Localisation of Mobile Apps

May 28th, 2024 by Ishan Geeganage

Mobile app localisation allows content within your mobile app to be translated into the user’s language, but it isn’t just that; it’s about adapting every aspect of your app to fit a user’s cultural norms. This process is crucial for organisations aiming for global reach, ensuring that an app is accessible and appealing to a wide audience, regardless of their background.

Mobile App Localisation

Below are a few well-known apps that have successfully benefited from localisation:

  • Google Maps
    The Google Maps app is great at providing an user experience that feels local. It’s available in over 40 languages and 200 countries. It doesn’t just translate road names; it also includes local landmarks, public transport info, and traffic rules specific to each place.
  • Airbnb
    Airbnb’s reach extends to 220+ countries, available in over 62 languages, and it’s not just the language that’s personalised. The platform respects local customs, regulations, and even architectural styles, offering a truly localised browsing and booking experience.  This led to significant growth in adoption of the app by different cultures.
  • Spotify
    The Spotify app is available in 61 languages and 79 countries, but also provides customised local content. The app creates playlists for users based on local music styles and trends, so everyone feels recognised and understood.
  • Netflix
    The app localisation of Netflix is truly extensive. The app caters to all movie and TV show lovers, and provides subscription options and local payment methods that are convenient for the target audience.

Types of Localisation

App localisation can be achieved in different ways and to different extents, however app localisation can be broadly divided into the following two types:

  • Minimum viable localisation (MVL)
    MVL focuses on adapting only the essential features and content of an app, along with app store metadata. It’s suitable for early stage app start-up businesses looking for a quick market entry and return on investment.
  • Full app localisation
    This type of localisation involves every element of the app being assessed and tailored to each target market, ensuring a fully immersive and localised user experience.  The app structure and features may also require adjustment to cater for the way a person of the destination culture approaches the subject of the app.

Benefits of App Localisation

Successful mobile app localisation will help you via:

  • Reach into international markets
    Localisation allows apps to reach a wider audience beyond the original language of the app.  By translating the app content and adapting it to local preferences, businesses can tap into new markets and increase their user base and therefore revenue.
  • Improved user experience
    Users are more likely to engage with an app that speaks their language and reflects their cultural nuances. Localising the app enhances user experience by making it more intuitive, relatable, and user-friendly.
  • Increased engagement and retention
    When users feel that an app is tailored to their language and culture, they are more likely to engage with it and continue using it over time. This leads to higher user retention rates and increased customer loyalty.
  • Enhanced brand image
    By investing in app localisation, businesses demonstrate their commitment to serving diverse communities and respecting cultural differences. This enhances brand reputation and fosters positive relationships with users worldwide.
  • Higher conversion rates
    Localisation can significantly impact conversion rates, as users are more likely to make purchases or engage with in-app content when it is presented in their native language and reflects their local preferences.
  • Compliance with local regulations
    Certain regions have specific legal requirements regarding language usage and content presentation. Localising the app will help you to comply with local regulations, helping businesses avoid legal issues and penalties.
  • Competitive advantage
    In a crowded marketplace, app localisation can give businesses a competitive edge by allowing them to differentiate themselves from competitors who have not invested in localisation efforts.
  • Opportunity for feedback and improvement
    By engaging with users from different regions, businesses can gain valuable insights into cultural preferences, user behaviour, and market trends. This feedback can be used to continuously improve the app and tailor future updates to better meet user needs.

Common Challenges Faced in App Localisation

Before commencing localisation of an app, it’s important to have a well-defined plan, addressing the order in which elements will be localised along with identifying the people and tools to be utilised.  We recommend incorporating the following elements into your plan, particularly for full app localisation, to ensure a successful outcome:

