If you’re an app developer or you’re working with apps, you’ll know that increasing an app’s visibility and exposure are very important for its success. Therefore, an app that can be downloaded and used in different languages and in different locations has access to a huge market of users. However, as users based in different regions have different preferences, customization of the app is necessary. The process of customizing an app for use in multiple countries and languages is referred to as mobile app localization.
Why localize your app?
As mobile app stores are now global, your app may already be available globally. However, if it is only available in English, you’ll have difficulty accessing a huge amount of non-English app users worldwide.
Statistics show that there are around 5 billion mobile phone users worldwide, with just 240 million of these based in the US. China drastically exceeds other countries in terms of time spent in mobile apps and revenue made from mobile apps. 41% of total app revenue comes from Asia.
Localizing an app for use in other countries has been proven to increase downloads and revenue for apps. In one recent study, localizing apps resulted in 128% more downloads per country and a 26% increase in revenue for each country added.
What is APP/Software Localization?
Localization is the process of adapting an app from its original form to be easy to use in other markets and regions. This includes many changes, with some being obvious and others being not so obvious. Some of the clear changes to be made are translations and picture changes. It makes sense that if a company plans to have their app released in a separate country from its origin, they will need it to be in that country’s language. Also, images on the app must be applicable to the country that the app is being converted to. For example, a travel app would want pictures of Shanghai on it if the company was adapting the app to Chinese markets, not Times Square. A non-obvious necessity for localization is recognizing locales, which are different dialects of the same origin language. An example of this would be between English used in the United States versus English used in the United Kingdom. It seems like this would not be a big deal, however different phrases and words can carry different meanings across borders, so app developers need to be aware of this.
Benefits of APP/Software Localization:
Localization is a process that can bring many benefits. The main benefit is increased profits by expanding into new markets. This comes about by a company releasing their information in an area where it is new and fresh, which intrigues customers there, thus increasing sales. Also, when companies localize their apps, it shows people in the new are that the company cares about them. The company cares enough to make their application user friendly toward these people rather than just have simple translations on a website, which goes a long way with consumers. A third benefit of localization is brand strengthening. If a company localizes into new markets, that increases brand recognition because more people are aware of the brand and as more people know about a brand, it becomes more reputable and trusted, making people more likely to use their services.
Difference Between Localization and Internationalization:
App localization and internationalization are two concepts that are commonly mixed up. Localization is often referred to as “l10n” and internationalization is “i18n”, which can confuse people. Further confusion can be due to the close relationship that these two processes share with each other. In the process of localization, internationalization is a necessity. Internationalization prepares the app to be localized for a desired market. Parts of internationalization include removing barriers to make localization easier and altering the coding of an app to ease the transition into other markets. Localization is a far more complex process that is also more specific. These complexities stem from all the parts of the app that must be changes to make it feel natural in whatever market a company is looking to adapt to. In essence, internationalization involves changing the software of an app to make localization easier whereas localization is changing the interface of an app, so it feels normal to the people who will be using it.
Differences in Design Between Locations – CHINA:
As previously stated, when companies are localizing their apps, they will need their developers to adjust the app to cater to the needs and wants of the target market. This must be done for every app that is being localized, however, we will concentrate on a company that would be localizing their app from the United States to China.
There are some glaring adjustments that will certainly need to be made such as changing the dollars to Yuan and English to Mandarin. Other differences to keep in mind are changes in advertising style and profile on the App store. The changes in advertising style/ photos used is very important because the United States and China have a different culture surrounding advertising styles, so a direct translation from one to the other would likely not be very effective. Another key idea to keep in mind is that the localized app must abide by China’s internet censorship rules. If a company puts time, effort, and resources into localizing an app to Chinese markets but it ends up being blocked by the firewall, all their efforts were for nothing.. You may not be able to collect certain data in one place and require a permit to do so in another. We recommend using the Practical Law’s Country Q&A Guide for a high-level overview of the data protection rules and principles for a range of countries.
Localizing into markets is not a simple task by any means, especially Chinese markets, but it can be worth the effort and time for companies.
