App Localization: The Complete Guide

Jan 18, 2023 | Language, Localisation

In 2021, about 230 billion mobile apps were downloaded to connected devices. Whether you are looking for an app for online food delivery, online banking, gaming, shopping, and more, you are sure to find one these days. For app developers, the global opportunity is huge but also competitive.

To attract investors and create a profitable digital venture, scaling your app globally is likely part of your roadmap and development process. But language considerations play a crucial part in reaching and engaging with international audiences. You want to ensure that nothing is ‘lost in translation’ and that the quality of the User Experience (UX) is maintained no matter the target language or geographical location of the audience. That’s where app localization comes in.

What is App Localization?

App localization is the practice of adapting each element of the content to fit into the linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements of your target markets. Mobile app localization goes beyond the literal translation of the text. It also impacts the app’s user interface, app functionality, in-app content, app store descriptions, graphics, etc.

fitness app on a phone, headphones and trainers The idea is to ensure that the app functionality meets the guidelines for the specific culture or location you are targeting. Through localization, an app developer can target the global market for the reach of the development during the app launch.

As you will discover later on, app localization involves more than just providing the correct translation of the content into the native language of the target market.

Why is App Localization Important?

While English is considered a universal language and therefore the obvious initial language to use during the development process of mobile apps, it can significantly limit your app’s ability to perform for the global market because research shows that people prefer to access information in their native tongue.

Adapting your product to different languages offers considerable opportunity for expanded reach and revenue streams. If you want your iOS or Android apps to excel in the global market, whether in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, localizing mobile apps should be made a top priority.

Many users prefer using an app that is in their preferred language, which is their native language. But as mentioned above, it’s not just the language that is involved in the localization efforts for mobile apps. The app developer must also take into account the cultural context, the ability to support multiple languages, and other similar factors during the mobile app localization process.

Benefits of App Localization

Consider these important benefits before you undergo localization for smartphone apps:

1. It enables your apps to tap into new markets.

App localization is the key that allows you to penetrate the global and foreign markets. Instead of being limited to a local market by using a local language, or lingua franca (English), you can attract mobile app users from all over the world through mobile app localization.

health app on a phone 2. It brings higher app engagement among users.

Users are most likely to interact with apps that are developed in their native language. Therefore, creating content that is localized can increase user engagement and satisfaction, as users are more likely to continue using an app that they understand and feel comfortable with. Localization can also make an app more appealing to users in different regions, which can lead to increased downloads and the possibility of in-app conversions.

3. It boosts your mobile app visibility and download rate.

Localizing apps is said to improve the number of downloads on your app on a daily basis. Increasing app downloads is the main goal for app developers as it is a measure of the app’s ability to penetrate new and foreign markets.

For example, Google Play or the Apple App Store showcase the top downloads for a given period. If your app shows up on that list, it can help you reach a wider audience.

4. It helps to improve sales.

Whether you achieve your ROI through in-app conversions or the purchase of your app, localizing mobile apps will help you achieve that goal. Developing content with the app users in mind, such as taking note of the cultural differences and norms and using a local language, can significantly improve your sales performance.

Why would a user be interested in buying an app that they can’t use because it is written in a language they’re unfamiliar with?

Statistics About App Localization

These are important statistics that support the benefits of mobile app localization.

What’s the Difference Between App Localization and Internationalization?

App internationalization and localization are two different things. Therefore, a crucial part of understanding the value of mobile app localization is to distinguish the difference between the two concepts.

food delivery app on a phone App localization refers to using and implementing cultural references and preferences in developing mobile app content. On the other hand, internationalization is when app developers design and develop digital products that enable regional language and other adaptations.

Many companies employ the internationalization approach in developing digital products to make it easier to penetrate new markets on a global scale. It allows them to maintain product integrity and a similar user experience even when the product is adapted to specific regions or markets.

For example, an e-commerce store provides dropdown menus that enable specific sellers on that platform to “localize” their products or services, depending on where their customers are from. In this case, customers can use the dropdown menu on the online storefront to choose a currency that would apply to their specific location when checking out their selected products.

Mobile app localization works a bit differently. Localization is not just limited to language or providing other currency options (such as in the example discussed above). It incorporates cultural norms and preferences. The goal of localization is to make the product and its features relatable and relevant within their cultural and geographical context.

When developing an app, you must also consider the correct file formats in the localization process. For example, some parts of the world employ right-to-left languages. You must consider these nuances when localizing an app.

Things to Consider Before Localizing an App

If you want to create localized apps, you must take note of a few important considerations. Here are some of those factors to consider to improve your localization efforts.


Language is the primary factor to consider when developing localized apps. Focus on achieving the highest accuracy in the translation of the app to its target language, especially when dealing with various languages.

person holding a phone with health app User Interface

The interface of the mobile app must be adapted to suit your target audience and market. For example, dates and file formatting could differ from region to region.

Legal Requirements

All mobile apps are governed by existing legal compliance standards. Some countries have stricter legal requirements than others. It’s important to be aware of these requirements to ensure compliance.

Cultural Norms

You must identify the cultural norms within the particular region you are targeting, or various regions, to help expand your app’s reach. It is true when you are targeting non-English speaking countries. You must be aware of any nuances when you localize your app to avoid translation errors.

