Three Ways to Make Sure Your App Is a Local Favorite

Paul Hoffman
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Localization goes far beyond just language translation

Localization testing is critical when businesses plan to release a software product internationally. Users require more than just the language translation of the application; the app must align to unique cultural norms and expectations, and avoid conjuring bad associations.

If you’ve taken marketing classes, you’ve likely heard stories of classic marketing fails. Take KFC. When the company opened the first restaurant in Beijing in the 1980s, it accidentally translated its famous slogan "Finger-lickin' good" to "Eat your fingers off." KFC quickly fixed the issue and didn’t experience any long-term consequences, but you get the point; customers were confused about what exactly KFC had on the menu. Language translation and reviewing cultural interpretation of slogans/branding is just a small part of the localization equation.

Consider localization from the beginning of app development

Massenkommunikationsdienstleistungsunternehmen. You guessed it! It’s a singular word that means “companies that provide mass communication services” in German. This word would take up 46 character spaces on your app, where a similar-intentioned link on your English-language app might say “Communication Firms,” (18 characters and a space). This is just one example of how an app designed in the US would require UI considerations/changes for the German market, solely with regard to length of the word. If you’re not thinking about your app in the international market from the beginning of development, you’re going to be in for some surprises.

There are many things that must be taken into account when localizing apps:

  • Cultural norms - things like emotional expression; concepts of freedoms like individual vs. family-centric in certain cultures; direct vs. indirect communication styles and humor norms all might impact how your app is received.

  • Space requirements - like the German language example above, different languages take varying amounts of space in the UI.

  • App name change - cultural context plays a major role in how names of products/apps are received. It’s key to heavily research what might be the best name for your app in various global markets.

  • Icons, symbols, colors - again, research and real-world user localization testing can help you maintain your brand standards and reputation without confusing, or worse, offending local users.

  • Payments/currency - does your app have the ability to accept local currency? Is pricing listed in local currency?

  • Digital accessibility - there are many laws and regulations around businesses ensuring that their digital experiences (web and apps) are accessible. This means not only does your app need to meet the challenges of global localization (above), but it must meet the additional complexity of accessibility standards.

  • App stores - is your app optimized for the iOS App Store or Google Play? Can it easily be found using the right search terms?

Start with — then go beyond — careful research before releasing your app to a new market

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not abdicating the need for a thorough localization strategy that includes extensive research into the market where you intend to introduce your app. That work will serve you well. It’s just that you're bound to miss important elements without a strong app localization testing plan, which verifies that an application functions as expected when it’s used in multiple locales with varying languages, formatting preferences and cultural expectations.

Remove the guesswork and protect your brand with localization testing

When you ensure you’ve fully vetted your app in a local market, you improve the UI, which in turn improves customer loyalty and creates a cycle of excellence. Customers who respect and appreciate your brand are more prone to give you feedback. In addition, your users quickly notice when you have made the effort to understand local idiomatic expressions and nuances that may require less literal translation and more conceptual communication. Bottom line - they know you care.

Applause uses only native speakers who live in market for its localization testing. For each project, we custom curate testers from virtually any market or region to match your target demographics. The testers understand the obvious cultural contexts as well as subtleties that might escape your most fastidious researchers. They test on the actual networks on which your app will run, using their own devices of varying ages and operating systems. They not only find problematic issues, but they can also suggest improvements on functionality to enhance your app’s uptake in their part of the world, based on their deep understanding of local culture.

Effective localization takes effort, and a lot can go wrong without the right team of testers on your side. We want to help. Read the ebook “Localization: The Key To Digital Success Is More Than Just Translation” to learn more.

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