Digital Marketing

App Localization Best Practices To Follow For Maximum Visibility

Are you wondering why your app is still not attracting, engaging, and retaining as many users as you expect? Despite its innovative features and user-friendly design, it’s still struggling to gain traction.

The competition in the mobile app market is stiffer than ever, with app downloads reaching 257 billion in 2023.

Image via Statista 

That said, how can you stand out in today’s already crowded mobile app marketplace? We’re glad you asked. Mobile app localization is the key.

This strategy allows you to target new markets, giving you a competitive edge over apps that remain confined to a single region or country.

However, it takes more than just translating text to attract and retain audiences from different regions. You must diligently follow app localization best practices to ensure maximum visibility in diverse global markets.

In this guide, we’ll explore app localization best practices for effective market expansion.

Let’s dive right in!

What Is App Localization?

Mobile app localization is an app store optimization strategy where you adapt your mobile app to a specific target market’s cultural, linguistic, and technical requirements. As previously mentioned, mobile app localization goes beyond merely translating text to other languages.

You must also adjust design elements, user interface, in-app copy, images, and graphics to resonate with local audiences. This works alongside other app store optimization to maximize visibility and appeal to users in different regions.

Why Is App Localization Important?

The current interconnected global economy has opened doors to a wider international audience. However, for your business to truly thrive, you need a well-thought-out app localization strategy.

Why, you may ask?

While English is the most spoken language globally, with around 1.46 billion speakers, only less than 20% of the world’s population understand it.

Image via Ethnologue

This means that even with a global audience, language barriers can prevent you from maximizing app engagement and audience reach.

Here are why localizing mobile apps is vital.

Expands Market Reach

App localization, particularly when paired with other app store optimization strategies, allows you to tap into new markets where people prefer to use apps in their native language. This can significantly increase your user base and revenue potential.

Improves User Experience

Users are more likely to engage with and enjoy an app that’s in their language and reflects their cultural norms. App localization enables you to provide a personalized experience, ultimately enhancing user satisfaction and loyalty.

Higher Conversion Rates

Implementing app localization best practices is a great way to multiply mobile conversions. When users can understand your app’s content, navigation, and instructions easily, they’re more inclined to complete transactions or subscribe to premium features.

Competitive Advantage

Offering a localized app in a crowded marketplace gives you a competitive edge over similar apps that have yet to adapt to different regions. Users are more likely to choose an app that speaks to them directly.

Better App Store Visibility

App localization helps your app rank higher in app stores of various regions. It improves your app’s relevance to local users. Investing in further app store optimization can increase your app’s visibility and organic downloads.

Pro Tip: Users search for apps using terms in their native language. Target keywords in the local language used in your target market.

Mobile App Localization Best Practices to Expand Your Reach

App localization can only help you extend your reach to various target markets if you do it right. Here are 13 app localization best practices that you must follow to ensure your app resonates with international users.

Research Target Markets

You don’t want to launch your app blindly into unfamiliar territories. Without thorough market research, you risk wasting resources on ineffective localization efforts and missing out on opportunities to connect with your target audience.

Here are some key aspects to keep in mind when conducting your research.

  • Analyze your target market: Conduct thorough research to understand the demographics, language preferences, and spending habits of your target markets. Look into factors like age groups, gender, income levels, lifestyle, and preferences.
  • Select languages: Identify the different languages spoken in your target markets. Then, prioritize them according to user population and potential return on investment. Consider dialects and regional variations within languages.
  • Consider cultural sensitivity: Understand the cultural preferences, norms, taboos, and symbols specific to different target markets. This helps you adapt your content to resonate with local audiences and avoid cultural misunderstandings.
  • Analyze competitors: Research competitor apps in each target market to identify gaps, trends, and localization strategies that resonate with local users. Learn from their successes and failures to refine your localization strategy.

Structure Your App for Localization

Full app localization requires preparation as early as the development stage. This involves structuring your app's architecture and design with localization in mind.

Here are some features you should consider during the early phases of your mobile app localization process.

  • Separate translatable content from the code: Isolate translatable strings, error messages, buttons, and other user-facing content from the core code and store them in resource files. This will help you easily translate the files without modifying the code.
  • Consider various pluralization guidelines: Different languages have distinct rules for pluralization. Structure your code to accommodate these variations, allowing translations to reflect each language's intended meaning accurately.
  • Merge iOS and Android translation keys: If you’re developing your app for both iOS and Android platforms, harmonize translation keys between the two. This app localization best practice will ensure consistency and simplify the process, reducing duplication and errors.
  • Utilize Unicode UTF-8 encoding: Ensure your app's encoding supports Unicode UTF-8, which facilitates the display of characters from various languages and scripts. This helps properly display characters across multiple languages, enhancing the user experience for international audiences.

Implement Pseudo-Localization

Pseudo-localization is an app store optimization process that involves creating a simulated translation of your app's content to test if it’s ready for localization. Simply put, it’s about performing a trial run by replacing the original language text with characters from a foreign language.

