“There’s an app for that!” Never before has that modern adage been so true. In today’s rapidly evolving technological world, there really does seem to be, in fact, an app for just about everything. And, given the number of smartphone users worldwide, there’s no sign of that trend slowing down anytime soon. Most successful app developers know that their marketplace isn’t limited by geographical or political boundaries. To be a success, your app has to be marketable to the entire world of smartphone users. But how in the world (pardon the pun) to you accomplish that? We can answer in just one word: localization.
Put simply, localization involves ensuring that your app is not only translated into languages that your users will understand, but also that it is culturally appropriate for users from vastly different areas all around the world. And being “culturally appropriate” includes every aspect of the app – from graphics to sounds to visual content, etc. That may sound like a daunting task, but it is doable, and successful app developers from around the world have proven that fact. It’s simply a matter of breaking down the process into steps. What follows is a roadmap for the successful localization of your mobile app:
1. Translate text
The first step in preparing your app for a worldwide audience is to secure the services of a high-quality, professional translator – preferably one with experience in translating apps. The translator will need to not only be fluent in the target language, but also in modern jargon and nuances of usage. This comes only with an experienced, trained linguist. Never trust machine translation of any kind when it comes to this important step in the localization process.
2. Adjust units of measure
Unfortunately, measurement systems are different – sometimes significantly different – from one country to the next. You’ll need to ensure that any units of measure within your app are adjusted appropriately for the target audience.
3. Modify the image and text layout, as needed
Not every language reads left to right across a page. Some – such as Arabic and Hebrew, for example – read in the opposite direction. What this means for your app is that not only will these languages have to appear in reverse order, but your images should as well.
4. Be culturally sensitive
As a resident of the US, you’re probably used to certain hand gestures and what they mean, for example, or how some symbols and colors are interpreted within our own culture. But what may be an innocent gesture or symbol here may be entirely inappropriate or even offensive to other cultures. The same holds true for colors and graphics. If your translator is a native speaker (which is preferable), he or she can help to flag content that is inappropriate for the target audience.
5. Localize keywords
Whatever you do, don’t forget this important step in the process. You’ll need to optimize your keywords for every market in which you sell your app. If you don’t, your customers won’t be able to locate your app in their app store. Remember that just because you’re selling your app in two French-speaking countries, for example, doesn’t mean the keywords will be the same. Once again, a native speaker is a huge help in understanding these types of issues related to popular jargon and language usage.
6. Test your localization
The last step is also one of the most important. You’ll need to test the localization of your app to make sure your localization is accurate and complete. Considerations include content, layout, the accuracy of the translation, and cultural appropriateness. This is one area in which automation helps a great deal. It’s much less time-consuming to test your app using one of the myriad of localization testing tools for mobile apps that are available online.
When broken down into steps, localization of a mobile app isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may seem at first. And it’s an absolutely crucial step for anyone who want to market their product globally.