5 Smart Ways to Approach Mobile App Localization

22 mins read

mobile app localization

Localization used to be a part of the app scaling strategy. But not anymore. Today, when users download a mobile application, they already expect it to match their language preferences. So no matter what stage of the app development you’re in, localization should be part of it. The good news, localization is no longer a process that slows down everything. If done with the right technology, it is smoothly integrated into the development process and becomes an integral part of the app life cycle.

Let’s discuss automation in the iOS and Android app localization, sharing translations between app localization projects, and providing context for translators. You’ll also learn about string localization without resource files and export Android XML and Strings files if the sources were uploaded in other formats.

Continuous Localization Is What You Need

If you’re new to the topic, the best idea to start with is that localization is an integral part of product development, the same as prototyping or testing. So localization will require some additional setups at the beginning to ensure continuous workflow later on.

If you’re in the middle of the mobile app localization process, you, probably, already understand that simply downloading resource files, sending them to translators, and integrating translations into the codebase is easier said than done. First of all, it’s a total waste of time with all the manual work. Secondly, with even the slightest change in the source texts or when a new copy arrives, you need to repeat the process of downloading, sending, and integrating all over. And finally, when you send a spreadsheet with strings to translators without any context, be ready to receive myriads of lack-of-context-related questions that are multiplied by the number of target languages.

How to Automate Content Synchronization?

There are a variety of continuous integrations you can set up with Crowdin, and they all do a great job of synchronizing content between the systems you use. There are integrations with GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, and Azure Repos. Integration with GitHub Actions is supported as well. You can also use the Crowdin CLI or Android Studio plugin to automatically get source files uploaded to Crowdin and integrate translations into the codebase effortlessly.

How to Speed Up Localization Even More?

Developers fear mobile app localization because it can slow down even the most speedy teams. From our experience, localization does slow down the development when the localization of a feature starts after its release in the source variant. In other words, when translators can access content only after the deployment.

With Crowdin, you can configure different branches for each app version in your Crowdin project, then test and release multilingual versions of your app right away.

Check out the case study and learn how Aviasales, a tech company that develops travel software, managed to localize apps in the agile environment.

Shared Project for Both Android and iOS Apps

Usually, iOS and Android app versions have much of the same content. In Crowdin, you can easily detect duplicate strings and not translate the same content twice.

You can translate your Android and iOS mobile apps within the same project and hide similar strings, so translators don’t have to translate the same strings twice. Or you can choose to localize either the Android or iOS app first, and then download translations in the corresponding format, such as Android XML or Strings.

Hide Duplicates Not to Translate Content Twice

When configuring the project settings, enable the Hide duplicates option, and similar strings will be shown only once for translators. The duplicated strings will get the translation of the master string automatically. In this case, a master string is the one that was added to the project first.

Unify Placeholders for iOS and Android Strings

To treat more strings as duplicates, you can unify placeholders within iOS and Android strings used in the same project. For example, Hello, %s! (Android) and Hello, %@! (iOS) will be matched as duplicates and will be shown to translators as Hello, [%s]! On export, you’ll get files with the placeholders in their original formatting.

Learn how to unify placeholders in Android and iOS localization.

Launch Custom File Exporters

You can also translate your Android app in Crowdin without uploading the resource files for the iOS and then launch a custom exporter via Crowdin API or CLI to get the source and translated files in the Strings formats. Or vice versa, translate the iOS app and export translation in the Android XML format.

You can export strings in the Android XML and Strings formats regardless of the initial source file format, including CSV, DOCX, XLSX, and more.

What if I Want Two Separate Projects?

It’s also an option. In this case, to save translation cost, you can reuse the Android version’s translations in the iOS project or vice versa. For this, enable Translation Memory (TM) Sharing in the Project Settings. You then can pre-translate content with the Translation Memories you have or allow translators to use TM suggestions while translating.

Localize your app with Crowdin

Steps Before Localizing Your App

To be prepared is half the victory. So, let’s focus on what you need to know and work on before you start localizing your app.

  • Choose your target market and languages

“The more, the merrier” you might think. But at the beginning, your first priority should be quality, not quantity. Suppose you are just starting out with app localization. In that case, we suggest picking a few languages to begin with. For example, the languages most of your current users speak and some of the most common languages on the internet like English, Spanish, Turkish, and more. This could be your starting point. As your localization project develops, add new languages ​​and even dialects.

