22 Jul 2015

Almost any mobile developer sooner or later faces the question of expansion of foreign markets. But first the app needs to be localized and it is much more complex process than simple translation.

Where to begin?

First of all, localization doesn’t mean to write out the words and phrases from the application and give them to the freelance translator, although it may seem quite a good way out. But this approach will be a failure in the foreign market.

Before translating, you should create a detailed plan for the localization process. First you need to make a detailed description of the application, its functions and features, so that translators know what is it aimed at. Then you have to prepare all the texts for translation. Try not to miss anything, check all the words carefully and save them in a separate file. When preparatory work is complete, you’ll get a primary set of documents, which can already be transferred to the translators.

Basic language is English

Normally, when the app enters the international market, developers choose several countries, and hence the app should be localized for each of them. To avoid problems with translation, it is better to choose one basic language from which all the translations will be made. In most cases, the best choice is English.

Moreover, in some cases, when the app has little functions or takes a specific market niche, English is quite enough. It is not necessary to translate the app which serves as a flashlight, a compass or a calculator, because its understandable without any translations. But nevertheless, the national peculiarities should be taken into account, for example: the French don’t like the English language, so there localization is required.

Do not rush to translate the app into all the desired languages, since access to the markets of some countries makes no sense. The number of potential users there is so low that, even at high conversion of profits they will not be able to cover the cost of translation and promotion.

Localization is more than translation

The ultimate goal of localization is not only to translate the app, but also to adapt it for a particular country. Every nation has its own unique features, and it is necessary to consider them while localizing the app. That is why localization, in contrast to a simple translation, includes a study of mentality of other countries. Sometimes in the process of localization developers have to change not only the text but also design or even functions. You can verify this with a simple example: in Korea red color means bad luck.

Designers should take into account that English is one of the most concise languages. If you replace a short English phrase with a translated one, the text in another language may simply not fit. You should also pay attention to such things as:

  • date and time formats;
  • correct sorting of lists;
  • local units.

Trust but verify!

It’s quite difficult to localize the app without the help of native speakers. The translation should be carefully checked and tested. Sometimes it is necessary to create specific focus groups to work on the mistakes and “polishing” the translation.

Proofreading is essential for the context. The words can be translated in different ways, especially out of the context, that is why it is necessary to check the adequacy of translation in the app environment. Proofreaders can assess the text and make notes for the editor.

Localization of marketing

To translate the app is not enouh to enter the international market. You should localize not only the app, but also adapt the description and screenshots in the Store. Sometimes even redesign of the main icon is required, taking into account the peculiarities of each country. For example, if you localize the app into the Asian market and the app screenshots contain photos of people, make sure to replace them with the people of appropriate nationality. In addition to description and screenshots, you’lll have to localize all the promotional materials, from apps reviews to landing pages. It is better to entrust the work on such materials to the same translators who worked on the localization of the app.


Localization of mobile apps is a very complex and multi-step process that requires a lot of attention. It is necessary to translate the app in such a way that foreign users didn’t notice the trick and thought that it was created in their native countries. Think over every detail of localization, taking into account all the national characteristics, so you can make a successful expansion into foreign markets.