Why true globalisation of your app is essential in today’s market place.

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

Unless your app’s scope is strictly local, not optimising your app for global use will severe limit your market place performance. The emerging market for smart phones is huge. Within China alone, there’s an estimated 122 million potential users, couple this with India and its 75million, and you begin to see the size of the market.

“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 globalisation of your app involves a lot more than simply translating its market description, although localising the metadata is one of the easiest ways to extend your apps’ discoverability.

Preparation is key. Thorough market research including which countries are worth targeting, checking out downloads of different types of apps and which operating systems are popular are all primary considerations. Technically speaking, internationalising your app means preparing it for use across different countries.  Consider keeping content separate from code and put it in a separate 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 on the design.

Localisation involves translation and adaption of locale-specific components.Simple steps like reviewing your app title, description and content could ensure a better understanding of your app and avoids any potential local offences or cultural embarrassments. It’s 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. If this all sounds like a lot of work, take heart, there’s a lot of tools out there to help you and even step-by-step websites covering all the main coding languages.

To guarantee your apps real universal capabilities, it would be wise to test it on the actual device, ideally in the target country on the designated network/carrier. 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.


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