3 Reasons to Localize an App, Game or Website

As you know, the words localization and translation are often used interchangeably. Perhaps they shouldn’t be, but that’s just the way it goes. Especially in the tech world.

But in the linguistics world, localization isn’t just translation. Far from it, in fact. Localization is much more than just another translation job. For us, localization is about making a product, such as an app, a website or a game, accessible to a local market not only in terms of language but also culture and appropriateness.

We realise this is often a considerable ask for companies and it isn’t a decision they take lightly. But localization is often worth it and not just in monetary terms.graph-163549

Increased Sales

This is probably best explained with a specific example. Let’s just use an app for argument’s sake. A huge proportion of apps are made in English. Many app developers work through the medium of English, firstly because the majority of development tools and documentation are created in English but mainly because the USA still continues to be the biggest consumer of apps.

But even though countries like the USA take up a huge slice of the app pie, they don’t account for all of it. Not even half. Of the 7 billion people in the world, not even a seventh speak English.

So, by localizing your app, website or game, you’re literally opening it up to a whole new world of people who previously couldn’t access it. The potential for market share and growth increases significantly.

And don’t just take my word for it. The statistics speak for themselves – check out this post which looks at how localizing an app leads up to 10 times more downloads.

Customer Experience

You probably know what it’s like to navigate a website in a foreign language. Think about those hotel websites you’ve been to when searching for a holiday. You manage to work your way through the Spanish, but it isn’t plain sailing. In fact, I bet you’ve even chickened out a few times out of fear of clicking the wrong button or not being sure what you’re agreeing to. Managing your way through a website or a document in a foreign language isn’t easy, unless you know the language to a very high standard.

What about the time you were at the company offices in Shangai and you were working on an important presentation on one of the computers there. Typing away in English and then a notification pops up asking you something in Chinese. You hope for the best, press the button, and lose all your work. How frustrating!

Having your product or service available not only in a different language but also in a way that makes it fit the local culture shows you care about your customers. It reassures them that you want them to have the best experience they can when using your service.

Don’t believe me? Let’s imagine you’re an American in London on business. You have to change your return flight and you use the British Airways app to do this. For someone from Britain, the date in the app should automatically appear in the order of Day-Month-Year, but for an American they’re used to the Month-Day-Year order. Are you aware of that as you change the flight? Have you just changed the flight to return on the 3/2 and not on the 2/3 as you originally wanted? That’s why localization is more than just translation – it’s knowing and understanding local culture and customs.

Understanding the local culture and customs is important, especially from the point of view of customer experience.

Avoid the Awkward Moments

I’m sure you’ve heard those stories of a company releasing its product in a foreign market, only later to discover its name translates as a rude word. Its advertising campaign tells consumers do something they really shouldn’t do in public. The TV ad slips in what sounds like a swear word every now and then.

OK, so these stories might be a little exaggerated – who doesn’t like a bit of drama in a story – but there is a moral to be learnt. What might be completely acceptable in your own culture might not be at all acceptable in another culture.

Let’s take a simple example: the colour white. It represents brightness, cleanliness  and neutrality in western cultures. In many cultures around the world it’s received in a similar way. Except in China, which is a growing international market for products and services, where the colour white is associated with death and is used at funerals. Now that is a potentially awkward risk you’re just best off avoiding all together by having your product professionally localized.


Anthony Ash

A lover of language, Anthony speaks several and is particularly interested in historical linguistics. With an MA in Linguistics and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, he is our Chief Language Expert and Director of Training.

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