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Localising your app? Some things to keep in your mind

What works in one market will fail miserably in others. Not only is this true for physical consumer products – it’s also true with regard to mobile apps. Hence the dramatic uptick in localization testing over the last decade.

Of course, localization testing often highlights issues after the fact, once the app has already been developed, and in some cases, launched. So how can you ensure that your app’s international success equals (or exceeds) its domestic success before launch?

Answers can be found by taking a closer look at a recent study by mobile app research form Distimo, which focused on the Asian apps economy. Specifically, why Asian developers have had a difficult time adapting their apps to a western audience. Below are a few lessons for all app developers, marketers and brand leaders looking to expand their app presence.

Start to develop for an international audience, then tailor to local

“Internationalization” in software development is the practice of designing software for the broadest possible audience, supported by multiple languages.

This software can then be tailored through “localization” to add local-specific components without engineering changes. The combination of these two practices is often called “globalization.”

Globalized software is customized so that it can appeal to a local market, but uses computer encoded text that can be used world-wide. Components of software that can be easily manipulated through localization include images and colors, currencies, weights and measures, government assigned numbers, addresses and postal codes.

Simplify your UI

From the report, we found that many Asian developers that create apps for Asian users focus more on backend solutions than frontend usability. Therefore, these tend to frustrate and confuse most Western users.

Eliminating moving text, simplifying graphics, and sticking with one color scheme would appeal much more to a global market. Busy interfaces also tend to hinder navigation and slow loading time. Minimalistic design has proven to be effective for all audiences, not just those in a particular market, so as you begin design the UI and workflows, try to include only the elements that are absolutely necessary – and avoid the clutter.

Understand global sensitivities

Purnima Kochikar, vice president of Forum Nokia and Nokia’s developer communities told ZDNet Asia in an interview that Nokia might set up “usability labs” in Asian countries to understand global sensitivities.

These labs would mainly test for UI design, navigation principles, and usability. It is their hope that these labs will generate a better understanding of global expectations. If you cannot afford to build a usability lab of your for these purposes, be reminded that there are other options.

Partner with localized experts

No matter how well you think you know a particular market, there are guaranteed to be nuances that go overlooked. For that reason, many brands have found it useful to partner with those who are firmly established in a particular region. Whether it’s design, development or (and especially) testing, leveraging localized expertise will always increase your odds for success.