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App Localization 101 – The What, Why, & How

George Kasiouras
August 6, 2021
7 min read

These days, localization comes in multiple forms and needs. Website localization, video game localization, or, in this case, app localization. 

But what is app localization, exactly? Why should we bother with it? What are its challenges? And how can we deal with them as efficiently as possible? Here is all you need to know!

What is Localization? 

Localization is all about taking your content or product and making it more appealing, or, sometimes, less offensive, for a locale. 

What is localization

That is necessary if you wish to expand your reach into foreign markets. However, do keep in mind that localization and translation are not the same thing. 

Translation is a part of localization, but localization itself may require you to further modify text, images, etc. 

For example, “This party is going to be intense” is a remarkably easy sentence to translate. However, if you want to make it more appealing for Greece, you can use “The splinter is going to be burned”, which is a way for Greeks to say that things are about to get intense in a fun kind of way. 

What is App Localization? 

App localization is the process of localizing your app. And that can be anything like a web app, PC app, and mobile app. 

Needless to say that ideally, you also want to localize your app across all of the operating systems that it’s available in, such as Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, etc. Any OS or platform that is not dealt with is missed potential revenue. 

What is Mobile App Localization? 

Mobile app localization refers strictly to the mobile variants of applications.

There are quite a few mobile operating systems out there. However, pretty much everyone only localizes in either of these two, or both:

  1. Android
  2. iOS

The reason being that these are the most popular platforms. Here is a little more about the localization solutions for them.

Android Localization

With 70% of the global market share, Android is the leading mobile operating system in the world. Needless to say that if you have an Android app, Android localization should be on your list.

android_localization_transifex_native_guide

As for how to do it, Android Studio is one of the most popular ways to go at it. The only problem is that copying and translating XML files can become a complex task down the road, which is why you may want to look at Android localization with Transifex Native, instead!

Native solves the complexity of having to deal with XML files with Over-the-air translation delivery, seamless push and pull requests from the localization management platform to your app, and vice versa.

iOS Localization

iOS is by far the most popular proprietary OS.

iOS Localization

The most common way of localizing an iOS app is by using Xcode. And while that mostly works just fine, it also leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Manually dealing with .xliff files can introduce several issues, and issuing an App Store application update to amend translations can become a lengthy process. That’s why you may want to consider iOS localization with Transifex Native as an alternative!

Just like with the Android solution, iOS localization with TX Native gives you:

  • OTA translation delivery
  • Seamless push & pull of translations from and to Transifex
  • Option of changing the localization locale from inside the app
  • Handling pluralization in the translation management system

Examples of App Localization

Localizing an app often includes in-app content, a user interface, and, in some cases, even video subtitles as well. Netflix is a good example of that. 

App localization

Netflix not only localizes their UI, but even their content titles, subtitles, descriptions, documentation, and pretty much everything that you can think of. Of course, there are some cases where leaving the default title in its native tongue works for the best. 

Then you also have some rare exceptions such as Google, where they are not just localizing one app, but basically a whole operating system! 

And if you have an Android smartphone, you can try that out yourself. Changing the language on your phone makes every single Google app switch to that selected language! Just make sure not to pick a foreign language or switching back to one you know is going to be a considerable challenge. 

Why App Localization is Important

First and foremost, profit. A CSA research shows that on average, localizing your product has an ROI of $25 for every $1 spent on localization. You basically make 25 times as much as what you are spending. 

But it’s not all about direct profit. Localizing an app also helps you: 

  1. Get better SEO rankings in various regions
  2. Position your company as an international brand
  3. Gain the competitive advantage 
  4. Reach out to more people
  5. Help these potential customers understand your product and/or services better

So, there is no doubt that localization should be a part of your business strategy. The only question is “how”. 

Challenges of App Localization

Localizing an app is not a simple task. As mentioned above, it’s not just about translating content from one language to another. 

In the case of apps, you also have to deal with things such as: 

  • User Interface
  • Text
  • Images 
  • Videos
  • Animations
  • Currency
  • Time and date formats
  • Legal documentation

Not to mention anything about all the work that needs to be done from the engineers’ side regarding internationalization and code changes to handle new strings and updates, in general.

Of course, not all apps require handling all of that. But no matter the degree, the core challenge of having to manage all the different parts of your app along with the whole localization and engineering team, is still there. 

Another big challenge with app localization is continuous localization. As your app keeps on receiving updates and new features, these must also be implemented to the translated/localized versions of the app. And that’s a rough thing to do if you are still working with spreadsheets. 

How do we deal with that? 

Solutions

People used to localize with nothing but spreadsheets while manually keeping track of everything. This workflow makes communication, editing, and post-release management, a nightmare. 

Thankfully, things are now much better with the help of Translation Management Systems such as Transifex!

Transifex, as a TMS, acts as a platform where you can bring all of your teams and content under a centralized place and it’s made to drastically improve team management & collaboration

And it’s not just about collaboration tools. Transifex can also help you with the actual localization process with tools such as: 

And more. 

This is not a hypothetical scenario. Plenty of companies have already shared success stories with Transifex, stories regarding improved workflows, collaboration, turnaround times, global reach and growth, automation, etc. 

So, creating your app with internationalization and localization in mind then using a TMS is no doubt the best way to get started with app localization while also maintaining a continuous localization workflow

Fileless Localization

Using a TMS is currently no doubt the best way to tackle app localization challenges. The thing is that you still have to manually download the localized content and upload it to your app, while the engineers need to make sure that it works properly. 

One solution to that problem is using Transifex Native, the modern approach to software localization.  

Once installed, Transifex Native is integrated to your code which allows it to automatically pull and push content from the Translation Management System to your app. You can get it on Android, iOS, Javascript/React/Angular, and Django/Python. 

Wrapping Up

That’s all you need to know about the basics of app localization. If you want to learn more about it and how Transifex can make localization easier, feel free to reach out to us for a free trial or a demo!

George Kasiouras
George is the Digital Content Manager of Transifex. If he is not creating content, you'll find him playing video games, the guitar, reading a book, writing a book, or improvising a comedy skit, among other things.

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