App localisation: Tips to take your app abroad

Translating your app makes good business sense. Why? Because a multilingual app reaches a larger amount of users which results in higher revenue potential. Localisation – making your app available in more than one language – should be a major consideration when you start developing your app – even before you write the first line of code.

We’ve translated web and mobile apps for anything from checking into places to tracking your run, from reading ebooks to simply chatting with friends and family. Here are our hottest tips on how to get your app localisation strategy right from the start.

User interface with an international face

One of the most common issues in translating English apps into French and German is word-length. On average, a German translation is 25-30% longer than the English original. To avoid size issues when you localise your app the Microsoft Developer Network suggests “sizing the user interface to accommodate the largest localised version of the content”. This means you would set up your user interface for the “longest language” that you will translate into.

Code structure that can cope with multiple languages

There are many things that are beautifully simple about the English language – a lack of gendered nouns being one of them. “The” translates into three different articles in German: “der” (male), “die” (female) and “das” (neutral). When it comes to translating app strings that contain variables (placeholders) for dynamic content, a translation can be very tricky. ‘The selected {X}’ could be translated into “Die ausgewählte {X}”, “Das ausgewählte {X}” or “Der ausgewählte {X}” – depending on what the placeholder {X} stands for.

It doesn’t get easier when phrases or entire sentences are separated across several strings – for example ‘2 months ago’. Often the time reference (in this case ‘2 months’) sits within a separate string. In German, the word order is the other way around, so you would say “vor 2 Monaten” (ago 2 months). To find out how you can get around these and other code structure problems read our blog Succesful app translation: it all starts with great code.

Choose the right technology

Localising your app should be a straightforward process:

  1. Preparing your code for translation
  2. Translate
  3. Quality assurance testing
  4. Multilingual app goes live

Using a translation technology that’s been developed with app localisation in mind will significantly reduce your time to market, shorten your release cycles for new updates and save translation cost over time. At AJT we work with Smartling, a translation management platform geared towards app translations. Smartling allows you to upload your source files and download the translated files with one click. You can also add contextual information for translators: Instructions on where in the app a given string will appear, character length restrictions and in-app screenshots. This eliminates the need for lengthy QA cycles and you start building a translation memory, which means you never have to pay twice for translating the same sentence. And adding new languages is easy – some Smartling customers translate into more than 15 languages at a time!

Check out Smartling’s resources on localising and internationalising your app here.

App translation and beyond

Aside from the app translation you will likely have other translation needs, for example translating your app store descriptions, website, EULA and privacy policy, FAQ, social media, customer service emails etc. Put together a list of all the resources you need to accompany your freshly translated app. This way you can budget accordingly, bearing in mind that app localisation is not a one-off project but a continuous effort, as is the marketing that goes with it.

If you’d like to find out how we can help you successfully translate your app, please get in touch.