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March 20, 2019

How to Use Localization to Ensure UX Design Remains at the Heart of Your Multilingual App

When you are building your company’s digital presence through an app, perfecting the user experience in your source language and country is essential, and UX design can help you get there. However, even the most perfect UX design doesn’t necessarily mean that users in another country – who hold different values, use technology for different reasons, and want different things from their tech experience – will be as enamored with your app as your native audience. Publishing your app in different countries requires not only translation, but the help of a skilled localization expert who can consider the app from the perspective of your target audience and adapt it to fit their culture and expectations.

The importance of good UX design

Businesses are recognizing that the need for functional, intuitive, and well-translated apps is critical to customer satisfaction. Over 60 percent of consumers worldwide use mobile devices to access services and online stores through websites and apps. A full third of these potential buyers will abandon their carts if they can’t find what they need quickly and easily. Providing an interface where users of all levels of experience can comfortably use your app in their own language, thanks to a professional translation of the content, is no longer just a nice-to-have for your customer – it is critical to the profitability and branding of your business.

Good UX design should create positive encounters when customers engage with your app. With translation in the mix, this means a properly translated app that is simple for your audience to use and that provides a seamless experience. Being uncluttered and functional are key aspects of such a product strategy. 

With multilingual apps, you are catering to users from cultures all over the world. People are using their devices while they are on the subway, standing in line, waiting for the server to bring their lunch, and so forth. Because these interactions are generally short, time is one of the most important factors to take into consideration when implementing UX design. Remember: 38 percent of people will leave your app if it loads too slowly, has too much content, or is just plain unattractive.

Why localization is important

Localization should not be mistaken for translation. When it comes to apps, directly translating from your source language into your target language can result in all sorts of issues. These can result in anything from minor embarrassment to the loss of your brand’s good reputation. When an app is successfully localized, it appears to have been developed within the culture of your target audience. It will have the look and feel of something created just for them.

Localization takes into account things like currency differences, time zones, idioms, and how the product name translates into the language of the target country. Localizing your app requires translation and adaptation with a cultural awareness of what is appropriate within the everyday societal workings of your market. It involves being sensitive to design elements like symbols, colors, and images that your target audience may find offensive.

It’s easy to see how UX design goes hand-in-hand with translation and localization services when you are attempting to create an app in multiple languages. To provide your user with a pleasant experience in their own language, localization is essential. Because understanding the emotional and social landscape of an entirely different culture is required, it is vital to work with a translation professional who has experience with both app localization and UX design.

How to achieve perfect app localization results

As with any significant undertaking, advanced preparation is essential for the most successful outcome. To achieve perfect mobile app localization results, it is easier to prepare ahead than to have to go back multiple times to fix any unexpected bugs. Localization for apps is different from translation for traditional software in that mobile has less space to work with and relies on different platforms. You will need to decide whether to develop your app for iOS, Android, or both. Depending on the qualifications of your team, you may choose to outsource the entire project to a translation company that has an in-house technical team as well as their own localization specialists.

If you decide to do your own preparations before sending your app to a language specialist, make sure that your developers set up an interface that is localization-friendly and allows you to expand the text. Once your team has set up a multilingual architecture to work within, you can then turn the project over to a translation agency. If you decide to go this route, it is advisable to consult with a language service provider first. They can explain your options and clear up any questions you have about the translation and localization process.

What to look for in a localization expert

Once you’ve chosen to undertake the translation and localization of your app, you’re faced with the decision of which company to choose. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for language services of this nature.

First, make sure that the translation agency you are considering will be able to meet your time frame and can handle whatever volume you will need. If you are having the app localized in just one language, you can probably choose a smaller agency. However, if your project involves translation into several languages, a larger agency that has multiple translators working on your project simultaneously in each language is the best choice.

You will also want to make sure that the company you choose has the technical expertise necessary for working on your app. What sort of equipment do they use? Are they well-versed in app translation? What type of certifications do their translators hold? Be sure to grill them until you are entirely satisfied with their responses!

Lastly, bear in mind that the best translation and localization comes from professionals who are native to the country and language of your target audience. A good translation agency will employ remote workers who specialize in specific regions and cultures to provide your potential customers with the best possible user experience.

When localization goes wrong

Lack of localization can significantly diminish the user experience. It can also dent a company’s reputation and their likelihood of selling products in a particular marketplace – funnily enough, Electrolux’s “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” US advertising campaign didn’t generate as many sales as it might have!

Word length in particular can be a tricky issue for those who are localizing apps. TED came unstuck with its German app, when the main screen cut off not only part of the main heading, but also the line of text underneath it. The issue was that German words tend to be longer than those in English, but this hadn’t been accounted for in the app’s design. The user experience deteriorated as a result.

App translation and localization – final points to remember

Good UX design is essential for profitability and growth. Localization is necessary when you translate your app into other languages. Providing your potential customers with a satisfying experience while using your app means that you need the translation to cater to the cultural sensitivities and expectations of your market.

To achieve the best possible results, a combination of precise planning and hiring the right translation and localization experts for your project will help you hit the mark for both UX design and localization.


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Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a company providing translation and localization services to clients around the world. Tomedes’ services cover a wide spectrum, including everything from app and video translation to blog post and website localization.

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