Last Updated on
January 20, 2024

8 Practical Tips for Mobile App Localization

Published in
Key takeaways:

Mobile use is a very personal experience. People interact with the digital world through a device that is literally in the palm of their hand. Everything is controlled by pointing and swiping with their fingertips.However, designing for mobile can be a challenge as everything needs to work within a more compact space. It is a delicate balancing act that considers all visual and interactive elements, which can become complicated when multiple languages are thrown into the mix.One of the biggest nightmares for UI designers is when their designs fall apart when localizing it into an unfamiliar language.Because of this, we’ve put together a list of practices that can make the process a breeze for designers to prevent sleepless nights. The common thread is that content localization is key to good multilingual app development and design.So, without further ado, let’s get into these eight practical tips for app marketing and localizing content.

1. Pay Attention to the Tech Aspects Content Localization

Language and localized content are the most important considerations when beginning the multilingual design process. But another that you might overlook is tech on the back end. Localizing UI and language elements requires a robust tech management strategy. The content localization process involves content extraction and cataloging: these elements at the start of the project before work can be done. Finishing with QA is important for ensuring the quality of language and design and ensuring that nothing has broken down.The most efficient way is to work with a company with experience with content localization and mobile app design. These companies will handle the language aspects of multilingual development with an awareness of the tech and design considerations that need to be kept in mind for the platform. They can also support your app marketing, ensuring that your content is relatable to your audience.  

2. Learn Mobile App Design Conventions for Localized Content

Whether you’re planning for localized content on existing app UI or building it from the ground up, the first step is always research. But where to start?There are app tools that can assist you in converting your pre-existing website into a mobile app format. But this will depend on your goals for your app’s content localization.Your best bet is to look at what other designers are already doing. Familiarity is essential for UI; you want the navigation to be as easy and intuitive as possible. People are creatures of habit and would greatly appreciate it if they could use your product in a way they’re already used to.Of course, this is not to say that you should simply copy what other designers are doing. This step is only meant to give you an idea of what your target market is already used to, saving valuable time in the design process.It’s as simple as collecting several examples and noting all things they have in common that you may not be familiar with. This can help you gain preliminary insights into your audience’s behavior and preferences to make more informed choices in the design process.

3. Keep Some Extra Space for Translated Text

There’s much to be said about the importance of language in UI design, but when it comes to designing for mobile. For example, in the German language, where “Add to Cart” translates to “in den Warenkorb legen.” That’s twice the length! Some apps and sites use “Einkaufswagen,” which is more manageable; still, it’s longer than the original.On the other side of the spectrum, Asian languages tend to run shorter, leaving a lot of horizontal space empty. They’re also more typographically complex, making them hard to read at smaller sizes.This can be solved by leaving spaces in your design to handle different sizes without sacrificing visual presentation. For example, you can make sure items with two text lines can easily accommodate three. Or you can design a series of elements to flow vertically instead of horizontally. For mobile design, this may be the best option.

4. Use Local Expressions and Language Patterns for App Marketing

Doing content localization in different languages requires a creative mindset. Directly translating the words and phrases of your content is not enough, as it ignores the way people speak the language. You want your language to sound natural to native speakers, so they feel your content is designed for them, fostering trust. Sometimes fully translating expressions may not be necessary, as they may already be familiar to your target audience. But these expressions often also have some local flavor, so you need to localize accordingly. For example, in the Philippines, “Buy one, take one” is a popular and well-known promotional phrase. Another and very dear to Filipinos is “13th-month pay,” so banner ads that play on this term are guaranteed to draw attention.You can use this principle for app marketing and optimizations in app stores, like Google Play and iOS App Store. This can help you promote your app in the target market you’re planning to enter.

5. Use Colors that Evoke Positive Cultural Meanings

Color is one significant aspect that you should consider for content localization as it affects the overall user experience. Users attach a lot of emotional meaning to colors that vary according to culture. White can evoke tranquility, but also mourning. Red can evoke danger but is also a festive and celebratory color in certain countries. In Islamic countries, green evokes traditional values, while it can mean fresh beginnings in other countries.Sometimes changing a color scheme may not be feasible or desirable due to maintaining brand consistency. This can easily be dealt with by paying attention to color proportions.Mcdonalds is an example of how you can achieve this effect. Depending on the cultural taste of their customers, its many regional sites handle the brand’s iconic red and yellow palette differently. For example, the Japanese site takes on a more minimalist aesthetic, saving the bold colors for a graceful accent. But the Chinese site is bright and makes liberal use of the color yellow.

6. Design Icons that Users of a Different Culture Understand

Because icons are primarily graphic, generally, they rely on the user’s familiarity with images and their meanings. This varies among different cultures. For example, the Add to Cart icon is the quintessential symbol for online shopping, but many regions in Asia prefer the image of a shopping bag. When designing for mobile part of it involves considering space for content, which includes designing the your app’s brand icon. Icons need to be unobtrusive and distinct enough to be recognized and accessible at a glance.There are several UI and UX aspects in China’s market that differentiate them from English apps. She noted that animal symbolism in this market is prominent as logos and mascots. You can research animal symbolisms and incorporate them into your brand icon to make it stand out when you do content localization for your target audience.  

7. Use Images that Resonate with the Culture

Images help capture a user’s attention and help them engage with content on an emotional level. UI designers need to make every image count. Otherwise, they can end up as mere fillers for a user to scroll past.One good way to draw in users is to use images that are familiar to your audience. For example, in Japan, you can use pictures of Japanese people and locations that they can recognize, such as Harajuku. Cherry blossoms are an image with strong cultural ties to Japan, as is anime.Another thing to consider when incorporating localized content into your app is to ensure that it is culturally appropriate. Using lifestyle images that show people is common for Western audiences, but this practice is frowned upon in the Middle East. The images used in this region tend to spotlight the actual products instead, which you’ll have to incorporate in your app marketing.

8. Employ Local Designers or Localization Specialists

When it comes down to it, the most important thing in any app content localization strategy is hiring the right people. The best ones for the job, whether in designing UI or creating localized content, are ones who have a native understanding of the language and the culture and—going back full circle—have enough tech and design know-how to bring out the best possible results.One bonus piece of advice: avoid relying on automated language solutions. It may be cheaper, but the quality is nowhere near what a professional can offer.

Convert your website into a mobile app

Get custom mobile apps for iOS and Android that update
automatically with your site and works with your entire tech stack.
Rainbow Shops logo.Bestseller's logo.John Varvatos logo.

Read more posts like this.

Thank you! We'll be in touch within 48 hours :)
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Chat icon.