Last night we were thrilled to host Jet City Mobile’s meetup featuring DoubleDown Interactive’s Marco D’Amico, who discussed localization with a very full house of local app developers and others in the industry. Marco, who has 20 years of localization expertise in global launches of classic desktop products, console game titles, and mobile games across Europe and Asia, shared his insight about expanding domestic apps abroad. While Marco had dozens of great takeaways, here are his 10 key tips for app localization:
Define What You’re Trying to Do
Marco advises that before you begin, and especially before you spend any money, ask yourself why are you localizing? More than likely you’re doing it to expand your user base and make more money. However it’s important to do your market research before you make a commitment to localization. You may find the target market for your product doesn’t require localization (though in most cases it probably will).
Define the Scope of Your Project
It’s also important to figure out what it is you’re going to spend money on during the localization process. Marco suggests that you’ll likely need to localize ancillary pieces of content in the app, as well as adjust resources for marketing and your customer support teams.
Know What Resources You Need
In addition to having a plan to localize your app, you should also know what resources you’ll need to make it happen. You will need to tap into your design and development teams, as well as your vendors to help with the process. As Marco said, the bottom line is that “You’ll definitely need people to make it happen.”
It’s Not Over When It’s Over
While you may have set a launch date, Marco explains it’s critical to know that it’s not just about releasing your product. Consider the customer support and marketing efforts that will be needed after the localized versions are launched.
Target Specific Markets
If you’re localizing your app, be sure you’re targeting specific markets. Marco is often asked what specific countries should be targeted. He explained that “There’s no golden answer to this, but what I encourage you to do is look at your analytics and look at the genre of apps you’re in and look at how similar products are doing in other markets”. However Marco also warns that you shouldn’t read too much into the numbers, especially if your app is a game. For example, if you make a puzzle game, and puzzle games are doing well in Slovakia, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should target that market. You need to take into account potential revenue return from each market. If you are going into a very small market, being the top grossing application may not result in adequate revenue return.
Separate Code From Content
Marco said that this is the golden rule of localization. Separating code from content allows for a more efficient localization process and gives you the ability to quickly add new languages. Once this is established, developers only need to implement code fixes in one place. At the same time, translators can easily manage and edit translations in a file format they are familiar with.
Use UNICODE Support
Enabling UNICODE support is absolutely critical to making sure your app can render the character sets you need for every market you enter. This is especially important if your application is processing user-entered data that may contain complex glyphs.
Iconize Whenever Possible
One of the biggest challenges Marco found when localizing apps was having too much text in an app, as translation can affect the user interface by creating text that is too long to fit in the original space. To resolve this problem, DoubleDown turned to using global icons in its games to help create a cleaner user interface that is easier to localize. Like separating code from content, this can also help make the localization process move forward quicker.
Get Organizational Support
Partner With a Localization Vendor
Finally, Marco is adamant that if you’re localizing an app, you need to work with a localization vendor. They can help you through the process, do translations, and provide cultural checks to make sure locals in your new market won’t be offended by anything in your app. He also warns against using machine translations, though if you do go down that road, be sure to have a localization vendor or a native do a linguistic test before launch to ensure that everything makes sense in your localized app.
If you’re an app developer who has localized an app, what tips do you have for others? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.