Mobile App Localization: Everything You Need to Know

Mobile App Localization: Everything You Need to Know

Want to buy clothes online? There is an app for that. Looking for an affordable taxi in your area? There is also an app for that. The idea is pretty clear: from ordering food and buying drugs to business—now almost everything can be done just by a few clicks on your phone (which we bet bring with you almost everywhere - so do most of the worldwide population).

The numbers are astonishing: just imagine that more than 255B mobile apps were downloaded last year. The number is snowballing in 2023, and the tendency will only grow stronger year by year. There is no surprise that companies from all sectors and of all sectors now use mobile apps as their primary platform for both - building products and tuning marketing campaigns.

The key element that can show our app demand, download rates, and grow revenue is app localization. Being a multifaceted process involving many steps, app localization is much more than just translation and requires strategy, robust technology, and knowledge in that domain to bring valuable results.

Although all requirements mentioned above are crucial, the good news is that localization can now be done through tools that we are going to describe below. This guide will guide you on the app localization topic and explain how it can help you streamline the business process in 2023 and further. Let's dive in!

What is App Localization?

Mobile app localization means adapting an app's user interface and app functionality for users in different target markets.

Localization goes beyond the simple translation process:

  • Translation focuses solely on the literal transfer of content from existing language to preferred language.
  • Localization guarantees that every asset of the app (content, UI elements, specific features, description, and graphics) is adapted to a specific culture, region, and national preferences, habits, and expectations.

2 Types of Mobile App Localisation

Just like you can develop specific functions of an application to solve a particular problem or satisfy a particular domain - often resulting in the minimum viable product (MVP) or running a full development process, mobile app localization also devices into two types:

Minimum Valuable Localization (MVL)

MVL focuses on localizing only key features of the application or content. It could also be app store connect descriptions or app store metadata. This localization type will be a perfect option for those businesses just starting their way onto the global market since it allows them to verify the idea of the process.

Evernote is a great example of MVL - it was launched in China in 2012 but only with a simple product and gave them a local-language brand name—Yinxiang Biji (印象笔记).

Full App Localization

As you can guess, full app localization means localizing every part of the existing app and launching the entire functionality on the new market. This comes with maximizing their app's reach and user base, opening new revenue streams and ROI.

A good example of full-scale mobile app localization is Airbnb - the company adapted the entire service for 220+ locales and 60+ other languages, localizing mobile apps from the content and UI to the specific payment methods available in each location.

5 Key Reasons to Localize App in 2023

1. Get Access to Global Market

This might be the most obvious yet valuable reason to localize your mobile app. Continuous localization allows companies to get worldwide reach, increasing brand awareness and opening new revenue streams. Global market. through the App Store or Google Play can help you attract new users speaking your chosen native language to both an existing global app and new products you plan to develop. This also makes monetization faster and easier.

2. Increase Your Reach Worldwide

Mobile applications are currently a key driver of global corporate growth. The thing here to consider is that 99% of these apps come with the English language by default. Although English is a major language for localization, you should know your global audience before starting the process and identify what language is mostly used in your chosen area.

3. Competitive Advantage

The app market is highly competitive. With the increasing demand for new features, platform updates, and engaging user experience at each stage of the user journey, you won't be surprised to know that one of the key steps in promoting apps today is localization. With the local market being pretty tight for competition, finding new target audiences above your country can open up new business opportunities.

Here is the thing: you should first learn how to prepare your app for regional Google app stores. The process differs for iOS and Android apps.

  • For example, you should ensure that you include keywords in app names and titles when launching your app to the iOS market.
  • App descriptions with keywords will be scanned when you launch an app to the Android market, so you should ensure you know the key search terms used by smartphone users in these app stores.

Even if your localization strategy does not involve translating the app into another language (but in most cases, you should), you will still have plenty of work here:

  • Unit conversions
  • Currency
  • Regional slang
  • Images

Let's take as an example, Irish people. They don't take vacations - they take holidays, so your localization strategy will need to consider this when promoting your app to this target audience.

4. Greater Visibility

Let's imagine your application is well-liked in the USA; you will still want to modify it to other English-speaking countries and areas. As a result, your localization strategy should be adjusted from the outset, whether you are going to the UK, French, Indian, or the Russian market.

