So, you’ve finally made it through all the rigors of perfecting your beloved app. After fine-tuning the function, nailing the design, and getting the language tone spot on, what next? How can you get the best return on all your hard work? Enter app localization.
App localization includes the adaptation of content, design, and function to a specific language or culture. It is part of the whole GILT process – Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, and Translation.
Getting the words right
An easy approach would be to simply translate all content and call it a day. This, however, could potentially lead to awkward wording that just seems a bit off. For example, the translation of the Chinese word “确认” (quèrèn) is “to confirm”. This is all good and well, but it is usually paired with a “cancel” button and so a much more appropriate translation would simply be “OK”.
Spacing is an obvious issue with any user interface design. With different languages taking up varying spaces on the page, a common problem is that longer words in the target language can get chopped in two (truncated). The word “play” is pretty concise and easily fits on a button used to start playing a video, but the Russian equivalent “Воспроизведение” is almost four times as long as the English.
More than just words
Besides the actual translation, design factors should also be taken into consideration such as fonts and colors. Generally, in the West, green means go (or good) and red means stop (or bad). But for stock markets in China and other Asian countries, a red color is used for share prices that have gone up, which is usually displayed in a green color in the West, as it symbolizes good fortune.
Although not immediately obvious, specific app functions may not be appropriate in particular cultures. Let’s take beauty apps as an example, where culture plays a huge part in what is and what isn’t in style or considered beautiful. In certain Asian countries, having pale skin is culturally considered as being beautiful, whereas Western cultures generally favor a more tanned look. To make a truly localized app, cultural norms must be observed so that users actually feel comfortable using the app.
With the usual function and feature of apps being different in different countries, another stumbling block is not translating all necessary strings. Having multiple languages displayed in an app is certain to turn users off.
Such issues as this reflect the huge importance of exploratory testing. It’s inevitable that those small-but-mighty issues will slip through the net and bring the cohesiveness of the app down a notch or two or three.
Keeping these issues in mind when localizing your app will open up access to global markets, keep you competitive, and give the best returns on all your hard work.
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