Mobile App Localization — Making App Content Ready For Global Audience

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Picture this.

You chanced upon an app in the apps store, but in a non-native (English) language. Would you decide to download the app?

The above scenario occurs almost every day to non-English speaking users across the globe, be it in China, Spain, Arabia, Portugal, Indonesia, Japan, and or any other non-English speaking nation. Even if an app has a five-star rating, they will still not download it simply because it is in their non-native language.

Presently, English is no longer the dominant language. It shares its space with other languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Latin American Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and more. As per Statista, of the 2.53 billion global smartphone users, 1.1 billion are largely from countries in the Asia Pacific, where English is not the primary language. Therefore, to reach this segment of users, building a mobile app in their native language becomes all the more important.

As these users constitute a majority in the user segment, hence, if you’re not localizing your product for them, your app becomes limited in its reach.

Therefore, localization, in the context of apps, simply put, is making your app useful to users belonging to varied cultures and countries. In doing so, you are going the extra mile to give the customers what they want, and in their language of choice.

Now that you know what app localization is, let’s now look into why localizing your app is essential.

Why Localization Matters

Through app localization, your app will be directed to users whose native language is not English, which constitutes about 60% of the global populace.

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Let’s look at the other reasons:

1. Reach

By localizing your app, chances are that your user reach may scale up globally. As is seen in the graph below, millions of apps were downloaded in the years 2016, 2017, and possibly 2021 in APAC (Asia-Pacific), EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) nations, and America; and, of these nations, APAC had the maximum downloads. Here, localization becomes all the more necessary with users who are not well-versed in English.

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2. A Strong and Diverse Customer Base

With app localization reaching a more diverse set of customers, there would be consistent user feedback. This would not only help improve the quality of the app but will also enhance the customer experience tremendously.

3. Higher Revenue

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Other than having a strong and diverse customer reach, localizing your app would also result in a considerable increase in revenue. This is because your app will no longer be restricted to a specific user set or geographical area but would have a more global presence; hence, more the users, more the increase in revenue.

As per a study by Common Sense Advisory, about 75% of non-native users prefer to purchase apps in their native languages; and 60% of them stated that they would never consider buying an English-only app.

How to Localize Your App

1. Create a Strategy

When localizing an app, the first question that arises is, “Which language(s) to choose?”

While the top languages include Mandarin Chinese, Latin American Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, German, and more, yet it is not necessary to translate your app into all these popular languages. Thus, one needs to think strategically.

Here, two approaches may be used:

  • Deep Localization
    This approach involves selecting niche user segments where you can customize the app features by making it user-centric, distributing through local channels, planning campaigns locally, etc.
    If you have no dearth of funds or have investors at hand, this is the best way forward. Additionally, you can also build online to offline (O2O) products or services.
  • Minimum Viable Localization (MVL)
    The second approach may be used when you wish to reach a larger audience. Here, the product is first translated into the local or native languages for ease of understanding to local users and is then scaled up, based on their receptivity.
    This approach is a sure shot way to test out the user segment in different geographies.

2. Defining the Scope

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The next step is to decide how much content needs to be localized.

In case you are targeting your app for a few user segments, you can localize all of your content. However, if you are looking to test potential user segments, localizing a few at the start is recommended. The key is to scale up your app localization. Here’s how:

  1. Test the potential user segment. Simply localize your app store listing, and check for any traction.
  2. In case you find some scope, opt for a Minimum Viable Localization and localize the app content.
  3. If there is a positive user reception, localize your app completely including its content.

3. Choosing your Translators

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When localizing your app, it is essential to choose a good translator, factoring in the costs, quality of output, and efficiency. Based on this, there are three models that you can choose from as per your requirement:

  • In-house
    While in-house resources may be high on investment, it is more rewarding in the long run, the advantage being that there will be effective communication and collaboration between departments such as marketing, public relations, etc. and in real-time. All this will drive superior quality.
  • Third-party Translation: Crowdsourcing
    This model can be leveraged especially when your app constitutes a diverse user base. This will not only help minimize the costs, but you would also be having resources with the capability to connect to the local user base.
  • Outsourcing
    In this model, hiring an LSP (Language Service Provider) would be rewarding as they are driven by quality and on-time delivery; the only catch is that they are high on costs.

Overall, you may either choose any of the above-mentioned models for localizing your app or may use a combination. As for example, you can hire professional translators in the first place, and then seek feedback from the users, who will help amplify your app with appropriate translations.

4. Internationalization

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Even though you have a strategy for localizing your app, yet you would still not be able to place your app in the play store unless you internationalize your app. Internationalization or “i18n” is a process where you plan and implement products and services to enable easy localization for the set audience based on their language and culture.

5. Preparing Materials for Reference

While the code is being prepared for localization, simultaneously, send reference materials to your translators as this will help them understand the source text.

Below are the reference materials that you can leverage:

  • Translation Glossary
    This includes key terms in your source language. By leveraging this glossary, the translations stand consistent and help secure your brand.
  • Style Guide
    The style guide can be leveraged to elucidate the tone of voice and presentation of your organization’s content.

6. Using a Translation Management System (TMS)

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Before you begin with the translation process, it is essential to have a good system to manage your content. Here, a translation management system (TMS) would help. This will help track the project information as well as ease out the localization process considerably. Further, it allows you to automatically import as well as export the resource files, thus saving time.

Here, the team members will also receive notifications about their task(s) or project(s) to keep them on track. This gives the project manager real-time report on the project’s progress without having to micromanage.

7. Consistent Communication with Translators

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To have a good translation in place for localizing your app, constant communication with your translators is the key, especially in the cases wherein you’re outsourcing. Here, providing support to translators to understand the source text by sharing ample context would result in a more effective outcome.

While a quality check can be done to avoid translation mistakes, it is better to nip the problem in the bud. This way, issues can be resolved on the go.


  • Pick a SPOC (specific point of contact) which translators can reach out to for assistance. This way, translators will know whom to contact.
  • Explain with examples so that the translators understand the text(s) better. Hence, the more the examples, the better the understanding of the meaning and tone, thus leading to a better outcome.
  • Create a forum. This is when you opt for the crowdsourcing model. If your translator group or community is huge, a considerable amount of time is spent answering their queries or clarifying their doubts. Here, setting up a translator forum would help resolve issues or clarify doubts considerably, and in real-time.

8. Testing the Translations

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It’s now time to test your localized app. Here, seeking an expert’s help i.e., a localization tester, for validating, will have a more positive outcome. Choose a tester that is familiar with every aspect of the app as well as fluent in the language chosen for localizing your app. They will be able to point out errors — technical (for example, UI display issues, untranslated strings, or non-cultural translations, etc.) or those pertaining to local culture, on the spot.


By localizing your app, you have expanded its reach, thus covering various geographies and cultures. As per a survey by Common Sense Advisory, about 50 % of countries downloading the apps, fall in the non-English speaking category. This goes on to show that if your mobile app is not being localized, you are missing out on the 50 % of the global populace.

Hence, it’s now time to localize your app and present it to a wider global audience!

However, it would be better to run a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for localization before you launch it globally. This way, you’ll be able to get real-time feedback from users or potential customers, given the short, frequent releases that you would be making. Given that, hiring a mobile app localization expert would be the best bet in making your app live to the global audience.


Written by

Mik holds a master degree in Marketing and is inclined towards branding, consumer behavior, and social media. Besides work, he is fascinated with travel.

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