App Localization 101: How Not to Pay Twice

By Elena Vakhromova | May 5th, 2015

Sooner or later, almost every app developer faces the question of expansion into other markets. When this happens, submitting an application into a foreign store is not enough: the app should be localized. It has been proven that localization can significantly increase app downloads, as it makes the app available and understandable for a larger audience. However, localization goes far beyond a simple translation. Here are a few tips on how to facilitate the localization process, complete with a few handy links to make everything work out smoothly.

What to Start With?

Obvious as it seems, writing out all the words and phrases from your app into a separate document and giving it to the first met freelancer is a huge mistake. Before you start translating, you should draw up a detailed plan of your localization process. First, you need to make a detailed description of the application, its options and features so that your translators will know what it is intended for.


Next, you have to prepare all the text for translation. Try not to miss a single word, carefully check out all the phrases and write them out into a separate file. After such a preparatory work, you should have a primary set of documents ready to be transferred to translators.

English Is the Basic Language

Usually, when coming out to the international arena, publishers pick several countries so that localization is required for each of them. To avoid problems with translation, you should select one main source language from which the translators will have to render your application into their language. In most cases, the best choice is English.


Don’t rush to translate the application to all possible languages, since the release on some app markets might not be justified. The number of potential users in some countries is so low that even with high conversion the revenue from them will not be able to cover translation and promotion costs.

Localization is More than Translation

Why is a translation of all the words in the app not enough? The ultimate goal of localization is not translation, but adaptation of the app for a particular country and culture. Every nation has their own unique features, and it is necessary to consider them. Therefore, localization in contrast to a simple translation also includes a study of mentality. It's worth mentioning that sometimes it is needed to change not only the text but also some design elements such as color, and, in some cases, even functionality. For example in South Korea, writing someone’s name in red means bad luck, while in the larger part of Asia it is the number 4 that should be avoided.


English is one of the shortest languages. This feature should be taken into account by the designers on the stage of application development. If a short phrase in English is given a place without any reserve, then the text in another language simply may not fit.

Also you should not forget about the following things:

  • date and time formats
  • correct sorting of lists
  • local units

Trust, but Check

To make such mistakes practically impossible, you need to carefully work out everything with native speakers. After the translation is done, verification is a must. Sometimes it’s necessary to create a special focus group to correct mistakes and polish the translation.


Proofreading in terms of context is also essential. Many words can be translated in different ways, especially out of context; therefore it’s necessary to check the adequacy of the translation inside the application. Therefore, do not try and save money on proofreaders and editors.

How to Interact with Translators?

It is necessary to pay attention to technical aspects. By optimizing your working process with the translators, you will definitely reduce time and efforts. This will require additional technical means since the exchange of tasks and texts with a translator via e-mail is not a good option. There are special services that significantly speed up and simplify the process:


These tools let you download the source files in various formats, mark the text for translation on screenshots, supervise the translators and much more. For smaller projects with very small amounts of work, you can simply use spreadsheets. It’s also worth checking out Pootle, dedicated to the translation of various interfaces, including those of mobile applications. Pootle can be also used to manage the translation process.

Marketing Localization

To enter an international market, translating the application won’t suffice. It is also necessary to adapt the app title, description and screenshots in the respective app stores. Sometimes, a revision of the icon is even required. Use the same approach here, taking into account the particularities of each country. For example, if you adapt the application to some Asian market and its screenshots show people, make sure to replace them with the appropriate people of the respective countries.

In addition to the description and screenshots, you will have to fully adapt promotional materials – from app reviews to landing pages. It is wise to assign this work to the same performers who worked on the app localization.


Where to Find Translators?

You can find translators to localize your apps among freelancers on the sites such as oDesk or Elance. But this approach is applicable only if you organize and control the process yourself, and this method requires your constant involvement.


The cheapest way is to engage your app users to help with translation. But here again you have to be ready to supervise all the process. If you want to get the finished result and reduce your involvement time, it is better to use the services of specialized agencies. The quality of localization is far higher, and it requires minimum efforts.

Summing It Up

Localization of mobile applications is a very complex and multi-step process that requires a lot of attention. The main pieces of advice are: think of every detail involved into the app localization process and take into account all national peculiarities.

What is your experience in app localization? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Elena- Vakhromova-LocalizationElena Vakhromova is marketing manager at Freemake, leading developer of free Windows software to work with multimedia. She also manages content strategy for their debut Freemake Music Box app for iPhone. Elena loves exploring new marketing techniques and frequently writes about mobile apps promotion, content marketing, and general digital technology. Connect with her on Twitter.

Elena Vakhromova

Missing person