Are you planning to localise your mobile app? First do this
There are many benefits of localising your mobile app. But once you start your journey towards a multilingual app, you might come across many challenges that will push your skills and patience to the limit.
To avoid potential traps and failures remember to do these three things:
1. Internationalise your app
It’s not enough to export your app strings and simply deliver them to your localisation or translation provider. Before sending out any files, make sure your app is ready for the world.
In other words: internationalise your app to ensure that it can support other languages, special characters, measurement units, number and date formats. Look at items such as character encoding (it should be UTF-8), size of UI elements (e.g. buttons) or numeric formats and remember to remove any hard-coding, string dependencies or concatenations.
If you skip this step, you might be setting yourself up for some serious consequences.
Without internationalisation you’ll suddenly find out somewhere in the middle of your localisation process that your app can’t display special characters in Spanish or Polish or that your UI elements are too small to fit longer texts in other languages. Then you’ll have no choice but go back to the source code to fix the issues, which may delay the whole process.
So, to avoid unpleasant surprises, first check your source code thoroughly and provide your localisers and translators with world-ready files.
2. Research your target markets
Before your localisation adventure begins, make sure you know your target market very well. Define not only the languages you want to localise into, but also countries and regions of your target users.
Remember not to accept blindly any general recommendations about the most profitable languages for mobile apps. Sure, it might happen that your app will really do well once it’s available in English, Japanese, French, Spanish and German, but the opposite scenario may well be true.
In your quest for the right target market, region and language, consider the profile of your app. Certain ideas, topics and features may not be attractive to users in certain regions, so make sure you know where your app can have the highest potential.
Look at the user statistics of your monolingual app to get the general idea about languages and geographies of your current app users. It could be a good starting point to defining your language choice.
Finally, bear in mind that releasing your application in a language that is often ignored by your competitors may help you gain advantage and attract more users.
So, don’t go with the obvious choices, but rather find out what will work well for your unique product.
3. Make sure your localisation team knows your product
Probably no one knows your mobile app as well as you do. Every string, graphic and command is totally clear to you and you know exactly how it’s displayed, even if you see it only in the source code.
When you work with an external localisation team, chances are they aren’t familiar with your product at all. Providing your team with the source files only, with no access to the actual product, may lead to another disaster.
Thus, always make sure your localisers and translators can see the app in action before they start to work. Give them an access to your app, even if it’s not published in app stores yet. Alternatively, provide numerous screenshots and add comments for the most problematic strings.
If your team can’t see your app stings in a context, they won’t be able to localise them correctly.
This means that your users won’t understand your product either.
To make sure the localisation process runs smoothly, give your team a possibility to download and install the app, so they can be aware of how your product feels and looks like.
Mobile app localisation doesn’t have to be challenging and confusing. With a thorough preparation and experienced localisation team you’ll be able to reach your goal easily and introduce your up to many new markets.
Photo by D. Pawlak
About the author: Dorota Pawlak
Dorota helps businesses, organisations and individuals to communicate successfully across cultures in the online and offline world. She is an entrepreneur and a qualified translator specialising in IT and localisation of websites, games and software.