Biggest Challenges in App Localization

App localisation is a complex process that requires the input of a specialist. Let’s look at some common barriers and challenges that app developers have to overcome in order to provide their customers with a user-friendly app.

1. Honouring Cultural Context

Unless you are part of a particular culture, one of the most challenging aspects when you localize your app is to understand and consider cultural references. There is a possibility that you could offend your audience if you misuse certain words, for example, or fail to adapt content to take into consideration religious or cultural beliefs.

The language differences are hard to navigate in localizing apps. The cultural differences add more to its complexity and extend beyond language to visual elements such as imagery and colour usage.

2. Making Space for Multiple Languages

Space here is figurative and literal. Rapid globalization means that you can develop apps to target markets across different parts of the world. The problem with that is that you can only store a limited amount of languages in your app. Some of these languages have limitations when you display them on the app screen.

person playing a game on a phone For example, German, French, and Spanish texts expand in size once they are displayed on-screen. Some texts in other languages, like Korean, shrink. It’s important to account for these spatial changes to provide the best user experience possible with your app.

3. Formatting Differences for Mobile Apps

The method of displaying basic information, such as dates, can be different in various parts of the world. Therefore, formatting is one of the crucial aspects to address when you localize an app for various markets.

Another example of formatting issues includes measurements. In the US, they use a different measurement system from the rest of the world’s metric system.

When developing apps, you must think about who your target market is and how you can include formatting options to cater to their unique needs.

Mobile App Localization Process

Take note of the process and localization tips for your own app. These tips ensure that you abide by the best practices of mobile app localization so you can get the best results possible.

Step 1: Think About App Localization During the Development Phase

If you want to improve the localization of mobile apps, you need to think about it during the early development stage, not after. You must conduct market research to come up with a solid app localization strategy. The information you obtain through research will inform your strategy moving forward, as well as your app development process.

The most effective localization process is the one which ensures that the users have a localized experience through every point of contact with the brand – from marketing to after-sales. Research allows you to not only identify the most profitable languages and the global audience to target, but also helps you understand your customers on a deeper level.

Furthermore, market research allows you to know how you can develop the right app that will engage your target customers. This information is valuable to help understand the need for localisation and translation.

laptop screen showing online banking and phone with an app Step 2: Identify the Best Method for App Localization

The next step is where you get down to the actual localization process. The most effective way to localize mobile apps is to employ a professional translation agency. While translation is not the only way you can localize an app, it is the most pivotal point because the textual content of the app is how the users will interact with it. Therefore, you must choose the best providers of app translation to facilitate the translation process of your in-app content.

Avoid using automated tools like Google Translate or app translation software. While these are efficient for basic translation, you cannot rely on them when localizing your mobile apps as they can be prone to translation issues. Professional translation services are the most reliable choice over other translation and localization methods, especially when you want to account for the cultural differences of the app text.

Step 3: Think Beyond Translation

Professional translation is beneficial for localizing the app text. However, you must think beyond the translation of written content. You have to localize the app in its entirety, which means you should consider the fonts, color, images and other elements of the app.

It also involves an understanding of the particular region or market you want to target. Certain symbols are acceptable in some regions but can be offensive in others. Make sure you learn about these cultural differences to localize your app accordingly. The worst thing that could happen is that you alienate other cultures in the process of app localization.

You should employ app localization testing to assess if your current methods are delivering efficient results. Based on the testing results and data, you can make adjustments accordingly.

3 Great Examples of App Localization

To understand the benefits of mobile app localization, here are some of the best examples you can learn from.


AirBnB is one of the best examples of successful app localization. The home-sharing platform and app not only translate their content into different languages. They also give priority to a localized user experience by understanding cultural preferences, needs, and norms.

The secret to the success of AirBnB’s localization strategy is to get a deep understanding of the local markets they are serving.


Pacer is a Health & Fitness app that features step counts, customised workout plans and more. As Pacer noticed that 3.57% of global daily downloads of mobile Health apps came from Russia, they saw an opportunity to enter this market.

Pacer was looking to launch the app in the Russian market at a low cost, as the company was only starting to develop. The team hired a student to translate and localize its app. However, they received so much negative feedback on the low-quality translations that they decided to work with professional translators instead.

This was a smart move, as Pacer went from 102nd position to 7th in the Health & Fitness apps category while seeing its daily downloads increase significantly.


Ixigo is an Indian travel app that gathers and compares up-to-date travel information, prices, and availability for various modes of transportation including flights, trains and buses.

In 2018 the app was available in 7 Indian languages including English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil and Kannada. This feature allows the app to reach over 95% of the digital users in India, making it the only Indian app in the top 10 of the world’s most downloaded travel apps on Google Play store in 2022.


There are currently billions of smartphone users worldwide. Expect those numbers to rise exponentially over the years. The rise in mobile phone users is also in direct proportion to the rise of mobile apps. For app developers and companies, localization helps to connect with your target users.

Woman in a train looking at her phone and smiling Serving your clients in their preferred language adds significant value to your mobile app, especially from the customer experience perspective. As contradictory as it might seem, localizing is the best way to go global. If you’re ready to launch your mobile app and expand your app’s reach, make sure to start with professional translation services to allow for efficient localization.

At MLC, we provide localization and translation services to convert native applications into languages that your audience can easily understand. Our experience and expertise allow you to provide your customers with a user-friendly app that enhances engagement and satisfaction. Get in touch today to arrange a quote.

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