Like most great ideas, localization is actually quite simple—but with a lot of tricky details. When you take on a new localization project, there are a few questions you’re going to have to answer. And it’s best to answer them before you get started.
After all, localization isn’t one-size-fits-all. For some projects, it might make sense to localize everything; for others, it might make sense to localize only part, or to do it gradually. You’re going to have to figure out the right scope for your product, and your company. Take the time to scope your project well, and you’ll be guaranteed to end up with the best outcome in the most efficient amount of time.
So, how do you do it? In this blog post, we’ll take you through the four big questions you should ask yourself when you’re determining the scope of your project—and we’ll throw in some bonus tips as well!
1. How much content do I need to localize?
Maybe you want to go into a few markets at full power, and you decide to localize everything you have. Or maybe you want to test a few markets first, before you commit fully. In the latter case, it’s better to scale up your project, step by step. Here’s the order that we’d recommend:
- Test the market potential. Just localize your app store listing, and see if there is any traction.
- If you find potential in particular markets, go for minimum viable localization—localize the app content and necessary user manuals.
- Strong local reception? Great. Commit to complete localization, including your landing pages, marketing materials, and social media content.
2. What types of content do I need to localize?
Your app contains a lot of different elements: text, pictures, special features, and so on. There are some elements that have to be localized, to make the project worthwhile. But, there are other elements that could go either way—it’d be great if you localize them, but maybe it’s not necessary. When scoping your localization project, you’ll need to determine the depth of your localization.
You may decide that you only want to translate the content. However, you could go deeper and also localize your multimedia material: switch to culturally-appropriate graphics, fix voiceovers, have a different cartoon drawn, etc. At the deepest level of localization, you would develop new, unique features, or look for smart integration opportunities (e.g. integrating with WeChat, to better reach a Chinese market).
Just remember: each level of localization requires a different set of talents, from translators and copywriters for new content, to designers for new graphics, to developers for new codes.
3. How long will the translation take?
We’ve found that a professional translator can translate up to 2,000 words per day. So, if you divide your total word count by 2,000, you’ll have a sense of the minimum number of days necessary to complete your translation project. That number of days will increase from there depending on the number of QA measures taken, the desired translation quality, and the difficulty of the source content.
Tip: Reserve time for translator’s inquiries
People often think of translation as a solo project: one person, two languages, and lots of hours. But to get the highest-quality translation, you’re going to need to be involved too. Translators often need clarification on certain parts of the source text. Are you using “kill” as a noun or a verb? Is this text directed at a male user or a female user?
To smooth out the process, be ready for these questions. Assign a team member to feed your translator information and handle any problems. And be sure to factor in the time necessary to create a translation glossary, a style guide and other important source materials.
4. How much will the project cost?
There are two main costs in a localization project: translation and engineering. The translation cost will be the bulk of the budget, and it’s usually determined on a per-word basis. (For example, we usually recommend 10-20 cents per word.) If you use extra QA measures, your cost can end up being a bit higher.
You should also factor in an engineering cost. Enabling your app for localization takes some work: you’ll need to extract the app’s content from the code and store this content in separate resource files, in a process we call “internationalization.”
Tip: Internationalize early, and save in the long run
When you’re launching your app, it’s tempting to skip internationalization, so you can ship codes faster. But that’s a big mistake. The content of your app will only accumulate over time—meaning the later you start internationalization, the more backlog you’ll have to work through when you realize you should have done it all along.
We recommend internationalizing your app as early as possible—and definitely before localization. Trust us.
Once you’ve determined your scope, your localization project—whatever you’ve chosen—will follow a basic order. Whether you’re localizing just the written content, or going for the full shebang, here are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Internationalize your code.
- Prepare QA materials, including translation glossary and style guide.
- Arrange translation (and/or multimedia localization).
- Review content, and oversee localization testing.
- Implement localization and monitor the results.
So, you’re ready to localize, right? But wait—there’s still a lot more you need to figure out. How should you choose your markets? What’s all this fuss about a translation glossary and quality assessment materials? How can you be sure you have the right person doing your localization testing?
We have the answers. For a comprehensive guide to building an app localization project from scratch, download our eBook, “The Essential Guide to App Localization.” It takes you through every step of the process, from a detailed explanation of the internationalization process, to tips for choosing the best translation method, to advice on localization testing. Grab the eBook right here.
Written by Patrick Yip
Patrick Yip is the former Head of Marketing at OneSky. Heavily attracted to any brilliant growth strategy, well-crafted content and the idea of making the Internet globally accessible.