Mobile App Localization
As a mobile app developer or marketer, one of your main targets will be increasing your app’s exposure, which would increase its MAUs (Monthly Active Users). After all any increases in revenue, are directly proportional to this. For you to be able to increase your exposure, you would have to explore the different regions and user types in order to determine their preferences and to some extent tailor the app to best meet their interests. One of the ways this is done is through mobile app localization.
As with every project your localization project starts with a planning process. To prepare your mobile app for localization it is necessary to internationalize it. Internationalization describes the process of extracting texts and placing them in so-called resource files. These files are then used for localization. Think of localization as customizing the content; and internationalization as customizing the code.
Internationalization is a process that should ideally be included in the very first stage of app development. That way you’ll avoid having to go through the hassle of editing a final product. In most cases, localization does not need to be planned ahead of the development of the app, unlike internationalization, where it’s harder to modify the code after its creation.
Some of the key phases of the internationalization process are as follows:
- Place UI text into separate files—not in the programming code
- Set up a multilingual architecture so your app can run in the language that is set on the user’s device
- Design a localization-friendly interface
- Avoid text on graphics
- Make an inventory of country adaptations
If you are working with a language service provider that has a technical team of localization engineers, they can help you with the internationalization initiative. They will not be as deeply involved in the code as your developers are, but they can add valuable insight by giving advice based on their experience with other projects. They can also help you in assessing whether your fields can contain the special characters in your desired target languages. This is a good test to make sure that your app does not produce unexpected bugs and that your interface allows for text expansion.
Professional Language Service Providers (LSPs) will translate your files using a Translation Memory (TM) which is a database of identical translations between source and target languages that assists them in their localization process. If you allow your LSP to read into your XML files directly, this would save you a lot of time preparing the source (which would otherwise involve copying and pasting your strings or preparing the text into Excel or similar formats). As mentioned before, the localization engineers that coach you at the internationalization stage would minimize the risk of your variables being overwritten in the process of localization. In addition, almost all LSPs use Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools, which automatically detect your strings on the basis of identifier separation and make it easier to automate the translation process. Of course this is not machine translation, which is a completely different thing.
Very often, several parties are involved in reviewing content and making changes (e.g., a local marketing office or your LSP’s language specialists). Integrate everyone into the process. Ideally, your local LSP would be reviewing your content and making changes in order to adapt the content to the culture of the target market, which would save you the hassle of having to involve different parties in your localization process.
If your localization provider has a trained technical team, you can outsource the full process, i.e. you can send them the complete environment for app compilation and they send back the localized app, ready for release. However, if your localization provider does not have the technical capability to do so, you will want to take some time to determine the most efficient process for localization. For example, you would need to weigh the time and effort of the back and forth between your developers and the linguists versus having a trusted vendor that would take the application as it is and explain to you the pros and cons of each process transparently.
Localization is not a one-time job. It’s more like an investment you’ll get return on in the future. Localization supports the growth of your business and helps you to sell your products across the world. With the right tools and support localization will no longer be a hurdle for startups.