Why True Globalization of Apps is Essential in Today’s Marketplace

There’s a worrying misconception among developers that once an app has been published it has automatically become global. Unsurprisingly, the majority of downloads for these apps are predominantly from English-speaking countries.  It’s worth noting that 78% of Internet users do not speak English as their primary language. The reality is that if there’s an app similar to yours on the marketplace, but in a local language, there is no doubt which one will be downloaded. However, with some additional coding and translation, your app could be actively engaging users across the world.

The emerging market for smart phones is huge. Within China alone, there was an estimated 986 million mobile internet users in 2020, couple this with India's 448 million users, and you begin to see the size of the market. Unless your app’s scope is strictly local, not optimising your app for global use will severely limit your performance in the marketplace.

“We were amazed by how much support we got from our fans in China after we localized Plants vs. Zombies….in only three days, the Chinese version reached the number one paid application spot on the China App Store. We’re selling twice as many copies now, in Chinese, than we ever sold in English.” - Leo Liu, PopCap Country Manager Greater China

So how do you adapt your English-language app to launch in new market? Real globalization involves a lot more than simply translating your app's market description, although localizing the metadata is one of the easiest ways to extend your apps’ discoverability.

Preparation is key and thorough market research is essential, including which countries are worth targeting, checking out downloads of different types of apps, and which operating systems are popular. Technically speaking, internationalizing your app means preparing it for use across different countries.  Consider keeping content separate from code and put it in a different resource file; this will make retrieving content for translation much easier.  Another tip is to allow for expansion and contraction of text – English takes up less room than many other languages which will impact the overall design.

Localization involves the translation and adaption of locale-specific components. Simple steps like reviewing your app title, description, and content can ensure a better understanding of your app and avoid any potential local offences or cultural embarrassments. It’s also worth checking your whole UI – do the currency and time formats make sense to this market, what about symbols and icons? Even choice of colours can have a variety of meanings across different countries.  Translation of all details is essential – tips, policies, and agreements all need to be in the local language. Although this may sound like a lot of work, there are a lot of tools out there to help you, including step-by-step websites covering all the main coding languages.

To guarantee your app's real universal capabilities, it would be wise to test it on the actual device, ideally on the designated network/carrier in the target country. Once you start to see an increase in downloads and have a noticeable user base overseas, a final area to consider is local support. Having a dedicated team focused on supporting and marketing your app is essential to its on-going success.

And finally, enjoy your global reach and keep an eye on the stats to see which emerging market to target next.