Localization of mobile applications: the main difficulties and life hacks

“Change is inevitable. Growth is not guaranteed. ”
– John Maxwell

Although the quote from Maxwell may seem overly generalized, it is absolutely applicable to application development.

That is, if you have an application and there is local demand for it, someday you will have a choice: to enter new markets or not, which ultimately means giving up market share and growth. In fact, for product developers focused on growth, this is just the notorious Hobson’s choice. That is, when exactly will begin localization of mobile applications – only a matter of time.

Successfully completing a localization project is not an easy task. There are many pitfalls and success factors that affect the workflow. Therefore we are in Alconost decided to share with you our many years of experience. We hope these expert tips save you time, effort and budget.

Read on, we are about to dive deeper into the topic.

Written in Alconost

1. Explore the application market like the back of your hand

The biggest danger when entering new locales into the application is to know your users poorly. First of all, you must make sure your application is well received in the new market, and its ROI (return-on-investments) will be positive.

Two simple questions will help you here:

  1. Is your application in demand in the local market?
  2. Are local users willing to pay for it?

Examine your target audience before localizing your application.

Your research should take into account various details about your users: demographic ratio, behavior, lifestyle, technological habits and preferences, cultural beliefs, social trends and many other characteristics.

The results may indicate that, although the application that you are proposing is likely to be of interest to the target audience, it is necessary to differentiate the design or paid features in it. For example, it may be that some free features in this region will be more valuable than paid ones. That is, it makes sense to adapt the paid subscription and its functionality.

Another example is design and color scheme. In our experience, it often makes sense to adapt the interface design and screenshots to each target region.

Explore localization of competitors in the target region

Pay attention to projects to localize competitors – which application was warmly received, and which failed. And most importantly – why?

For example, if you want to launch a mobile application for pet owners in Korea, first find out who has already done this before you and what came of it. As they say, it is better to learn from someone else’s experience, good and bad.

Competitor analysis will also help you find out exactly where your competitive advantage might be and how best to present it to your target audience.

Provide customer support for a localized application

Finally, be prepared to provide customers with the right support at local language and provide a reliable channel for communication (chat, forum in the community, phone line or messages inside the application). This is important because when you enter a new market, timely feedback is worth its weight in gold – the faster you get feedback, the faster you will respond to it.

2. Pay attention to cultural differences

You can thoroughly study market indicators, but that’s not all you need. You must also understand the essence of your audience, their culture, values, lifestyle and taboo. What for? Because the release of localized versions of the product is almost the same as its first launch, only pointwise in the target market.

So how do cultural differences show up in the localized version of the app? Some features can play a huge role in localizations – terms, jokes, colors, numbers, measures and whole images. Keeping all this under control is very difficult, if at all possible, especially if you need to localize your application in 10 or 20 languages ​​in just a few weeks.

Therefore, the best we can advise is to attract professional localization specialists in your project, to all cultural aspects of translation native speakers and experienced project managers were involved.

We have a vivid example of how we dealt with cultural differences – a game localization project Streets of rogue. The most difficult thing was to localize the dialogues and humor characteristic of the rogue-like genre into 7 languages ​​in just 2 weeks – I had to take a special approach to selecting the appropriate linguists for the project. However, in our humble opinion, in the end everything turned out well, and there were a lot of funny moments on the project – see for yourself!

English French German Russian Spanish
How ya doin, fancy pants? La forme, pingouin? Was geht, schickimicki? How are you, fraer? ¿Cómo estás, elegante?
* glug glug * * Glou * * Glou * * gluck gluck * Bulk Bulk * glug glug *
Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family. Meatballs make you fart. Le sang crée les liens. La loyauté fonde la famille. Les boulettes de viande provoquent les pets Durch Blut wird man verwandt. Durch Loyalität wird man Familie. Durch Frikadellen furzt man. Blood makes us relatives. Devotion unites us into families. Meatballs make us farts. La sangre te hace pariente. La lealtad te hace familia. Las albóndigas te hacen tirar pedos.
HOLY CRAP !!! HOLY HOLY CRAP !!! BON SANG !!! BON SANG DE BONSOIR !!! MEINE GÜTE !!! MEINE LIEBE GÜTE !!! GODDESS !!! BO-SAME-KE, BO-SAME-KE !!! ¡¡SANTO DIOS !!! ¡¡¡SANTÍSIMO DIOS !!!

Examples of translating some funny dialogs in Streets of Rogue

3. Be prepared to plunge into the translation process

Of course, it is necessary to hire experienced translators, but the work does not end there, on the contrary, it is just beginning.

Create application glossary

In truth, the very beginning of localization makes sense to properly prepare. This involves preparing a glossary, a list of terms and names that should remain unchanged during the localization process. Subsequently, these resources ensure translation uniformity.

