How to approach app localization

A beginner’s guide to making your app local and relevant in each export market

1 Overview

The challenge

With just a few clicks, you can publish an app to Google Play and access a global audience of more than 1 billion active users. Localizing your app can help increase the number of people globally who can understand, install, use, and recommend it.

Your aim

To localize your app and its supporting content into new languages across your most profitable markets.

How to go about it

Publish your app to Google Play and you access a global audience of more than 1 billion active users worldwide. Market Finder will help you determine which countries offer the most appropriate markets for your app. You then have to make sure your app or game feels local and relevant in each, whatever their language and cultural values.And, as your user base grows, Google makes it a simple matter to just add more languages.

2 Design your app

Design for local culture

Every element needs to feel right to the local audience. Consider app graphics, images, colors, style, tone of voice, functionality, and payment methods. For games, think about how game characters may need to change. Be especially careful that nothing may be seen as culturally offensive or inappropriate.

Layouts

Depending on your target countries, design to support left-to-right or right-to-left text. Use the correct formats for dates, times, numbers, and currencies. Include a full set of default resources.

Optimise your app

Some of your target markets may present challenges such as:

  • Slow, intermittent, or expensive connectivity
  • Devices with less capable screens, memory, and processors
  • Limited opportunities to recharge batteries during the day

To help your app succeed in these markets, we've put together some advice on how to address these. Find out more about Building for Billions.

3 Translate your app

Users are more likely to engage with your app if it’s in their own language. The same is true of your Play Store Listing, Universal App Campaign ad text, and any in-app purchase.

Languages and dialects

What languages do the customers you’re targeting speak? Consider all of the variables. For instance, countries like Switzerland, Canada and South Africa are multilingual. Languages like Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and others have various dialects.

Market Finder will help pinpoint the most potentially profitable markets for your app.

It’s also worth checking:

  • Your app's installs, user feedback, and social media to find markets where there may be demand
  • Optimization Tips in the Google Play Developer Console to see if there are countries where your app is already gaining popularity
  • Language selection page in the Google Play Developer Console, where you’ll discover:
    • the top languages and countries where apps like yours have been installed
    • the percentage of installs that come from users of those languages
    • further information to help inform your go-to-market plans for these countries

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Key elements to localize

  • Name and description in the Google Play Store listing
  • In-App Purchase (IAP) product names and descriptions
  • Universal App Campaign text (UAC)
  • Images, video and audio
  • Server-based content
Name and description in the Google Play Store listing

Translating these will help users find your app.

In-App Purchase (IAP) product names and descriptions

The pop-up that users see before making a purchase uses the information you have entered in the Google Play Developer Console. You can enter translations in the same place where you set up the products. For more information, see Administering In-App Billing

Universal app campaign (UAC)

Translating the UAC ads allows you to promote your Android app in other countries, and languages.

Images

Users will feel familiar and comfortable with images, symbols and colors that are a good cultural fit. Localize any embedded text too. Or, at least, ensure that the explanatory text for the screenshot is in the appropriate language.

Audio

If you have any sounds files that include speech, you should record new versions for each language.

Server-based content

If your app pulls in content from your server (e.g. a newspaper app), consider translating existing server-side content. Create a process for localizing any new content at the time it is published.

Assuming you store all the text in your app in a strings.xml file, translate that file into your target language. Put the resulting files into your project. Then rebuild the Android Package Kit (APK) — the file format used to install software on the Android operating system.

There are two main ways to translate the strings.xml:

Use Google Play App Translation

This provides human app translation services directly into Developer Console and Android Studio. The translation price is calculated per word, so costs vary. The benefits to you, as a developer, include:

  • It’s a quick and simple way to order, receive and apply translations
  • It translates app strings, Play Store text, In-App Products and Universal App Campaign ads
  • It reuses any translations from previous orders, so you never pay for the same translation twice

To use Google Play App Translation, select Manage translations -> Purchase translations from the Store Listing page in the Google Play Developer Console.

Use a professional translation service

A professional translation service will consider several additional factors when They translating, such as the:

  • Target audience
  • Context in which the text strings will appear (surrounding UI, and available space)
  • Nuances specific to the country or the language
  • Brand-specific Style Guides & glossaries

Tip

Using machine translation — like Google Translate — alone may cause your app unwanted usability problems.

4 How to help your translator get it right

Translators find it helpful to have context. So, it pays to supply:

  • A description of your target audience, gleaned through in-depth research
  • A short outline of the app personality you want to project
  • Tone of voice guidelines
  • Screenshots of your app (showing where the text strings appear in context)
  • A brief comment and length limit for each of the UI strings

5 Implementation

Test your localized app

Test on the most common device makes and models in your target markets. Check the UI thoroughly for formatting and presentation issues. Ask native speakers to review.

Run a beta test

Plan a beta release in key countries before launch to get real-world feedback from users.

Plan for international marketing

Prepare to run a Universal App Campaign (UAC), and country-specific marketing from launch. Use the Google Play badge generator to build localized badges for websites or marketing materials. Generate new device art for promotional material with screenshots from your new localization.

Support international users after launch

Watch your ratings, reviews, and download stats to spot issues that could affect users. Consider creating language-specific user groups or forums, if possible.

Browse and reply to user reviews

Understand what users think of your app and reply to reviews, immediately addressing any issues you missed in testing.

Run Google Play Store listing experiments

When visits to your Play Store listing from your new markets start growing, experiment to see what text and graphics work best. You can run up to 5 at the same time.

Tip

For a more in-depth guide to expanding into new markets, with data and insights on key markets, get the Going Global Playbook.