  • Customer Feedback and Market Research
    Obtaining user feedback early in the localisation process, as well as undertaking market research within the destination culture, should provide a well-rounded understanding of the target user’s needs and market dynamics.
  • Technical Challenges
    Common problems which can be faced during localisation include text size changes in different languages, especially for languages written right-to-left like Arabic or Hebrew. It’s also important to make sure the app can handle local date formats, currencies, and measurements.
  • Quality Assurance and Testing
    Localisation requires rigorous testing to ensure that all elements of the app function correctly in the new language and cultural context. This includes linguistic testing, functional testing, and cultural testing.  Ensuring that you allow enough time for testing, and have the right people involved in testing, who understand both the goals of the app as well as the destination culture, is crucial.
  • User Experience
    The localised app must maintain the ease of use and intuitiveness of the original app. User feedback from the local market should be incorporated into the design to enhance the overall user experience.
  • Resource Allocation
    Localisation can be resource-intensive, requiring translators, cultural consultants, legal advisors, and additional testing personnel. Balancing these resource needs with cost considerations is a critical part of the process.
  • App Store Compliance
    It is important to ensure that your app complies with the requirements and guidelines of the app stores for the destination region.
  • Continuous Updates
    Apps are not static; they require regular updates and new content. Each update may require re-localisation and re-testing to ensure that nothing is lost or broken in the translation.

Clearly, app localisation is a strategic investment that needs meticulous planning and execution to be successful. It should be considered only once the original app has been launched and has gained traction within the target customer base. However, the foundation for successful implementation of localisation needs to be laid right from the start of the app build; that is the concept of internationalisation, explained below.

Internationalisation from the Outset

Internationalisation is the process whereby the app is designed from start to be easily adaptable for any market, without drastic adjustments or code changes later on. This, when implemented well, leads to a smoother road to localisation and adapting to each target customer base.

Features to consider early for internationalisation include:

  • Moving user-interface strings from the code into resource files.  Storing app strings in resource files allows the localisation team to access those files for translation later on without the need to make changes to the code itself.  App strings include: instructions, error / success messages, field and button labels, help and general information.
  • Storing currency formats and date, time in environment settings.  Storing the date, time, number, and currency formats in variables that can adjust based on the device’s language settings,  will help speed up the localisation of your app.
  • Account for pluralisation rules.  Languages handle pluralisation of words following different rules; for instance, Polish has several plural forms, while Japanese typically doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural.
  • Use UTF-8 encoding.  Unicode UTF-8 as a standard in app development lets your app support a wider range of languages, including scripts that you couldn’t otherwise accommodate.
  • App user interface.  Consider localisation when designing the user interface (UI) early on.
  • Image localisation.  Images, such as the banner images in app stores, can boost download rates. Make sure to localise images for each market to stand out and attract local users.
  • A local website.  Providing a website in the destination language, and a support team that feels local, will go a long way to providing a sense of localisation for app users.
  • App store optimization (ASO).  For better engagement with the local market, the following should be treated uniquely through the localisation process:
    • Keywords are crucial for attracting app users. Simply translating keywords into every app store language may not be effective, as online search is influenced by culture and language. Instead, conduct keyword research separately for each market. This will help users in the target market to find your app when they search for related terms in their language.
    • Metadata – optimising app metadata for each app store can help increase app visibility, downloads, ratings, and reviews and that’s a great step toward maximising app store revenue.
      You’ll need to localise app titles and app descriptions so they appear in app stores in all relevant locales and attract users to download your app.
    • Screenshots are important for making your app stand out and showcasing it effectively. It’s crucial that local users can understand what they see in the screenshots.
    • Icons – when localising your mobile app for Android and iOS, ensure that the app icon is culturally appropriate.
    • Video content.  If you’re considering adding video content to the app store, remember to localise the video assets as well.  A localised app video can show visitors what your app looks like, how it works, and why they should download it.

App Localisation Tools

The following are some of the popular and proven technologies that assist with app localisation:

  • Crowdin – a localisation management platform for agile teams, which simplifies and streamlines the translation of mobile apps, games, websites, emails, docs, blogs, and more. The platform has an API, CLI, in-built integrations with 150+ tools, and numerous features to make the mobile app localisation process easier.
  • Lokalise – provides a robust solution for swift translation and cultural adaptation, with AI-powered technology and real-time translation capabilities ideal for rapid deployment.
  • OneSky – provides tools to automate mobile app localisation, with a key focus on technical app localisation.
  • POEditor – an online localisation service that facilitates managing collaborative or crowdsourced translation projects.

If you are considering converting your idea into an app, or if you have an app for one locale that you would like to launch into a new locale, we would be delighted to have an obligation free conversation to help you commence your journey.

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