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Building products as a mobile app development agency sometimes means working on apps in different languages, from clients based all over the world. It’s one of the many advantages and learning opportunities you’ll have when you’re a no-code freelancer – but it also comes with its fair set of challenges!

Adalo Experts (our team of no-code freelancers) are located all over the world, and typically work with clients that may want apps in languages other than English. In this blog, we will unpack our best practices to help you with how to build apps in different languages and across different cultures.

How do you localize a mobile app?

Mobile app localization is what allows an app to support multiple languages. Most apps are built with the assumption that users’ communicate in English, supporting only English can limit your app in terms of users and downloads. Many potential app users from non-English-speaking countries probably won’t even find your app in the app store if the only language it’s available in is English. If you’re building apps for clients that need an app in a language that you aren’t familiar with, you’ll need mobile app localization to help you build it out.

Localizing mobile apps goes far, far beyond just simple translation. While translation focuses on simply translating text from one language to another, localization makes sure that the overall user experience of your app, its elements, features, copy, graphics, and descriptions are all customized to a users’ language and cultural preferences.

Localization shouldn’t be an afterthought!

One of the biggest struggles with creating multilingual apps is that the localization process is treated as an afterthought. For example, if the app is designed with an English UI, and a client needs you customize it to suit another language, you’ll need to go through the localization process in retrospect.

This can be much harder because you’ll need to rework the design process, mock-ups and prototypes to take a new audience and language into consideration. It’s not impossible, but it’ll definitely take more effort. If you follow these best practices, we hope you’ll be able to build multilingual apps for your clients that they love, and that their users genuinely want to use.

  1. Do your audience research

If you’re wondering how to do user research, you’re already asking the right questions! Conducting user research involves understanding your potential app users’ needs, interests, and culture.

Read about customs, cultural taboos, preferences, and humor. Do some research on phrases, humor, and instructions for mobile apps. Check out popular apps for that audience and see what they have in common. If it’s possible, schedule an interview with a few potential app users and ask them how they use mobile apps, what features they like, and what aspects of the app to pay extra attention to!

  1. Keep it short and simple

Building an app in a different language isn’t easy. You don’t have to aim to be a native speaker if you’re figuring out how to write UX copy! Your target audience will find it easier to understand your app if you keep the language simple. If you’re using a translation software, it’ll be much easier to use short phrases. It you’re using slang, cultural references or puns, make sure you run it by a native speaker. The rule of thumb is that the more you simplify, the easier your content is to translate and localize.

  1. Pay attention to the visuals

A big part of mobile apps is dependent on the visuals. Different cultures can interpret illustrations, icons, colors, and pictures in different ways. As far as you can, select visual elements that don’t have ambiguous meanings! When choosing colors for your mobile app, keep in mind that cultural context will impact how your app is perceived.

For example, some the ‘cart’ icon is often used for ecommerce apps in the US, however in Asia, users typically find the ‘shopping bag’ icon easier to comprehend. If you’re including images of people, try and make them relatable and local. Lifestyle images, landmarks, and product shots need to be localized to ensure that your app is relevant to its audience.

  1. Be consistent

Commit to sticking to the same phrases for UX copy as you go through the app. Meaning that if you’re using the word ‘Next’ on a navigation button, don’t use ‘Proceed’ somewhere else. Pay attention to consistency as far as colors, phrasing, and instructions go, which will make your user experience a lot more seamless and efficient.

  1. Save space for translated text

Translated text may not always take up the same amount of space as you expect. A popular example is the German phrase for ‘Add to cart’, which is translated to ‘in den Warenkorb legen’ which is twice as long!

Many Asian languages, on the other hand, may have shorter phrasing than English, and can be more complex as far as typography goes, which means they’ll need to be larger fonts. To minimize the confusion, leave some extra space to handle translated text without trading off the visual design.

  1. Test your localized app at every stage!

Before you pat yourself on the back for a job well done (which you should definitely do!), make sure you test your prototype out as much as you can. Have potential users review your mockups, see how they interact with your designs, and gather as much feedback as you possibly can!

Get insights from Adalo Experts

Well-designed multilingual apps allow you to reach a larger audience, and potentially work with more clients. This can be an important step to unlocking new business opportunities and creating a more diverse portfolio of work for your mobile app development agency.

The Adalo App Academy has some incredible free resources to help you set up, launch, and grow your business. Learn more about scaling your mobile app development agency, how to manage time, productivity hacks, and so much more!

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