Adjusting the app content, graphics, app store descriptions, and images will let you get great visibility on the Google Play and Apple App Store. Ensure that your application has a proper amount of keywords that are mostly used for searching this type of product in your chosen location by performing a comprehensive SEO analysis in advance.

A great app store optimization (ASO) plan will encourage a higher amount of downloads since your software will appear to more and more users. The good news is that you can localize your app even with a limited budget - the MVL localization type (discussed below) will work wonders when properly organized.

5. Guaranteed ROI

Mobile app localization tends to pay out in terms of both finances and efforts invested. The process itself may look expensive and suitable only for well-known companies with high budgets. While it can be true for some apps, especially those that deal with native language translators, the market offers a variety of options to choose from (we will describe below).

Anyways, proper localization will lead you to guaranteed ROI. In fact, localizing your product to one market will make it easier for you to expand to more. The reason is simple - you will have a knowledge curve and efficient methods that already worked for you, even if you will still need to work with different languages, laws, content adaptation, and other elements of mobile app localization.

App Localization Vs. App Internationalization

With so many terms in the days of digital marketing and digitalization, it could be confusing for some to learn the difference between internalization and localization. So some consider them the same thing. The truth is that they are dependent on each other but still refer to two separate processes that require different languages, skills, and approaches.

Internationalization (i18n) is a term describing the process of customizing your code, making the software ready for localization. Think of internationalization as the preparation of the app for localization. Localization is more about customizing content and internal elements of the application.

Although internationalization is a step above localization, the process should go ahead since the code needs to be ready to handle all the localized content and elements when it is ready so you don't get back to internationalization with new changes every time.

Mobile App Localization | 3 Challenges to Consider

Slower Time to Market

Just like any updates and product improvements, localization takes time to develop and implement. It can also be difficult to integrate localization and translation into the development workflow if your team lacks experience and understanding in the domain.

Pro tip: There are some ways you can speed up the process and resolve this challenge. For example, you can use tools for localization and translation instead of finding the team to cover those needs. Rask AI can be a useful tool for that purpose, allowing small and large companies to translate the content, both textual and audio, into multiple languages.

We also recommend making localization a part of the initial software development.

Quality of Translation and Accuracy Issues

The translated content should be as accurate as possible. It is not only about grammar mistakes - it is more about being accurate in the slang of the specific culture. Inaccurate content translation often leads to misunderstandings and a lack of interest in some users, reducing user retention rates.

Pro tip: This can be resolved by hiring an experienced team of translators. The best way to avoid issues related to inaccurate translation in terms of slang is to hire native language speakers.

Another way is to use translation tools like Rask AI that can capture specific cultural differences that should be considered during translation.

Hard to Measure ROI

The success measurement of almost any business and product improvement venture is the return on investment (ROI). Practice shows that mobile app localization is one of the few investments that guarantee ROI. However, measuring ROI for localization could be an issue. That is because ROI is usually looked at through a singular lens, where you should measure the amount of money directly spent to how much money was brought in.

Pro tip: In the case of localization, it is best to measure the number of new users or business opportunities you get after the process. It can take time to evaluate the results. Creating baseline metrics for a chosen country where you deploy an app can help you find tangible measurements related to the localization.

The best advice here is to choose specific metrics that make the most sense in terms of your localization ROI estimation. It is also recommended to consider tracking customer experience in different locales. Creating simple surveys will be a quick and useful tool for that task.

How to Localize an App: Full Process Breakdown

1. Start from Preparing Your Mobile App

The localization process should ideally start with market research. Insights gained from this step will help you get valuable insights to adjust your localization workflow. Customers will want to get a fully personalized and localized experience from the very start of interacting with your brand. This includes sales, support, and post-production service.

Research differs from company to company, though some general steps are:

  • Choosing the locales or countries to identify cultural differences;
  • Identifying most spoken languages in the chosen location;
  • Researching competition strategy and identifying issues to prevent;
  • Researching already popular native or applications for higher market clarity;
  • Studying the localized apps layouts, design, and customer review;
  • Studying the most popular features in the chosen area and technology trends.

Tech Recommendations

We recommend you ensure the text is kept separate from images during the design and development phase. That is because text strings have to be developed aside from the development code. It is also best to store text strings in files in the appropriate file format instead of being inside the framework of the codebase.

