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Best Practices for Localizing Apps

Jun 22, 2016

App localization is a fantastic way for developers to dramatically expand their audience base, but for the uninitiated the thought of translating and localizing an app can be a little daunting. Here are five of the most important best practices to adhere to when starting the localization process.

1. Think international at all stages of development

You may only be developing the app for the US market now, but if expansion to new territories is on the cards for the future, you’ll need to prepare for localization from the very start of your app development process and always have ‘international’ on your mind. For example, you’ll want to set up code that can easily update country-specific elements such as time, dates, currencies and even telephone and address formats. By considering all of these elements early on, you’ll be able to save huge amounts of time when rolling out localized versions.

2. Work with a tech-savvy, local translator

When it comes to apps, where text snippets tend to be short and sweet and users expect clarity and simplicity, it’s often impractical to simply translate text word for word. Instead, your translator will need to find the most appropriate phrases that are relevant and understandable in the target market. In order to do this, they must have a good understanding of how your app works and how it will fit in culturally with the target country. They must be tech-savvy, as well as skilled in linguistics.

3. Don’t hard code translatable content

If you hard code every single piece of text in your app, you’ll have to make major rewrites with each new target country as you switch out translated text, and your translator may have a tough job figuring out exactly which elements need to be translated. It’s best practice to keep translatable content in separate resource files, so that the executable code can be left alone.

4. Specify region as well as language

True localization doesn’t occur with the translation of a language alone; you must also consider the locale of each target country too. For example, Portugal and Brazil are both Portuguese-speaking countries, but local time, spellings and address formats are totally different. Dialect is also subtly different, as are the cultural norms of each country. In order for an app to be truly localized, it must take all of these elements into account and cater to both language and country codes.

5. Give your translator context

When you provide your translator with an Excel or XML file for translation, it can be tough for them to contextualize each element, particularly when it comes to buttons which may only contain one word. “Contact”, for example, could be a link to your contact details, a button that instantly calls a telephone number, or even a request for the user to input their own contact details. In order for the translator to best find the most appropriate local word or phrase, they need to be able to understand the context of the element within your app. Make sure to annotate your translatable content in as much detail as possible, to avoid confusion and maintain accurate, clear translations.

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