Kickstart to Localization – What Developers Need to Know

Why Localize?

No, I’m not going to start by selling the concept of localization to you. I know you’re a smart developer so it’s no news to you that localization benefits your revenue stream. But nevertheless I’ve added a couple of links at the end of this post, there you can find some insightful blog posts about this topic.

Getting Started

First of all, think about which markets you want to target and where you already have some users. Google Analytics or other analytics software can give you a good indication on where your users are coming from. Another option is to run a crowdsourced translation project to get some understanding on how active your users are in specific language areas (but we will discuss that in separate post).

As a developer you need to make sure your app is internationalized. That’s the process of separating your content to resource files so they can be translated more easily. You can learn more from our earlier blog post Software Internationalization for Dummies.

Additionally, internationalization is about making sure that the app can be easily translated. Here are a few hands-on tips:

1. Don’t split sentences into several strings. This makes it really difficult to translate and the quality will be bad. If you have to split texts, make sure you give proper context information.
2. Feel free to use tags e.g. %s, it’s much better than splitting the sentences. A proper translation tool will make sure that translators won’t mess them up.
3. Keep in mind that expressing the same thing in other languages can take up to 30% more space in the user interface compared to English (e.g. German). On the other hand, some languages might be “short”, but demand more height for the characters to look good and be readable (e.g. Chinese).

Get Everybody Together

So how should you actually implement the localization process for your product? It is very important that the translators are a part of your development team. Strings can be translated in many different ways and the translators need context information to produce good and correct translations. Context is almost as important information as the text itself. That’s why the translators need to know your product, inside out like every other team member. Typically you can differentiate good translators from bad ones by the questions they’re asking, the good ones ask questions about the context and the product.

The key question of the localization process: Will you update this app, website, user manual and/or other related documents after the first version? 

If the answer is yes, you need a localization platform where you can work with your translators. A localization platform is like a version control for your localization files. It knows which parts of the app are translated and can give you the exact status of the translation. A good platform also enables just-in-time (JIT) translations, so your app or document can be instantly translated after modification. The localization platform also helps you to communicate with the translator, you can be sure that same translator is always translating the updates and is a part of your development team. Key considerations when planning the long-term localization approach for your app, document or website:

1. You want to avoid feeling the localization pain when you have to make the change, right? Make it easy to do changes from the start.
2. Get to know your translators so that you can trust them. It’s the only way to be sure that you’re getting the right stuff.
3. Enable communication between translators and rest of the team. Kill the silos!
4. Make sure that translators are using your app!  They need to be a part of your team.

Translation – It’s Actually Really Affordable

Thanks to an industry that has been pushing prices down in fierce competition, you can get quality translations for really reasonable prices. You can find several translation sites and companies that offer translation in bulk. However, spend some time to find your own translators. They’re as important as your other team members. There are several sites, where you can find freelancers, for example and Elance. There’s also that is targeted specifically at translators. We’re also working on our own marketplace that will allow you to find and hire professional translators directly to your Get Localization project.

Remember, localization is not just about translation. Your translators can give valuable feedback on how your app works in their local market. So make sure to collaborate with them!

You can learn more about our localization platform Get Localization at

Get Localization is a social platform for creating apps that really feel local for every user.

And here, those promised links:

The Importance of Localization in App Stores

Localization is the Key to Be Part of China’s 5.5 Billion App Downloads in 2012, Says ABI Research

Localization: the next big to-do for mobile app developers?