How to localize Mobile Apps on a tight Budget

· 5 min read

The number of languages to address the majority of the global internet population increases steadily. To reach 90% of the world’s internet population you need to support

  • 13 languages in 2001,
  • 21 languages in 2013,
  • 25 languages in 2015, and
  • 48 languages by 2020.

Businesses have realized the necessity and importance of localization. However, startups are still inhibited by high localization costs. That’s why I came up with this 5 money-saving localization tips for startups to localize their mobile apps on a tight budget.


#1 Plan as much and detailed as you can

As every project your localization project starts with a planning process. A clear plan helps you to achieve your internationalization goals. Identify the scope of your localization process to determine your localization budget.

Calculate the number of words in your mobile application (source language) and multiply it with the number of languages you plan to translate (target languages). Typically the number of words in your source language will be somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Translation management tools like LingoHub keep localization costs low because they don’t include placeholders and tags in word count calculation.

Your localization budget will depend a lot on the kind of translations. Professional translators will work out high-quality translations for your texts but be quite expensive too. Startups may opt for basic translations usually carried out by junior translators or recent graduates. If you do so, be aware of the main differences:

Professional Translations Basic Translations
Translator's skills senior translator junior translator
Expected quality high low
Costs per word $0.14 to $0.25 $0.06 to $0.10
Recommended for app or web UI localization, reports, presentations, legal and technical documents product descriptions, marketing messages, user-generated content, customer service e-mails

#2 Think of Localization early

To prepare your mobile app for localization it’s necessary to internationalize it. Internationalization describes the process of extracting texts and placing them in so called resource files. These files are then used for localization. Translations are stored in separated files where the language code (ISO code) is included in the file name.

Including internationalization from the very beginning in app development will avoid additional work afterwards. Accelerate the entire process and avoid additional work alongside your localization process.

Check out our comprehensive tutorials for Apple iOS, Android and Windows i18n! [/alert]

#3 Find high-potential Markets/Languages

You have great tools at your fingertips which provide you with comprehensive data. Use all accessible data to determine where your customer come from and track user behavior. Combining data from various different sources will help you to analyze market potential. Identify high-potential markets and exclude those that are too difficult to penetrate (due to legal restrictions and high competition).

Tools like the Google Global Market Finder, Keyword Planner and Google Trends are a great assistance to access market data and identify trends in different regions. Be aware that Google is not the preferred search engine in any country (especially in the Eastern world). Other tools might be useful to determine market data in other regions.


#4 Test new Languages and Markets

If you’re not sure which countries best to target or where to start with localization there’s a pretty easy and cost-efficient way to test. Just localize your mobile application’s name (the title), description and metadata for a specific language or country.

It’s definitely less expensive and less effort than translating your entire mobile ap. Descriptions usually make up between 300 and 400 words, so translations for each language will result in costs of approximately $ 50 to $ 80. The number of downloads, ratings and other key metrics will help you to determine whether you shall opt for this language/country or not.

#5 Identify Translation Tools

Translation management tools like LingoHub come along with powerful translation tools to save you time and costs.

  • Translation Memory A Translation Memory is a database of previously translated texts. It provides suggestions for current translations based on similarity with past approved translations. A Translation Memory is ideal for startups that use similar words and phrases throughout their applications. It increases linguistic consistency and ensures that approved translation are reused to reduce per-word costs.
  • Machine Translation suggests an initial phrase based on computer algorithms. It’s a great starting point for translators to work out high-quality translations with maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Translation costs are low because translators don’t have to start from scratch.
  • Prefilling automates lots of translation work. It automatically copies matching translations from Translation Memory or Machine Translation to fill up empty texts in your current project. Prefilling relieves project managers and product owners to reduce project management costs.

Sum Up

Localization is no one-time job, it’s more an investment you’ll get return on in the future. Localization grows alongside business growth and helps you to sell your product in all parts of the world. With the right tools and support localization will no longer be a hurdle for startups. Be sure to sign up for your free LingoHub trial and try it out for yourself!

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