2. Choose a Mobile App Localization Model

There are three key models to localize your application without seeking help from a team of translators. Below you will explore the three most cost-effective and scalable options:

Mobile SDK + SDKs

Mobile Software Developments Kits and Translation Providers Software development kits are downloadable software packages. They often contain all the required tools for mobile app localization and development. This model is best for those who need both localization and development since SDK will be able to translate text strings without resubmitting the app.

API & Connector Integrations

Apis integrated or connectors can be used to communicate with translation providers. Or APIs can be utilized by communicating with translation services provided through integration.

For example, you can connect your mobile application to translation service providers to extract new content whenever it appears and translate it using API integration. Once the content is translated, you will get a callback notification to make a request for the translated content. This method is best for those who already work with translation service providers and want to expand the app to more than 10 new markets at once for speed and cost-effectiveness in the long run.

Using AI Tools

The last yet the easiest, cheapest, and most effective method that is now used by companies all across the world is using AI tools. While you will still probably need some help from app developers and designers to adjust the code and graphics to the new market, all the content (in all its forms) can be translated by tools like Rask AI. In fact, these tools greatly help in further localization and offer the same accuracy as native language translators.

3. App Store Optimization (Apple App Store and Google Play Store) & App Launch

The process is similar to how marketing teams use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase organic traffic and get higher brand visibility with web pages. The same here - you should optimize your description and titles at Apple App Store or Google Play to appear at the top of search results.

This also includes optimizing keywords, screenshots, and more. In the case of several countries chosen for localization, App Store Optimization has to be done from scratch for every language or area. That is where your first step in the process of market research and app preparation) comes with all the needed points to consider at this stage.

7 Useful Tips for Mobile App Localization | How to Increase App Downloads

Use Locale Instead of Solely Language

Thinking about covering language is a first step. But when your international customer base grows, you will notice the importance of locale.

For example, you decided to specify "fr" for French as your language code, but you didn't consider regional differences in different francophone countries. Here you should consider translating different languages and content (though culturally relevant ones) to app users from France and Belgium.

Provide Context to Linguists

Translations are used to get a vast spreadsheet with all the needed information for app translation. The process was simpler, and they translated hundreds of keys in a vacuum without zero understanding of where the content will be located, why, and for who.

But just like with the previous pony - providing context for linguists can help you resolve many edits in the future and deliver top-notch results. They should know what the app is about, who will use it, what problem the app solves, and more.

Glossary to Keep Consistent Brand Terms

This is one of the most important tips for the mobile app localization process. Glossary is a term used to describe a list of words relating to a specific subject that includes app descriptions.

A glossary and style guide are two key elements of the language assets that must be built, whether working with AI tools, professional translation services, or performing translations in-house. Using a glossary will help you to keep the brand style consistent for higher app downloads.

Tools with Auto-Key Detection for App Screenshots

We already mentioned the importance of showing translators where the content will be displayed and who will read it. However, there are several tools like Lokalise that take this a step further and allow you to upload ready screenshots and link them to translation keys.

Make Image Source Files Easy to Find

When designing visuals in tools, you better give your localization team (if you work with them, if not - read next point) access to the final file in the image format with the source files too.

You may want to keep the overall mobile app layout consistent but hide or swap some graphic or visual elements based on the locale. This will make the process twice simpler and faster.

Use Appropriate File Formats

Most prefer to skip this step though it has the same importance as the preparation stage. This will help your content to be quickly and easily localized further down the road. In an ideal world, strings should be stored in resource files instead of living inside your code base. Otherwise, it can be extremely time-consuming and costly to refactor the code base.

Avoid Hard Coding Currency, Date Formats, and Time

We already covered why internationalization is crucial for mobile app localization success. Therefore, you should not hard code any text, as well as time, currency, and date formats. We live in a world where time and date formats are very tricky and different in almost any country. So make sure you keep everything as simple as possible and perform localization testing.

To Wrap It Up | Localizing Mobile Apps

As this guide shows, quality mobile app localization takes time, research, planning, investments, and skills. While all this is true, there are some ways you can speed up the process without sacrificing the quality of the process. Rask AI is the number one tool for localization that makes the process simple, pleasant, and cost-effective.

FAQ

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How do I localize an iOS app?
What is mobile app localization?
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