This is how not to localise your mobile applications

If you think that products developed for mobile devices are easier to localise than complex desktop applications, you might be wrong. Small screen resolution or limited space on the user interface are just a few examples on the long list of potential challenges. Many things can go wrong and the right approach is sometimes all you need to succeed. However, sometimes knowing how not to localise your mobile applications is even more valuable.

So here are three mistakes to avoid that surprisingly many app publishers make:

1. Localising only the text strings

If you want to ready your application for a new market, you can’t simply translate the text strings displayed on the screen. This won’t keep your users on the edge of their seat. Localisation goes far beyond the language, so you’ll need to look into all elements of the user interface, including menus items, buttons, images or icons. You might need to modify, replace, resize or relocate some app components to meet the expectations and needs of your users.

not localised sliders from the CM Security           English sliders in the Polish version.



2. Leaving sliders in the original version

Even if all elements of your application are localised and translated, your product may still confuse your users. One reason for this could be your beautiful sliders, often displayed right after opening the application. The images on the sliders look great, the text is creative too, but… it’s only in English. Sure, many users will figure out that they’re supposed to swipe the screens to get to the main menu, but what’s the point then in placing the sliders in your localised version in the first place? Chances are that your message won’t be understood at all, so you’d be better off deleting your amazing animation if it’s not fully localised.


3. Skipping the testing phase

To make sure you’re on the right track you’ll need to run internationalisation test first. This will help you ensure that your application is ready for the global market and avoid the need to change the code at a later phase. But there’s more to it. Once the localisation phase is completed, it’s time to carry out the localisation tests. This is how you can check if the app is fully functional in every language version, if no issues were introduced during translation and localisation and whether user interface meets the local requirements.

 If you make sure NOT to make any of these localisation mistakes, you’ll be already ahead of most of your competitors.


What do you think are other common mistakes in mobile app localisation?


Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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