Ask Applingua: How Difficult is it to Support Localizations?

If you’re an app developer, you may be reluctant to localize your app and hey, we get it.

Maybe you’ve heard that localising your app will open a can of worms, or maybe you’re concerned about the possible extra work involved.

“Will it take long to adapt my UI to make localizations possible? What about future updates? And how will I even support non-native users?”

They are all legitimate concerns. But fear not! We’re here to clear up a few considerations that will hopefully show you app localization isn’t all one big ball-ache after all…

“How Difficult is it to Support Localizations?”

Use Auto Layout to make UI adjustments easy

There was a time, not so long ago, when XIB based projects required users to duplicate many different XIBs, inject localizations and then refactor to make sure everything fits. Hello, faff.

Thankfully, things are pretty different today. If you’re starting a new app and developing in Xcode 5 or later, default settings will enable both Autolayout and Base Localization support. Xcode automatically generates .strings files from your XIBs and organises them neatly into correct project folders. You just need to send you strings to a translator (us, for example! 😉 ) and return them to the same position when they’re done. Much simpler.

Autolayout does the fiddly work. Just make sure your constraints are set up in your master language (something you’re probably doing anyway) and the foreign languages will fit into place. Be sure to tell your translators to stick as closely to the English character length as possible (±20%) and this shouldn’t turn into a time consuming process.

If you’ve got any pre-autolayout apps, it’s probably worth taking the time to upgrade the project files and add constraints. Not only will this save a lot of time in future, it may even improve the way your master language layout works. Win win! If you’re in a hurry, it’s still possible (of course) to translate XIBs <shameless plug> (just send them our way!) </shameless plug>

Starting with fewer languages reduces headaches

We’re not going to lie: the more languages you add, the more you’ll have to update in the future – so limit your languages. You’ll never hear us say “the more, the better!”, languages are tricky beasts and what works for one app won’t necessarily work for yours.

Remember, supporting more languages means longer wait times to get updated translations back, which could potentially delay your app’s submission to the store. Check your current download stats before deciding and choose a healthy maximum of around 10. Start slow, and grow! 🙂

You should never be charged excessively for updates too. Applingua runs a ‘diff’ (a comparison of two files), sees what’s new and just charges for the new words. We’ll also see if you’ve changed any existing strings and flag them for retranslation. With a strong localization partner (*cough* pick us, pick us *cough*), you really don’t have to think about it: just send your updated master strings files, and we’ll do the rest. So that’s nice.

It is possible to offer multi-lingual customer support

This is clearly a concern for anyone who likes to provide quality support to their end users. While it’s clearly not always possible (unless you’re a polyglot!) to offer customer support in multiple languages, steps can be taken to make end users happier.

If your app is support heavy, get your FAQs translated. Perhaps an even more extensive list than your normal English FAQs.

We can also provide you with a translated standard response email free of charge (you see, we told you we were nice), apologising that you are unable to offer support in other languages and linking to your FAQs.

We’re happy to report however that most of our clients say support is far less of an issue than they had previously imagined. Phew!

Your concern, our solution

So there you have it! Hopefully that’s cleared up how to support localizations. If you have any other concerns, please feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to put your mind at rest. If you want to thank us (and gosh, why wouldn’t you, we’re awesome) then you can just send us some doughnuts in the post. Ta 😉

This is the first in our new series “Ask Applingua” – if you have a question about localization then fire it over or tweet us and we’ll do our best to answer it!

Robert Lo Bue

Rob is CEO of Applingua. With over a decade's experience, he is at the forefront of tech localization.