  • Choose your translation strategy and a language service provider

It’s essential not only to select proper localization methods and platforms, but also an agile localization service and a translation strategy. You can work with translators you find on freelance services, configure machine translation, pick a professional vendor that is deeply familiar with the target language, the target culture, and more. Hiring an agency can provide valuable insight to an app localization project, as often, they work with native translators who have the best insights about their culture. Need quick translations from professionals? Go with Crowdin Language Service.

5 steps to make your product multilingual with Crowdin

  • Use a safe and secure localization platform

The Crowdin team wants to build a platform that will help your product reach a new audience and be sure that your data is safe. Security is an important component of what we do. Crowdin is SO/IEC 27001 Certified, ensures compliance with the GDPR, offers a SAML Single Sign-On (SSO) feature, and more. To discover more about data security, read our article.

Download a complete mobile app localization checklist here

Mobile App Localization Without Resource Files

Traditionally, app localization starts when the resource files are handed off to translators, either by email (we cry typing that in) or automatically. In other words, first comes the resource file, and then you can proceed with localization.

How about we reverse this workflow a bit and send strings for translation directly from your design tool (like Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD)? Localization without resource files is a new approach we offer the design and development teams that collaborate on UI localization in Crowdin.

With it, designers working on the prototypes in Adobe XD, Figma, or Sketch send strings for translation with the keys and text segmentation rules.

App user inteface localization

Because each string has its unique identifier, development teams then can integrate both source and translated content in the codebase effortlessly.

Besides, if the source files in Crowdin will be of other formats than Android XML and Strings, engineers will also be able to launch custom exporters we’ve mentioned earlier and download files in the necessary format. They can use either Crowdin API or crowdin download targets command of the CLI 3.4.0 version and higher.

For designers, the integration between Crowdin and their design tools is a great opportunity to preview translated mockups, customize them if necessary, or notify engineers on the elements that should scale.

Preview translated app mockups

Learn more about Crowdin plugins for design teams and how they help streamline user interface localization.

Over-the-Air Updates With Translations

To update content within a mobile application, you need to roll out a new version on the App Store or Google Play. The process seems straightforward, and waiting for the app verification doesn’t cause much trouble if the updates happen occasionally. But when you manage a multilingual app with constant updates in 20 languages, for example, rolling new versions each time new translations arrive is not an option.

To make translations available for users much faster, we recommend using Over-the-Air technology. Create a distribution in your Crowdin project and install Crowdin SDK on the mobile app (Android or iOS). Distribution is a CDN vault that mirrors the translated content of your project. You can create separate distributions for different files or one distribution per project.

After you’re done with the settings, each time you’d like to update translations in your app, you can create a release within the required distribution and get translations in front of your users in minutes.

Learn more about Crowdin Over-the-Air Content Delivery for Android and iOS apps.

Localize your app with Crowdin

Context for Translators – the More, the Better

Of course, the quality of translation depends on the proficiency of the translation team, either your in-house or the one you hire. Yet, even the best of the translators might interpret the sources wrongly if no background information is available.

Providing context should not become an overlooked step when you set up a localization project. Crowdin offers you a variety of options on how to give context for translation.

Screenshots With Tagged Strings

In Crowdin, translators work in the online Editor. Along with fields for the source and translated content, there is also a field with the context added from the comments to each string in the codebase.

Besides, if a string was tagged on any of the screenshots you’ve uploaded, the screenshot will be shown right under the source string. Learn more about using screenshots in application localization.

Context for translation

Integration with Appetize.io

You can use the Appetize.io emulator not only to test your app but also to provide context for your translation team. To enable integration, install the Crowdin app for Appetize. It will let translators run your app directly in the Editor and see strings in action. The app will help you take screenshots of the app quickly as well. Applicable for both Android or iOS app localization.

Context app for Appetize.io

Glossary With Terms

To explain product-specific terms, you can create a project Glossary. You can also get it translated (with the help of the Translate Glossary app, for example).

Once you have glossary terms translated, we also recommend enabling QA check for Consistent Terminology. This way, Crowdin will notify translators every time a term is translated improperly and suggest the preferred variant. Learn more about Glossary.

Real-Time Preview and Screenshots Features of Crowdin SDK

When you set up Crowdin Mobile SDK, you can also configure two additional features – Screenshots and Real-Time Preview.

