7 Useful Bits of Advice for Localizing Software Applications

Jul 09,2019 by Guest Author
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Software app developers who plan to market their creations globally often make one key mistake. They assume that they can deal with the localization process after the fact. So, they make a product that is entirely focused on a single market. Later, when they decide to sell their app in other countries, they realize that the localization process is much more complex than it ever needed to be.

It’s so important to consider localization from day one. Ideally, you’ll do this by bringing localization pros on board from the design phase forward. Then, you can make the entire process work even better by following these seven best practices.

Consider Whether Translated Text Would Take up More or Less Screen Space

This alone is why it’s such a good idea to think about localization and translation at the ground level. As you localize your content, you’re going to find that in many cases your new text takes up significantly more or less real estate on your screen.

That can make a big difference in any case. On mobile, the usability of your app could be at stake. This issue is especially problematic when it comes to pulling down menus, icon text, and other places where you simply don’t have a lot of real estate to play with.

Manage Strings with Localization in Mind

The way that you handle your text strings can make a big difference when it comes to localization. If you hard code your strings, and you use string concatenation, that will make things much more difficult going forward. Every time you want to localize a text string, you’ll have to find it and make the change. Instead, declare your strings as resources. This way you can find them, and modify them easily all from a single location.

Don’t Forget Promotional Materials

As you consider what needs to be localized, it’s important that you think beyond the content your users see on the screen. For example, if you place your app on the App Store, or Google Play, your descriptions, update text, and other content will need to be localized. The same applies to:

  • Software App Websites and Landing Pages
  • User Documentation
  • Social Media Content and Blogs
  • Advertising Content

Localize Your Keywords

Hopefully, as you’ve created content around your app, you’ve optimized it for relevant short and long tail keywords. This is something that you’re going to have to revisit when you localize that same content. You can’t simply translate keyword phrases from one language to another.

The reason for this is that people often use entirely different words and phrases to search for the same things. One example is the word mobile phone. The direct translation of mobile phone in English to German is Mobiltelefon. The problem is that this isn’t the word that German’s commonly use when they’re referring to their mobile devices. Instead, they use the word ‘handy’, as Stephen Fry pointed out in an episode of Quite Interesting. That would be the keyword you’d want to focus on.

Think Beyond Text

Most people consider texts, units of measurement, and symbols as they begin to address the issue of software localization. That’s good, but it’s incomplete. There are other things to consider when it comes to creating software that works for people in other locations and cultures.

One of these is color. Different cultures use colors in varying ways to express or incite a variety of emotions and sentiments. For example, Western culture often sees the color white and associates purity, innocence, and cleanliness. In Eastern culture it can mean mourning or death. Red can symbolize passion, anger, or warning. In India, red is purity.

There are also images, icons, and emojis to consider. All of these things could potentially communicate something that you don’t intend to when shown to people in another location. This can lead to confusion at best, and cause offense at worst.

Use a Trusted Localization Pro with Cultural Insights and Experience

Even if you have someone on your web design and development team that’s a native speaker, it’s always a good idea to bring on a localization professional for these projects. For one thing, the localization process can be very technical and very procedural. Simply understanding the language isn’t enough. In addition to this, someone can be a native speaker, but still not be in tune with the culture and traditions that are held in every place that language is spoken.

Fortunately, there are a large number of great localization services and specialists. Many have extensive experience in app and game development as well as the ability to successfully complete localization projects. When you’re considering localization services, be sure to indicate that you want to work with someone who specifically has app localization experience.

Create a Glossary

App content can be complex. For example, if you develop a game, your content might refer to different characters, point systems, various types of equipment, etc. If your localization team struggles with understanding the definition of these things, that’s going to slow down the process. You could also end up with inaccurate results. The same thing applies if you’ve created an app for people who work in a specific industry, or who engage in a unique hobby or activity.

To help your localization team understand exactly what you are trying to communicate to your audience, consider creating a glossary of terms to prepare your app for a global audience. This will give them a centralized resource when they encounter something that isn’t immediately clear to them. By doing this, you make it more likely that your final product will retain the same meaning that your original app had.

Final Thoughts

You can significantly increase your reach, and your income by marketing your app in other countries. If this is something that’s on your radar, you may have already taken the translation process into consideration. That’s great, but now is a great time to consider localization as well. In fact, the earlier you think about this the better. If you do this, then implement the practices listed below, you are much more likely to reach new audiences successfully, and bend their wills!

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