How to Localize Your Mobile App

Lucy Xu
November 13, 2018
4 min read

With mobile commerce transactions soon to overtake ecommerce transactions, now is the time to take your web app mobile if you haven’t already. This means that in order to effectively reach your global audiences, you must not only invest in localization (which companies typically do to translate and localize their websites) but also mobile app localization.

In our new #MobileLocalization series, we dive into the why and how of mobile app localization for your business. In this post, we take a look the three fundamental steps of mobile app localization. Whether you’ve already localized your mobile app or are just beginning the mobile app journey, read on to make sure you have built a strong foundation from these three mobile localization pillars.

Step 1: Create Strings

The beginning of any localization effort (website or mobile) requires the retrieval of translation strings. These strings are technical units that enable the localization and translation to happen and be automated. And before going into the nitty gritty of string creation, it’s important to note the difference between strings (from the web application) and content (the documentation that works alongside the application).

A best practice to keep in mind for string creation is to use unique string identifiers. Unique string identifiers will help prevent “one-size-fits-all” translations and any unintended translation consequences. It’s also useful to make sure to review and edit the strings carefully (for typos, messaging changes, etc.) as they are being created by the developer, since these strings are the basis for your next translation efforts.

Of course, for consistency and quality control, make sure you have also added in a robust and recurring review step into your localization to make sure your localization efforts are aligned with your objectives. Once you get all of your source strings, then you’re ready to start translating.

Step 2: Translate

The translation step is the most labor-intensive part. It comprises of two main parts during mobile localization: adapting and localizing the content into your target languages; and then making sure the content displays properly once localized. When making sure your localized content displays properly, you’ll want to take into account mobile-specific technical factors like screen size limitations, text and icons, content, and user interface.

To figure which languages or mobile systems to localize into, a good place to start is by looking at data from your source application using a tool like Google Analytics to see where your users are (both digitally and geographically). You can also used methods like sending a survey to your users or looking up the country of IP addresses that visitors are coming from, and then associate the preferred languages of each country.

Step 3: Select a Translation Management Tool

Once you’ve finished the first two steps, you’re ready to start exploring the wide world of translation management tools. First, when it comes to the actual translations that will feed into the tools, you can use in-house developers or get creative and use your community for crowdsourced translations. Then, when it comes to tools, there are a variety of options that range from human translation, machine translation, and all things and combinations in between. The method and tool tool you select should be based on your specific localization needs.

More Mobile App Localization Tips

Looking for more tips and guidance as you build out your mobile localization efforts? Our #MobileLocalization series is here for you, breaking down down the why, what, and how behind effective mobile localization. Explore the full #MobileLocalization Series series for more insights on successfully bringing your content to reach the world’s growing global audience.

Getting Started with Mobile App Localization

It’s more vital than ever to make sure your company is mobile-ready for the exponentially increasingly mobile world. Properly localizing your mobile app ensures that you will capture demand and revenue from these growing mobile markets. To get started, get educated and then get going!

To make things easier, we created a Localization 101 guide that will help you easily get started with mobile app localization. Download the guide today to set up a mobile app localization process to start reaching your global, mobile audiences. 

Lucy Xu
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