Actualization of translation memory

This part of the work is usually done by the localization team. For example, we at Alconost create and maintain a translation memory for each language – a database of all translations ever loaded into the translation management system.

The translation memory greatly optimizes the process of continuous localization by detecting fuzzy matches (duplicate and partially matching texts) and ensuring absolute uniformity.

Keep in touch with your localization team

This helps provide sufficient context, which in turn is necessaryso that the translation is accurate and natural. You will spend time, but in the end it is justified. In the end, there are a number of cloud-based localization management platforms that allow all team members to interact in real time, quickly and smoothly.

4. Perform localization technically competent – avoid repetitive and mechanical tasks

When it comes to before localizing your application, try to keep up with advanced technologies. It’s not about following the trend, but about the banal efficiency, which is facilitated by building the entire process in one of the cloud platforms for localization.

In the diagram below, we showed how approximately the localization process in our company looks.

Based on experience, we recommend that you adapt the process of continuous localization to the maximum continuous supply (continuous delivery). Thus, you will ensure continuous independent operation of both threads – agile-logic. In addition, localization will be tested as part of the standard QA (quality assessment) process.

As for linguistic quality control, it is better to carry out it simultaneously with functional testing. While your testers check the translated build, the localization team checks the translation and user interface.

Translation Management Systems

Now let’s move on to the part of the diagram regarding localization. There are various convenient translation management systems (platforms), and experience shows that for each specific project the choice of system is determined product owner preferences and application architecture.

For applications, we are most often asked to use Crowdin, while for GitHub projects we mainly use the platform Gitlocalizefully integrated with the repository. Translation management systems are usually support various formats file resources and include memory translations and glossaries. However, there is a nuance.

If your resource files are not hard-coded and the translation management system supports them, everything is in order. If not, then you need to convert the files to a specific intermediate format for input into the system. After the transfer, you convert them back. As a result, the whole task It takes a lot of time and effort without yielding resultsTherefore, we are often asked to develop specialized integrators, converters and connectors to meet the specific requirements of the project.

So, the first problem at this stage is the retrievability of resource files.

Let’s take a closer look at some other bottlenecks: warned – means armed!

Bottleneck Factor # 2: Translation Encoding

The encoding is commonplace, but you need to check before transferring files. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to get rid of these strange characters in the target language after localization.

Whenever possible, we recommend use unicode instead of ascii. Namely, the most common and compact encoding is UTF-8. So please make sure that you transfer the localization files in the correct encoding.

Bottleneck Factor # 3: Hard Coded Strings

Another sore spot is hard-coded strings or strings that can only be extracted using a special tool. The problem is that the text in these lines is not extracted when passing through ordinary converters and, as a result, is not localized.

As a result, when testing a localized assembly in the target language, untranslated text fragments are detected. Therefore, we recommend that you do not hardcode the text, but use placeholders and formatters, making them part of the phraseso that they can be translated in context.

Bottleneck Factor # 4: Number Formats and Units

Make sure the numbers and units are inside the text and in the context. Here is a small example of how to and should not be done:

Not: “Mom ate” +% num + “apples”.
Yes: “Mom ate% num + apples.”

Bottleneck Factor # 5: Interface Errors

Finally, the quality control of the translated build helps to identify some user interface errors, namely, text mismatch with the sizes of user interface elements (menu items, buttons, screens, etc.).

Therefore, when creating interface elements, it usually makes sense lay at least 30% of the extra space (or more if possible) for other languages. This is especially true for short lines (menu items, forms, etc.).

One more tip: design the interface based on the worst in terms of the possible length of the text, the localization language. For example, the German version of the text is on average 30% longer than the English, and the text in Russian is on average 10% longer. The same is usually true for Arabic localization. Meanwhile, traditional Chinese characters, as a rule, require 30% less space than the Latin alphabet.

5. Assemble a localization team and organize the process

Now that we have examined the most common problems of application localization, you see that in every project there are tasks in marketing, linguistics, culture, development, testing and management. This means that you need to assemble a team and build the right processes from the very beginning so that the localization project works like a clock.

There are many options: create your own team or outsource localization, depending on your resources and goals. Just make sure you choose the right professional solution and get ready in advance.

We hope these tips were helpful and wish you the best of luck with your localization projects!

about the author

Article written in Alconost.

Alconost is engaged localization of games, applications and sites in 70 languages. Native translators, linguistic testing, cloud platform with API, continuous localization, project managers 24/7, any format of string resources.

We also do promotional and educational videos – for sites selling, image-building, advertising, training, teasers, expliners, trailers for Google Play and the App Store.

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