Localization is part and parcel of producing a successful app. Building a great experience will earn you devoted fans, but building a great localized experience will help you make it big. It’s more than just a snappy buzzword; mobile app localization is now essentially an expectation for any brand that’s serious about its growth.
In this post, we’ll run through a basic introduction to mobile app localization, talk about why you’ll want to localize, how you can get started, and outline how to get the most out of Instabug’s built-in localization features.
What exactly is localization?
The word localization describes the adjustment of an application’s text for specific audiences based on culture and language. In practice, this usually ends up simply meaning the application language.
But if you’re trying to connect with global audiences, you might find yourself needing to diversify your app for communities speaking different dialects of the same language. For instance, there’s a difference between French French and Canadian French. For a smaller app, just one French version might be enough for their needs. But someone wanting to reach a wider Francophone audience will want to invest in multiple versions for specific communities.
Each one of these aforementioned versions is called a locale. A locale is simply the combination of the language or dialect name plus the location. Locales are officially written as a two-letter language code followed by a two-letter country code—so for the above example, you’d have fr_FR (French French) and fr_CA (Canadian French).
Localization is often associated with internationalization. These words are not synonyms, but they are closely related. Internationalization is simply the process of developing products that can easily be localized.
How can mobile app localization benefit me?
Releasing your app in multiple locales opens you up to a whole new world of possibilities (literally). Localization exposes your product to new audiences—not pockets of niche users, but entire communities that could eventually comprise a valuable percentage of your core audience.
Language is one of the fundamental variables affecting adoption rates. Maybe you’ve been working hard to optimize your app, checking off the boxes on all kinds of non-language related factors. But add new locales to the mix, and you could see your adoption rates skyrocket without even touching the rest of your app experience.
In fact, a study from Distomo shows just how much mobile app localization can pay off—localizing their iPhone app text resulted in 128% more downloads per country, plus a 26% increase in revenue for each country added—in just a week.
Andy Johns, former product manager at Facebook, credits localization with being one of the biggest factors behind the site’s explosive growth. “Perhaps the greatest lever in getting to [its first] 500M or more users was making the site available in virtually every language on the planet,” he detailed in an essay on Facebook’s early growth strategies.
If you’re thinking of going global, then localization is a step you can’t miss.
How do I choose which locales to start with?
Ready to expand, but not sure how to begin?
Step one is identifying your new target audiences. You could just pick the most popular languages and start translating, but there is an element of strategy to smart implementation. Start by taking a look at your app analytics and finding out where most of your users come from. If there are a few countries that stand out for having above-average sized communities on your app, consider creating a locale for their native language.
You can also get clues from your web analytics. Find out who is visiting your site and where that traffic is coming from. Services like SimilarWeb will give you a basic breakdown of your referral sources for free. Is there a foreign forum or blog article that’s sending users to your website? Capture more of these users by creating a locale for them.
You can also check your reviews and feedback for suggestions straight from your users. If you’re looking to play strategically, use a service like AppAnnie to learn more about your competitors and swoop in on the markets where they’re performing well.
What’s the best way to translate my app?
Language isn’t exactly formulaic—this isn’t a job for Google Translate (even if Google Translate is one of the best tools on the web!). It’s not even a job for the guy on your team who aced his university Spanish classes.
You’re going to want to hire a professional translator or a localization service. We’ve got a detailed list of the top services in the localization space, their top users, pricing, and integrations—give it a read and see what will work best for your team. Some of the solutions offer professional translations, others still are crowdsourced resources, and some are localization management platforms built to accelerate your team’s internal localization processes.
Why the insistence on professional translation? Languages contain subtleties and complexities that can’t accurately be replicated by machines (yet). When you speak your users’ language the way they speak it, you put them at ease and strengthen the emotional bond between them and your product. Getting a translator who has a firm grip on culture, nuance and context will help you connect better with your target audience and keep them coming back to your app regularly.
How do I use Instabug’s localization features?
The Instabug SDK is offered in 19 different languages, and automatically uses the locale of your user’s device. For the majority of users, this means you’ll be offering a localized experience without having to do anything at all. For cases where that may not be the best option, you can override the automatic locale assignment (get all the technical details on that here).
Keep in mind that although your users will see Instabug in their native languages, at this time, your Instabug dashboard is only available in English.
What features will my users see in their locale?
Instabug’s welcome message and short onboarding tour are displayed in the user’s locale. By default, your live users will see a single-panel message letting them know how to send bugs and feedback. Beta users get a three-panel walkthrough of Instabug.
In addition to customizable locales, you’ll also be able to choose your color theme and primary color so the whole experience will fit in seamlessly with your users and your brand.
When your users invoke Instabug, the Need help? menu will appear in their language. They’ll be able to report bugs, send feedback, or ask questions.
Your users will also have the entire bug reporting flow in their language, of course. Providing them with a customized experience in their own language will improve their ability to give thoughtful, detailed bug reports so your team can smash more bugs.
Localize in-app surveys and announcements for best results
Starting with Instabug version 8.3, you can send surveys and announcements to users in their own language. Get ready to get better data from your users by creating more specially tailored and targeted surveys.
This process is a little different than setting the SDK locale (which is automatic except in special circumstances) because the content is manually provided by you. Use a translator for best results—when you send surveys, your language matters. Word choices are important. One of the most critical aspects of effective surveys is asking straightforward questions that are neither emotional nor leading. These nuanced language choices are best made by a professional.
When you create a survey or announcement, the locale is set to English by default. You can add additional locales and change your default from the survey creation page. For each locale you add, you’ll see a new tab on the page where you can add the text for each question.
You can get detailed, step-by-step how-tos on adding locales and display settings here.
- The ultimate guide to mobile app localization
- Top mobile app localization tools
- The ultimate guide to mobile app internationalization
- How to localize your In-App Surveys with Instabug