Should You Localize Your App?

Your product just had a huge launch, and now have a constant stream of users. People are loving your product, and you're getting great PR. Everything's going so well. But you want better.

You want to make your product global.

Where Did We Start

Pre Localization Downloads

The App Store is an amazing platform, and from the very beginning duet had a fair amount of usage across the world. But, the vast majority (almost 60%) was in English-speaking countries. And many of the other countries have English taught alongside the native language.

Our product is often used when traveling, and we knew we could have massive international appeal. But we needed to put the work in.

Tech companies will often invest hundreds of hours to optimize a small action, but ignore translating strings to address half of the market

Why and When Should You Localize

Not every app needs to localize right away, and it will require an on-going commitment with every update.

If your app has a network effect and is not an country-specific problem (i.e. private health insurance is primarily a US problem), you should localize earlier rather than later. Because every additional user adds value and makes your product more entrenched, you should take advantage and grow as fast as possible. There is plenty of evidence that localization improves download rates internationally.

The other great example is an app or website with minimal UI changes. Many utility and productivity apps fall in this category. Our app is designed to be nearly invisible, therefore only requiring a few changes. We also knew our design would stay more or less the same, and so the ongoing commitment would be small.

No matter your decision, your app needs to only pass one major test for localizing. You should have a substantial base of users in the target language. This is essential to correct translations and ensure you can collect feedback from your users.

App Store Descriptions

Your app's description is even earlier than the user's first interaction with your product. It is Google's first interaction with your product.

Translating your app description (and website) will first and foremost help Apple and Google prioritize your product to people that do not have English as their native language, driving more traffic to you.

When we localized our website and descriptions, we saw a 21% increase in international traffic to our pages within one month.

We localized our app store description in over twenty languages. This...was probably overkill. But on the bright side, it served as a valuable lead to which translations would have the highest impact for when we translated the app.

App Store descriptions and landing page websites are the easiest to change and don't require product updates. More importantly, they help bring attention to your site. But be ready to invest the resources to localizing the app shortly thereafter, especially if the interface is complex. Otherwise you'll just end up losing the users slightly later in the funnel.

What Are The Best Tools to Translate

We have tried many different tools. Your experience may vary, but don't use Google Translate.

Gengo is the first we came across. Their pricing is great and it is incredibly simple to get set up. Our major issue with them is quality. Though we paid for the highest quality service (including proofreading), we had dozens of complaints around the world. Many native speakers said it sounded as if the phrases were translated in Google. A quick comparison showed that yes, many of their translators use Google and simply take their paycheck. Though there's a way to leave a review for your translator, it is pretty ineffective. None of us spoke the translated language, and if we could, we wouldn't need the service. It should be Gengo's responsibility to audit their own translators. By the time we had feedback from our users, the review mechanism had closed. Farewell money.

We had much better luck with One Sky App. They had far fewer issues and even had built in products to translate App Store descriptions. Their prices were about the same, and they allowed for much easier input.

In addition to any service, we also ask our users for their help.

This is a great litmus test to see if there is even any demand for your app in the language. Though it's not your users responsibility to help, many will step forward and be excited at that you are taking the time to localize. It will also provide an extra layer of proofreading from people who use your app daily and know the context of each phrase best.

Where Did We End Up

Alright, now for the exciting part. We localized our app through and through in 14 languages and the result is...

Post Localization Downloads

Massive success! Almost 70% of our users are now international, and we were able to increase our downloads substantially in two short weeks. Some important insights -

  • Japan is now our second biggest source of downloads. As seen in the earlier chart, we already had a large presence there, so this was able to make the most significant impact. We can't stress enough to go after markets where the product already shows growth.

  • We expected a much larger percentage from China. Though localizing there is extremely important, we were slowed down by a marketing challenge. Many of our advertisers (Google, Twitter, Facebook) are not allowed there, so even though a huge part of the world can use our product effectively, it is much harder to get the word out there. So if you know anyone in China, let them know about us!

  • Translation is a continuous process. We are always trying to improve, especially as our app is constantly changing. If you speak any of our translated language and love the idea of making software universally accessible, please reach out and we'd love to hear any thoughts or corrections on our work.

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