Mobile apps localization basis and challenges
Mobile apps is a huge market that can generate a good revenue if expansion to new markets is done properly. Just think about this fact: mobile apps are small (have small wordcount) and require low budget to localize. But it’s not always a piece of cake.
Why to translate?
I think that this is a bit straightforward question, but let’s dig into numbers:
- 1.2 billion people used apps in 2012 and by 2017 mobile apps users number will increase to 4.4 billion.
- Analyst estimates for downloads of apps in 2013 range from 56 to 82 billion. In 2017, there could be 200 billion downloads (source: mobiThinking).
- Localization Increases Downloads by 128% on Average for iPhone Apps.
So answer comes naturally. But on the other hand, is that it’s betternot to do localization at all if it’s of low quality.
What languages and platforms?
First of all you need to decide what target markets to cover. By all means, your product will tell you. Talk with your customers, in some cases they can even offer their help in translation or linguistic testing. If we talk about numbers, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian or Arabic can be a great starting point and will cover considerable amount of your prospective users.
You should also decide on the platforms and app stores: Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, Qualcomm BREW, Sun J2ME etc.
What to localize?
- Mobile app strings
- App store description
Have a look at how to add localized app descriptions using iTunes Connect and in Google Play.
Don’t forget about limitation of app description, so users can get the most important information at the first sight. For example, in Google Play it’s 4000 characters.
- Metadata and keywords
Keywords and metadata translation is very important because it helps users to find your app. By all means, it’s better to include the most important and relevant keywords first. You may use, for example, Keywords Spy Tool to see what keywords your competitors use for a particular market. Other good tool to get keywords ideas is Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
- Screenshots for app store
- Consider localization of your app name
By all means, all those elements need a bit of transcreation and copywriting, especially app store description, metadata and keywords, and also DTP and images editing in case of screenshots localization.
Also don’t forget about translation of updates and further support of your app.
Another option is to translate app description and keywords to test if users in a particular country will be interested in your app.
What challenges can you face?
- space limitation: solution here is to indicate maximum allowed characters in strings description. And, of course, leave room for expansion (it’s always better to use a liquid layout rather than a layout with fixed widths).
Due to space limit you should be extra-careful with wording, have a look at some great tips from Apple developers on terminology and wording.
- lack of context: provide context in form of comments, screenshots, glossaries etc. so translators can do their job properly. There are many other ways to help translators. Also make sure translators use mobile terminology that is consistent across all your apps and with the translation of terms in the appropriate OS.
- internationalization: only translation is not enough. You need to take into account also input methods, data and time formats, currencies, support of local input data by the database to name a few.
- non-text aspects: always remember about cultural contexts: usage of colors, signs. You can use local photos of people, places and things instead of general photos and do everything so that users feel like at home.
So mobile apps localization can look like a simple task at the first sight but many aspects need to be taken into account so users from other countries can find your app and get really “local” experience when using it.