Localization: more than just translation:
Today, app users have high expectations when downloading a new app. They expect it to be easy to use and navigate, and to be tailored to their specific needs. To become popular in a new target market, an app needs to have a natural look and feel like it has been built specifically for that market.
As well as translating the text on your app, localising the content involves taking into account cultural differences. Some colour palates may be more appropriate for one locale than another. Abbreviations, times, dates and currencies can also vary from locale to locale.
When it comes to the media on your app, this also needs to be customized to be easily understandable and recognisable for all users. Not all pictures and videos are universal, and you don’t want users to feel that your app is targeted just toward one country or region. In addition, Microsoft’s localization guidelines provide the following advice:
“Images that might be appropriate in your own culture may be offensive or misinterpreted in other cultures. Avoid use of religious symbols, animals, or color combinations that are associated with national flags or political movements.”
Common technical issues associated with localization:
When localizing your app, you may encounter the following technical issues:
- Different markets may use mobile phones or other devices with different screen sizes or customized operating systems. If your app does not cater to these devices or systems, the layout or content of your app could be affected.
- Adapting an app for the Asian market may require double-byte characters (this is needed for Japanese and Chinese languages).
- Your app’s software may have to accommodate languages that read right-to-left, such as Arabic and Hebrew. This can also affect the layout of your app.
Therefore, it is highly important that you test the app before releaseto ensure that there are no localization issues in your layout and content.To test your localized app, set up an environment that includes multiple devices (or virtual devices) and screen sizes and is based on your target market.
Marketing to a new locale.
Marketing an app to a new target market is just as important as customizing the content of the app. Having marketing material that is carefully tailored to the target market will help to maximise brand awareness, visibility and number of downloads.
As well as localizing the content of your app, you’ll need to localize the material used to market your app on an app store. In addition, you may want to launch some other localized marketing material and campaigns.
Once the app is launched and being used in the new target market, you’ll also need to provide some sort of support for users. Users in new target markets may experience problems or have feedback and comments. They will want to know their voices are being heard and their needs are being catered to. Don’t forget to add and market new features to each locale as your app grows.
Prime Examples of Localization:
As you have figured, localization is not an easy process, but it can be a rewarding one. Companies that have successfully localized into markets, even tough ones like China, have seen a great increase in profit. Some of these companies that have successfully adapted their apps to Chinese markets are:
Linkedin: Linkedin is a business networking app that originated in California, United States. The app makes connecting and staying in contact with professionals incredibly easy, which made it so appealing in Chinese markets with the Chinese “Business Card Culture”. Linkedin took this opportunity and has seen increased usage after adapting to Chinese markets.
Airbnb: Airbnb is a temporary-lodging app that rivals the hotel industry in its origin country of America. It lets people list their house, condo, or apartment for customers to stay there for a brief period of time. Airbnb localized, and has agreements with many cities in China (its only expansion outside of the United States) and holds over 120.000 active listings in its new home away from home. In this next year for Airbnb, they are expecting a 247% growth in China.
Uber: This one is a bit of a different story. Uber dominates the online transportation market in the United States, however, it had stiff competition in China. This is largely due to the increasingly popular ride service, Didi, which is a household name in China. Uber also ran into other obstacles such as subsidies and significantly more government control than the company is used to in America and other countries it has localized to. After all of their efforts, Uber decided to enter a merger with its rival, Didi Chuxing due to financial losses they sustained from Didi having roughly 80 percent of the market share.
As shown, companies are able to localize in China, however some markets have shown too competitive for even the biggest industry titans.
How a professional localazation company can help?
Using translators to help you localize your app can speed up the process and avoid any problems caused by cultural differences. Translators hold valuable experience dealing with different demographics and can adapt your translations to specifically suit your locale.
Listed below are some of the ways that can help transform your app into a multilingual, multicultural, and globally accessible powerhouse:
- Use of culturally aware, native translators of the target language, with a solid understanding of your industry and of the country in which your app will be launched.
- Careful selection of terminology and content in order to respect local subtleties and customs and to avoid misunderstandings and unsuitable wording.
- Partnership with a web and app design specialist to ensure the layout of your localized app matches perfectly with the target country and audience.
- Respect of your companyculture, values, and corporate identity within the localized app.
Authors: Noah Swift, WeiWei