Pseudo-localization is important for several reasons:

  • Helps identify user interface issues: Pseudo-localization helps identify app interface issues, such as text expansion or contraction before the actual translation process begins.
  • Replacing English text with pseudo-translations that mimic the length and structure of foreign languages allows you to anticipate and address layout problems early on.
  • Provides a simulation of the translation process: As an app developer, simulating the translation process lets you preview how the app will look in different languages. This lets you assess the localized app's readability and overall user experience before finalizing translations.
  • Facilitates localization workflow: Pseudo-localization does this by providing placeholders for untranslated text. This way, you can continue working on the app's functionality while translators work on the actual localization, minimizing development delays.

Adapt Design for Text Expansion

Languages like German or Finnish require significantly more characters than English to express the same idea. If your design elements are sized specifically for English text, they might appear cluttered or cut off when translated into other languages.

One of the app localization best practices is adapting your design for text expansion. This helps you avoid expensive rework later in the process. Here are some tips for designing your app with text expansion in mind.

  • Use flexible layouts: Design your app interface with flexible layouts that can accommodate varying text lengths. Avoid fixed-width elements that may shorten or obscure text in languages with longer words or phrases.
  • WhatsApp, a widely used messaging app, has flexible layouts that provide a seamless user experience across various languages.

Image via WaBetaInfo

  • Incorporate whitespace: Add ample whitespace around text elements to prevent overcrowding when translations expand. This ensures readability and maintains a visually appealing interface.
  • Avoid hard-coding: Refrain from hard-coding text strings directly into  UI elements. Instead, use dynamic text containers that can adjust their size based on the length of the content.
  • Test with various languages: Test your app's UI with your target languages to identify any text expansion issues. Test the app across various screen sizes, resolutions, and languages to ensure consistency and readability.

Invest in Professional Translation

While you can use an automated translation management system for mobile app localization, it often falls short in capturing language and culture nuances. Hiring experienced translators of the target language ensures a more accurate and culturally relevant localization process.

Here’s why you should invest in professional translation services.

  • Linguistic expertise: Translators are proficient in both the source and target languages. They possess the linguistic expertise that machine translation may lack.
  • Accuracy: Professional translators understand your target language on a deeper level. Therefore, they can convey your app's message accurately. They can also adapt your content to suit regional variations and preferences, providing a more engaging and relevant user experience.
  • Brand voice consistency: A professional translator can capture your brand's specific tone and style while still making your app feel native and engaging to users in the new market.

Pro Tip: Professional translation services may require a higher initial investment than machine translation. However, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs.

Adapt User Interface

Adapting your app’s layout and design for localization is not just about translating text. It involves creating a flexible, culturally sensitive, and visually appealing interface that can effectively support multiple languages and cultures.

However, there’s a catch.

When adjusting app layout and design for app localization on Google Play Store, consider the platform's guidelines for accommodating multiple languages and regions. Here’s how you can adapt your app’s UI for localization and app store optimization.

  • Consider language direction: Languages are written and read in different directions. For languages like Arabic or Hebrew, which are read from right to left (RTL), you must mirror the layout accordingly. Ensure you align all UI elements correctly, including buttons, icons, and menus.
  • Provide clear navigation: Maintain a simple and intuitive navigation structure that's easy to understand regardless of language. Consider using visual cues alongside text labels.
  • Spotify, a popular music streaming service, offers a localized app experience with a simple and intuitive interface. Users can easily discover, play, and organize music using the app's straightforward navigation menus and controls.

Image via Spotify

  • Utilize universal icons: Use universally understood icons whenever possible to convey information effectively across different languages and cultures.

Localize Keywords for App Store Optimization

Mobile app localization is simply not enough if no one discovers, downloads, or engages with your app. Localizing keywords for app store optimization can maximize app visibility and expand your reach in different markets. Here are some mobile app localization best practices to effectively adapt your keyword strategy.

  • Conduct keyword research: Start by researching relevant keywords for each target market. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner or App Annie to identify popular search terms related to your app's category, features, and niche.
  • Understand local trends: Familiarize yourself with local trends in each target market. Tailor your keyword selection to match your local users' language and search behavior.
  • Optimize app store metadata: Incorporate localized keywords into your app's metadata, including the app title, subtitle, description, and even in screenshots captions. Ensure the language and keywords align with your target market's preferences and search patterns.
  • Booking.com, a popular travel booking app, optimized its app store metadata to attract users worldwide. The app provides localized descriptions, keywords, and visuals that resonate with travelers in various countries.

Image via App Store

  • Monitor competitors: Keep an eye on your competitors' keyword strategies. Analyze their keyword choices and performance to identify opportunities that will help you refine your approach.

Separate Images and Visuals from Text

When you’re striving for refined app localization, the last thing you want is images or graphics that retain the original language. Additionally, some images, graphics, and other multimedia assets might not be culturally appropriate for all target markets.

That’s why one of the app localization best practices is separating images and visuals from text. This technique allows you to adapt your app’s elements to different languages and cultures. This results in increased app downloads, user engagement, and retention across diverse global markets.

Promising, right?

Here are a few strategies you can consider:

  • Use text overlays: If you must use text on visuals, make it an overlay that you can swap for the translated text.
  • Use resource files: Store text strings in separate resource files that you can easily access and replace for each language.
  • Implement dynamic text rendering: Design your mobile app interface to accommodate varying text lengths. This ensures that translated text fits within designated spaces without overlapping or truncation.

