Website and software localization has always been a specialty of MTM LinguaSoft. Our technically-oriented team enjoys the challenges at the intersection of language and technology. And localization of mobile applications is becoming more and more essential.
Mobile computing technology has spread faster than any other consumer technology in history. According to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2018 Report, two-thirds of the world’s population – 5 billion people – subscribe to mobile services. The US and Europe have seen mobile-broadband penetration of between 80-85%, and although developing countries lag behind, penetration in the developing world is expected to surpass 40% by 2025. In most developing countries, smartphone usage dwarfs the use of desktop computers. The bottom line? To reach the biggest audience for mobile apps, localization makes business sense. Our client Connectify learned this firsthand, seeing an average of 30% increase in sales after localizing apps and marketing materials for eight new language markets.
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The process of preparing apps for localization is similar to the process for any other kind of software. Internationalization (i18n) is an essential first step to ensure that foreign character sets are supported, that local differences in terms of date, time and currency formats will be accommodated, and that left-to-right or vertical text will be supported. Localization (L10n) is the process of tailoring the application for a particular language or culture. To maximize the efficiency of the localization process, follow these best practices:
- Write the text for the interface with translation in mind.
- In the design of the app, avoid graphics that might be culturally bound or politically sensitive — icons, hand gestures, political maps.
- Leave room for text expansion. Text can become up 50% longer when translated into another language. This is a particular issue for mobile apps where screen space is limited for text copy and UI elements like menus. Be sure that there is white space around text or room for the text to expand to two or more lines.
When it comes time to localize the software for a particular country or region, be sure that you work with the translation agency to make sure that the content is culturally appropriate and that date, time, and currency formats are in line with local usage. Your language partner should be able to advise you on any changes needed.
When providing resources for translation, be sure to provide a lot of context in addition to the actual text for translation. This applies to all types of software localization. Be able to describe exactly what the app needs to do at every stage of its operation.
After localization, test the app thoroughly in-country on multiple devices by native speakers. Keep in mind that in Asian languages, line breaks need to be carefully reviewed. Unlike Romance languages, improper line breaks in Asian texts can change the meaning of a sentence. If the material re-sizes with the device being used, this is a risk you need to guard against. In addition, alphabetical sorting will happen differently with different alphabets.
Before your final release, you will also want to translate and localize any related materials, such as product documentation and online help and marketing materials. Work with a language partner who can help you lay the groundwork for international SEO during the website localization process.
Localizing correctly is not only important for the audience but also for potential marketing outlets. One of the major reasons for the Apple Store to reject an app is localization errors. Working with a technology-savvy language partner like MTM LinguaSoft can ensure that you get it right.