Localization of Mobile Applications: Best Practices and Common Mistakes

Localization of Mobile Application

Smart phones and tablets have become increasingly popular among millennials and older generations. Applications are now the interface that can meet almost every conceivable purpose. As businesses strive to expand into new markets and implement a global eCommerce strategy, they need to include mobile applications as part of their marketing strategy, and provide a carefully-adapted and user-friendly application to its target users. From internationalization to roll-out, a company must navigate effective translation and image localization. While doing so there are a few factors to consider if you are planning to localize your application.

Design Phase: Screen Size and Room for Expansion

Just as when you are designing a website for a global audience, you need to pay close attention to the layout, in this case the screen size. As different languages have different word and sentence lengths, it is important to design the application with these considerations in mind. Languages like German and Spanish can take up to 30% more space than English, while some languages are written vertically, or right to left. Some languages (i.e. Mandarin) will have a much lower character count and may need to be in larger fonts to be displayed and read correctly on a smart phone screen. It is crucial to think about this in the design phase and think about the necessary adjustments you might need to make when localizing. For example, if the application is being designed to support English, Spanish and German you may have to create some alternative layouts; also, if the app will be localized in Arabic, you will need to implement support for Right to Left (RTL) layouts.

One should leave room for expansion or contraction of the text boxes in the English UI (User Interface)design phase, which is crucial to avoid space issues later in the process. Running a pseudo-localization testing before starting the actual localization process is advisable, so as to verify that the application does not need to be re-engineered in order to support all languages at the desired phase of product rollout. Does it support Right to Left layouts (i.e. Arabic), or double byte characters (i.e. Japanese)? Does it support all the locale requirements of date/currency etc.?

Translation Phase: Importance of Context

At the translation stage, it is important to provide the translation team with the accurate context of the material to translate. This can significantly increase the productivity of the team and the speed of the delivered translation.

Localization Testing and App Store Optimization (ASO)

Once the strings of content have been translated, it is time for rigorous localization testing for content and layout. Common issues that arise are incorrect layout, missing strings and sentence break-up. It is crucial to be very attentive to detail in this phase.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing the visibility of the application in the app store. Just like search engine optimization (SEO), ASO involves finding the best search keywords for local audiences, and including them to increase the visibility of the app for the local market. Needless to say, the correct translation of the app’s name and the right keywords will make a difference in sales to local users, who will be able to find the app more easily and will find it appealing.


Localizing your mobile app is a great way to reach consumers in different target locales. Following the above steps at the design, translation and testing phase is crucial to avoid app redesign and important to increase revenue in foreign markets.

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