Adapt Content for Cultural Sensitivity

Ignoring cultural sensitivities can lead to unintentional offense. Now, this may spell trouble for your brand. Content or imagery that’s inappropriate or insensitive in certain cultures can negatively damage your brand reputation.

That’s not all. When users feel that your app doesn’t resonate with their cultural identity or values, they’re less likely to engage with it.

How can you counter this? It’s simple. Tailor your app to resonate with your target audience's cultural preferences and sensitivities. Here’s how you can do it.

  • Research cultural norms: Understand the cultural nuances, values, and taboos of your target audience. Conduct thorough research to avoid unintentionally offending or driving users away.
  • Prioritize language accuracy: Work with native speakers or professional translators to ensure accurate content translation.
  • Adapt visual elements: Certain symbols or colors may have different meanings in various cultures. Adapt images, icons, colors, and symbols to align with cultural preferences and avoid misinterpretation.

Account for Regional Language Variations

Languages can have regional variations in vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. For instance, Spanish in Spain has variations compared to Spanish in Mexico or Argentina. Similarly, words used in British English might differ from American English.

What’s more, expressions used in one region might be offensive in another. Therefore, considering regional language variations can help you improve user experience and prevent misunderstandings.

Let’s look at some considerations you should take into account.

  • Research and identify variations: Conduct thorough research to understand the specific linguistic variations within your target local language across different regions. Identify differences in vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and idiomatic expressions.
  • Comply with legal requirements: Identify any legal requirements or regulations regarding language usage. Ensure that your app's content and language variants comply with relevant laws and regulations to avoid potential legal issues.

Pro Tip: Utilize glossaries to identify the correct vocabulary, grammar, and cultural references that resonate with users in each region.

Provide Customer Support in Local Languages

At some point, users from your local target markets will inquire about your app. They may experience technical issues or need clarification.

In this case, providing customer support in local languages creates a positive user experience. This ensures that users feel valued and understood.

Here are some factors to consider when localizing your customer support.

  • Hire native speakers: Work with customer support representatives who are native speakers of your target languages to ensure clear communication.
  • Provide multi-channel support: Offer customer support through various channels, including email, live chat, phone support, and social media. Ensure they’re available in the localized languages.
  • Offer timely responses: Respond promptly to customer queries to build trust and encourage loyalty.

Test and Validate Your App

Quality assurance is among the app localization best practices that you shouldn’t overlook. Localization testing and validation help you assess your app’s quality and functionality across different languages, cultures, and devices.

Here are some tips for testing and validating your localized mobile app.

  • Test the user interface: Make sure all of the text in your app is translated correctly and fits within the UI. Additionally, test your app’s layout to ensure it looks good in all languages.
  • Test the functionality: Verify that all app features and functionalities work correctly in the localized version. This includes testing buttons, links, forms, navigation, and other interactive elements.
  • Test device and operating system compatibility: Test your app on various devices, screen sizes, and operating systems to ensure compatibility.

FAQs

Q1. How do you localize an app? 

A. The steps to localize an app are the following:

  • Conduct market research
  • Prepare your app for localization
  • Implement a trial pseudo-localization test
  • Account for text expansion
  • Work with professional translators
  • Restructure user interface
  • Optimize keywords for app store localization
  • Separate visuals from text
  • Adjust content for cultural sensitivity
  • Consider regional language differences
  • Offer customer support in native languages
  • Test and verify your app

Q2. Should I localize my app? 

A. Yes. You should localize your app if you want to reach a broader audience and improve user engagement. To boost your efforts, you may also implement other app store optimization techniques.

Q3. What are the three types of localization? 

A. The three types of localization include:

  • Language localization
  • Cultural localization
  • Functional localization

Q4. What is an example of a localization strategy?

A. WeChat demonstrates a perfect example of a successful app localization strategy. This messaging app is dominant in the Chinese market. It recognizes features that are important in that market. It integrates functionalities to cater to user preferences beyond just messaging.

The app also includes popular Chinese payment options like Alipay and WeChat Pay, making transactions seamless.

Q5. What does a localization strategy focus on? 

A. A localization strategy focuses on tailoring your app's content, design, and functionality to resonate with your target audience's language and culture. The main goal is to enhance user experience and increase market penetration.

Final Thoughts

App localization is a strategic approach that can help you unlock global markets and maximize your app's visibility and impact. However, it’s not merely a checkbox to tick off. Continuous localization is necessary for the journey of understanding, adapting, and engaging with diverse audiences across borders and cultures.

Embracing the app localization best practices mentioned in this article helps you create deeper connections with your target audience, ultimately driving sustainable business growth. Ready to explore new markets? Start localizing your app today!

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma is the Founder and CEO of Attrock, a results-driven digital marketing company. Grew an agency from 5-figure to 7-figure revenue in just two years | 10X leads | 2.8X conversions | 300K organic monthly traffic | 5K keywords on page 1. He also contributes to top publications like HuffPost, Adweek, Business2Community, TechCrunch, and more.

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