Apps that go all the way are the ones that make the leap to the global market. Look at the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb, these apps have defied language barriers to become more than an app, but ‘THE’ app for, taxi hire, food delivery and holiday accommodation.
These apps have all successfully localised themselves for a market beyond their country of origin. Our experience of localising an app on behalf of a client, Air Translator has provided us with some valuable tips we can share with you.
Air Translator is the Airbnb of mobile translation service, the app allows users to search for a translator and for translators to advertise their service. The translation happens via a chat session which is charged per minutes. Here, users can message, send photos, voice notes and call the other. Focused at both a UK and Chinese audience, the app is a great example of how to utilise the localisation tools available. From our own experience, here are top tips on how to get your app ready for the global market.
Despite there being automated localisation systems out there, they are not as good as the real thing. Google’s ‘Tap to Translate’ feature, which pops up within other apps is not always accurate. The feature translates words, but is not always perfect. Also, relying on Google Translate also does not allow the UX/ UI designer to consider the available space, as they cannot predict the length of the translated language. Similarly, Apple has an auto translation system that translates copy, word for word which also can lead to mistakes. With Air Translator we chose to translate copy manually ourselves, working with the client we created a spreadsheet which we exchanged with developers and designers, to ensure that copy in both English and Chinese was accurate and presented clearly.
iTunes Connect account allows you to localise the app’s metadata. The account features an option update your app name, description and screenshots for a different audience. See above the Chinese version of App Store screenshots for Air Translator, the same branding was used universally, but the copy was changed. Updating metadata is important to SEO, keywords are essential to users in other countries finding your app within the store. Many apps have chosen to include their English name, but used the local language in both the description and keywords to boost SEO.
We also utilised Apple’s API validation which ensured that values such as; date, times and lengths dynamically changed. This validation also cleverly enables the app to accept the language of the user's phone.
With Air Translator spanning the both the English and Chinese market, the move towards integrating WeChat was a decision based on ensuring the app appealed to the Chinese user. WeChat, the cross-platform instant messaging service is hugely popular within China. WeChat has 700 million active users with more that 70 million outside of China. Looking at integrations that span across continent is one way to appeal to an international audience. A global brand can bolster an app and provide users with the option to sign up and use services they already have set up.
These tips will help you prepare your app for an international audience, but a marketing strategy to match this is also essential. Launching across the globe will also require a separate social media marketing strategy, promotional websites and content that is specific to local areas. This all may seem like unreachable dream, but cracking the global market has never been easier in today's interconnected world.
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