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers worldwide.
However, localizing to the Spanish market is tricky because you have to divide your localization process by region and by countries. You can’t simply have one Spanish translator with the intention of deploying the same localized version of your app in both Spain and in Mexico.
Due to their cultural, social, and linguistic nuances, your Spanish translator might have provided translations that would work well in Spain but not in Mexico. It’s essential that you do extra research in crafting the right localized Spanish translation for your target Spanish market.
As the central economic powerhouse of Europe and Europe’s largest mobile app market, the German language is ideal for those who to establish an initial foothold in mainland Europe. Providing proper German translation means making your app accessible to millions of German speakers living in the countries bordering Germany.
Afterward, if you have enough resources to spare, you can then proceed to the next major languages of Europe such as French, Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian languages, and etc. You can start with the aforementioned languages, but due to Germany’s strong app market, finding a German translator should ideally be your first step in deploying your app to Europe.
As the land that saw many pioneering innovations for the gaming industry, along with its reputation as a tech-loving society, Japan definitely has a strong mobile app market. If you’re looking to localize to the Japanese app market, take a look at this article that highlights the unique profile of the Japanese app market.
From that article, you’ll understand that localizing to the Japanese market and providing Japanese translation isn’t as easy as one might assume. Not only is their writing system complicated but the country also has very unique cultural and social characteristics that are known to give major headaches to foreign entities of all kinds
Coupled with the fact that the Japanese have a strong pride in everything locally made, apps included, you’ll have to make sure you get everything right. Getting the best Japanese translator and the best app localization services you can find and afford is what it’ll take if you want your app to make even just a dimple in the Japanese market.
4. Hiring a Professional Translation Company to Get Accurate Translations
Now that we talked about the languages you should translate your app to, it’s important to know how to get proper translations. For something as complex as an app, you don’t want to be relying on free online tools such as Google Translate to do the translation work for you. Even though it is free and instantaneous, it cannot provide contextually accurate translations.
If you have a tight budget, it’s better to find options to increase your translation budget. When it comes to app localization, it’s better to do things right and to not cut corners no matter how tempting it may be. You’ll need the extra budget for the quality translation since, for something as complicated as an app, you need the services of a professional translation company.
A professional translation company coordinates native speakers around the world so that their clients can receive accurate translations. These translators also specialize in their own industry such as marketing, medical, and legal translation. In this context, you can find the ideal translator/s that specializes in the mobile app and gaming industry.
However, a translation company offers more than just professional translation services. They also provide localization services and yes, including professional app localization services. This makes things convenient and consistent for everyone as there isn’t any need for coordination between different companies specializing in different services.
5. Hiring Native Speakers as Beta Testers
Before launch, every app has to undergo beta testing. As you know, this is the stage where app developers can iron out any bugs, performance issues, server issues, and app functionality issues. Since you’re launching a localized multilingual app, then you’ll have to include a segment of native speakers as beta testers from your target market.
They’ll be able to provide you with nuanced feedback that your team would not have gotten without the perspective that your target market’s native testers have. They’ll also be able to critique your localization strategy and see if the app resonates well among them.
Is App Localization Worth It?: Final Takeaway
Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, you’re probably concerned about the overall costs of app localization. Yes, app localization and translation is not cheap. It will also add more stages to your app development process and may complicate things along the way.
However, since app localization and translation is now a growing trend, there aren’t many reasons to ignore it, especially if you’re considering branching to other mobile app markets. In the end, you should look at it as an investment—one that if done properly, will not only bring you more market share but an international loyal following.
Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a translation agency that not only renders professional translation services but also niche localization services such as app localization, software localization, and game localization.
Petr is a serial tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Apro Software, a machine learning company. Whenever he’s not blogging about technology for itechgyan.com or softwarebattle.com, Petr enjoys playing sports and going to the movies. He’s also deeply interested in mediation, Buddhism and biohacking.