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Our top tips for app localization

With physical stores closed during the current lockdown, it’s never been more important to connect with customers via apps and other online channels. If you’re launching your app into new markets and in new languages, it’s crucial to get it right first time. 

30 seconds. That’s the average amount of time a user will spend trying to understand how an app works before he or she moves on. In less time than it takes to watch an angry squirrel clip on YouTube, you need to get your customer on board with your app or risk losing them completely.

It’s not long, is it?

When you’re preparing to launch an app for a new territory, there are all sorts of things to consider. Getting the translated content right is one, for sure. But you’ve also got to make sure the functionality is perfect too. And don’t forget about making sure your metadata is optimized so that your app ranks highly in searches in new languages and markets. That’s why we call the complete process “localization” – a procedure which ensures the linguistic, cultural and technical adaptations are all spot on too. 

We’ve devised these top tips as a quick guide to some of the key issues you need to be aware of. So, without further ado, we invite you to take a quick look through our top tips for app localization. Because, remember: the clock is ticking…

Research the market

It’s a no brainer, we know. Of course you’re going to conduct market research before you launch your app in a new territory. You’ll want to find out if there is a sizeable demographic group of potential users for your app. And you’ll want to know what kind of competition you face too.

But you might not realise how important it can be to seek expert business intelligence and cultural insight into different markets. If you’re launching a health app in Asia, for example, you could find that users’ priorities are somewhat different from those in Europe. And if you’re researching other popular homegrown apps in the new local market (which are in the local language), you’ll need linguist experts to advise you on exactly what they’re offering and their particular USPs.

Improve your App Store ranking

It’s no use building the perfect app if no one ever finds it. And visibility isn’t a matter of luck – it’s the result of a carefully implemented strategy that needs to be localised for each market you plan to enter. 

The official term is App Store Optimization (or ASO): customizing your app content so that it ranks more highly in searches in the App Store. This content, which includes the title, description, keywords, icons and other graphics, is known as metadata.

Research suggests that 63% of apps are discovered by users through generic searches on the app store (rather than by users looking for a specific brand, for example), so ASOis absolutely crucial to get right. We’ll take a look at what this means in the two tips below.

Get the keywords right

Keywords are crucial to effective ASO. Based on the terms users enter into its search engines, the App Store’s algorithms will rank your app much higher if it contains a large number of relevant keywords in the target language. 

However, when you are localizing an app for a new market, it’s important to remember that the keywords in one language cannot simply be translated into another language to achieve the same results. 

Each market has its own unique terms that trend in user searches, and these can change over time. If you want your app to rank highly in the App Store, you’ll need to get detailed analytics on the keywords that are currently most relevant to your app within your target market.

Choose the right title

What’s in a name? Quite a lot as it turns out. Choosing the right name for your app is obviously an important choice, but when you’re localising it for new markets, there are additional considerations to take into account. 

In a different language or culture, brand names take on different meanings. Perhaps they are relevant and easily recognised. On the other hand, in another language, they could be misleading or even offensive. So it’s always important to ask an expert about the implications of your brand name in another culture: can it be used “as is”, should it be adapted, or is a new alternative a better option?

Branding isn’t the only cross-cultural factor to consider in your title. A recent study showed that apps with a relevant keyword in their title ranked 10.3% higher in App Store searches than those without. 

The App Store allows a total of 255 characters in the title contents, but these are truncated on a search results after 23 characters. So that means you should keep your main brand title short and sweet, but there is room for listing keywords (typically after a dash) later in the title field. As discussed previously, this means you’ll need to know exactly what keywords are relevant and trending in searches in your new target market. 

Avoid fixed layouts

Languages vary in how much text it takes to convey the same message. When designing your app, you should avoid fixed widths for layouts because this can lead to your text being cropped if it stretches beyond the designated space. The same goes for images – if you need to change images between different markets, allow for the fact that these may not always be the same size.

Content and code: keep them separate

Some things are worth thinking about right from the beginning. Keeping your content and your code separate is one of them. It’s important to ensure that your text strings are not hardcoded directly into the app. If you store your text strings in a separate file, it will be quicker, easier and cheaper to translate them and insert them into your localized app. 

Another top tip: don’t embed text in images either. If you keep text and image files separate, they will be easier to translate and overlay in a different language version. 

Be culturally sensitive

It’s always worth being aware of cultural context, not just of language but also in terms of graphics, images and design. For example, when choosing images of people, what is considered appropriate dress varies widely in different regions around the world. 

Even colours take on cultural significance. In the West, red is associated with danger and so software developers often use it as a colour to identify warning signs and important alerts. In China, however, red is the colour of happiness and therefore has a very different set of associations for audiences in this market.

And finally…

We hope you’ve found our top tips for app localization useful. If there’s an app you’re thinking of taking to a new market, there’s a lot more we could say on this subject which might prove valuable to you. 

Do drop as a line at lifestyle@thisisalpha.com. When it comes to making a powerful first impression, no one likes to be beaten by an angry squirrel.