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App localisation is vital if you want to be a serious contender in foreign markets. Users want to feel that the apps they use on a regular basis are created especially for them, which means the interface must meet both language and cultural expectations. They will be instantly turned off by incorrect terminology or text that reads the wrong way, so it’s crucial to get it right the first time.
This is why app localisation is so important if you want to successfully expand into and grow within new markets.
Before we get into the why, let’s take a quick look at the what.
App localisation is the process of tailoring the look of an app and the information contained within it to appeal to a geographically specific target market. Nearly 90% of mobile internet time is spent on apps, which speaks to the importance of making sure yours is as appealing and intuitive outside of your company’s native language as it is within it.
The first place to start is translating the text of the app, but that doesn’t go nearly far enough. What if you translate the text and it no longer fits on the page? Or the translation includes phrases that are culturally insensitive? What if your design palette includes a colour that has a different association than it does in your native language? For example, you might choose yellow as a background because it has a sunny, cheerful feel but in Egypt and some Latin American countries yellow is the colour of mourning. A simple mistake could come at a big cost to your brand.
Not localising your app puts up barriers to people using it. People are impatient and will turn to a competitor the moment they find your app difficult to use. By localising your app you are enabling it to fit seamlessly into the needs of users who speak languages that are different from the native design. It means that everything from currencies and units of measurement to idioms and turns of phrase are optimised for the user. Essentially it makes using the app easy and intuitive, which in turn makes it popular.
Good localisation equals growth, as your app is accessible to an international market. Whilst it may feel to you like an unnecessary added extra, but without it you are limiting your business. As of 2020 there were 3.5 billion people in the world who own a smartphone, but only 360 million of those speak English as their first language. Figures like those just go to show that localisation should be a no-brainer for anyone launching an app. So, what is the best way to go about successfully localising your app?
When we want something translated our first port of call is something like Google Translate. Whilst this works if you’re deciding what to order from a French menu, it will be disastrous for your app. Whilst it might be tempting, especially if time or budgets are tight, it will end up costing you more of both in the long run.
As well as ending up with poor translations that at best won’t connect with your target audience and at worst won’t make sense, there are other issues to consider such as security. For example, a Norwegian oil company used a free translation tool and subsequently found that confidential and highly sensitive information was published online and easily accessible via Google. By employing an expert you pay once, it’s done quickly and all of your information will be completely secure.
Differences in language and cultural norms are hard to navigate if you aren’t an expert and problems that occur aren’t always down to poorly translated text. Whilst some mistakes will cause little more than mild amusement, others can be very serious. For example, the flag of Saudi Arabia has text from the Quran on it and displaying it the wrong way round is illegal. Another example is a Volkswagen campaign promoting the power of their vehicles that was launched in the United States with the slogan ‘White Power’ attached. What has innocent connotations in one country may not be the same in another. A properly localised campaign stops these errors from happening.
Text in some languages, for example Arabic or Hebrew, are read from right-to-left instead of left-to-right. Think about how this will work when added to your app – will the design still work? A localisation expert will bear this in mind from the very beginning, ensuring that the design of the app is such that it can cope with different types of text. If you’re relying on free translation, aside from the other problems noted above, this is where you can quickly become unstuck and may need to redesign your app from scratch.
Following on from text layout, it’s important to consider how much space different languages need: for example, Spanish or German text can take up to 30% more space than English. Avoiding fixed widths and heights for text elements in your app will help get this right, or you could go the extra mile and create custom layouts for each localisation.
App localisation goes hand in hand with growth, and shouldn’t be ignored in favour of saving a bit of money in the short term. People the world over will appreciate being addressed in their own language and with attention paid to their particular culture. If you get this right, you’ll be rewarded with loyalty, one of the most valuable factors in any successful business.
The points raised above are just a few suggestions on how to begin localising your app, but there’s really no substitute for working with an expert localisation and translation company like Brightlines. Our expert linguists understand the culture as well as the language of a particular country and will ensure that your app connects perfectly with the market you’re trying to reach.