  • To quickly add app screenshots to the Crowdin project, configure the Screenshots feature and get the necessary app version installed on your device. Then open the app, sign in to your Crowdin account, and click through the app interface, taking screenshots where necessary. The images will be automatically added to your Crowdin project with all the strings tagged. Screenshots for app localization
  • With the Real-Time Preview feature configured, translators will work on source strings in Crowdin Editor and get the app preview either on the app emulator or their devices. The string in the app will change in real-time as translators start typing in the translation. Real-time preview in application localization

Learn more about providing context with Crowdin Mobile SDK.

Localize your app with Crowdin

What’s Next: ASO and App Localization

Like the app localization, optimizing its store description can boost your downloads. That’s why we’re going to talk about ASO and localization. To begin with, ASO stands for app store optimization and is influential for improving an app’s rank and discoverability in any app store (Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Samsung Galaxy Apps, Huawei App Store, and more). A higher ranking in an app store’s search results makes your app more visible to potential users.

Let’s get more organic downloads for your app. What aspects do we recommend you optimize for your app’s success?

  • Keywords

The first one is to research and uses the relevant keywords. Take the time to find and analyze your competitors and relevant keywords to evaluate which ones are right for your product and market. You can use both free and paid services for research.

The following tools are examples of such tools:

Research which keywords will help raise the visibility of your app and use them in your app title and descriptions.

  • App store requirements: Google Play, Apple App Store, and more

We need to remind a pretty simple rule – optimize your title and description to comply with your store recommendations.

The documentation of stores do offer very clear information regarding:

  • character limits
  • use of keywords
  • requirements for your videos and your screenshots

Apple for example has an article about localizing App Store information. Android also has guidelines for creating custom store listings to target specific countries.To speed up the process of your app’s data localization (texts from the Google Play Store page, including a title and descriptions), install the Google Play app. Once the integration is enabled, all the texts from the store page are collected in one file and added to your project in Crowdin. When translations are done, you only need a few clicks, and all the texts will be available on your app’s page in the store.

  • Apps Visuals

The design part we mentioned above, like the apps icon, the video, and screenshots, is also important. Users will pay more attention to an app description that shows the app UI or even a video showing the main features. Working together with each department and combining efforts with your design teams, you can create compelling and adapted visuals for every culture and language you target.

Localize UI and translate marketing visuals efficiently with Crowdin plugin for Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD. View the list of apps for design teams.

Multilingual apps UI: App Localization with Crowdin plugins for design tools

  • Measurements

Localize apps measurements. Many apps include units of measurement. Whether it’s a cooking app tracking with receipts, a running app monitoring users’ progress, or a money app recording spending. Adding and displaying the measurements accordingly to the locale is extremely important.

You’ll need to localize your app for each metric system since certain countries prefer one over the other. Don’t forget that while numbers may appear universal, weights and measures and even date and time formats are not. To improve your ASO and maximize your downloads, you need to ensure that all of these are displayed in local units.

  • Reviews

You can raise your app’s rating by getting positive reviews and feedback. The App Store, for example, takes reviews into account when adjusting its ranking, which means that having positive reviews will improve your visibility on both Android and iOS.

Typically, people won’t bother downloading your app if the reviews are bad or few. How do you get reviews? Make sure that you consider your user experience at all times. No one wants to be bothered with popups the instant they download your app. Try not to send these kinds of notifications to new users. Send them after a few weeks after downloading. You can also encourage users with some in-app bonuses and so on.

Moving into a new market takes a lot of work. But localizing and optimizing your mobile app will help you attract new customers and grow your revenue. Don’t forget to track the correct mobile app metrics before and after the ASO to understand which activities helped the most.

You Know the Tricks Now

We’ve discussed all the aspects you should consider when you start customizing your app for each target market. To sum up, there are two common misbeliefs to avoid. Assuming that everyone will use your app in English is the first one. And that you can handle localization without technology would be the second.

Crowdin is designed to automate localization, help you release multilingual versions of your app, and meet the expectations of your global users. To get started, register a Crowdin or Crowdin Enterprise account. If you like to learn more best practices and discuss the peculiar workflows you have, book a personal demo with our tech manager.

Watch the on-demand webinar on app localization

Learn hows and whys of app localization and how to drive ASO (App Store Optimization).
Iryna Namaka

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