Did You Know? App Localization May Only Take You 20 Minutes

Done is better than perfect.” – Mark Zuckerburg

Breaking news – not everyone speaks English.
In fact, Apple’s iPhone release into the Chinese market resulted in a cute little bump in sales to the tune of $94 billion dollars in profit. When you build your app, you may want to make sure that Victor in Russia can read what’s going on just as easily as Mary in Maryland. Makes sense, eh? (Canadian French is important, too).
Localization can be described as the process of “internationalizing” an app, or including multiple versions that each serve up a specific language. There is a technical process for localization on the development level.
For those of you who care, it deals with creating Localization Targets (similar to project targets) in Xcode and is not a small operation. This will render the text in your app in the appropriate language based on the configuration of the device’s language settings.
NOTE: you also have to provide new images if you have any language on those images. Ugh. Read the entire story here (if you’re interested).
The best languages to localize an app for are (other than English):

  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Chinese (simplified)
  • Chinese (traditional)
  • Korean

This is based on number of devices in each market and a few other factors. This is also based on doing my own research with developers and browsing through forums with people who’ve done this.
Each app will have it’s own best markets – for example, Alpha Combat kills it in Japan and France, Coconut Craze does well in China. So – do your own research and plan accordingly.
I wanted to appeal to these markets but I definitely did not want to create 10 versions of the entire game.
Apple has a solution – the ability to create the translated version of your description, keywords, and name (and screen shots if you want) for each language/store without needing an entire development project.

 90% Success Takes 10% of the Time

This is my inner Tim Ferriss coming out, looking at each and every project in business with the lens of “how do I leverage, automate, and scale this?”
My problem was simple – translate the description, keywords, and name of three iPhone apps and submit an update.
My other problem was pretty simple as well – I speak English. A little Spanish. Fluent in Emoticon. That’s it.
I’ve been approached by countless companies asking me if I wanted some uber genius linguist to custom translate all my text, ensuring impeccable grammar and syntax in Brazilian Portuguese (and every other language under the sun).
Unfortunately, that would run a few grand for everything that I wanted and it would take about 2 weeks. Plus, how do I know they did a good job?! Not interested.
What I am interested in, however, is software that has a proven track record of success. What up Google Translate.

Copy Paste, 复制,粘贴, Copiar pegar

What’s a man to do? I literally took my descriptions and copied them in and voilá – translated.
Now I was very much skeptical about this process until I did a bit of quality assurance – I translated it to Spanish and sent it to a buddy who is fluent, and the same with the Japanese, asking them to compare the translated to the original.
They both came back saying “It’s not perfect, but it’s surprisingly good.”
Each app now has 10 languages translated. Total time per app: 20 minutes.

Does It Work? We’ll See.

The updates release in the next day or two and I’ll be able to match back in those countries doing a week over week analysis, controlling for other factors. It should be interesting.
If you’ve had any experience with app localization, both on the development side or on the iTunes Connect side, let me know. I’d love to hear your results.
Localization is just one of the app marketing strategies that you have to understand. To learn about the others, download my free ebook.
Catch you later,


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