Mobile App Localization: How Not to Get Lost in Translation?

February 9th, 2017

Mobile // Natalie

Mobile App Localization

Our world is becoming more and more interconnected every day and technologies have to accommodate the requirements. One of those requirements is to be understandable. While a lot depends on UI/UX design, relevant language is another important point for mobile app localization.

Don't just think about language. Consider the cultural context of the mobile app market where you want to go. There are many instances when companies have to overhaul their marketing efforts. For example, Japanese IKEA has adapted their entire website design for the local preferences (light on copy, heavy on graphics). Same applies to mobile app designs. 

David Janner, an app developer, once did an app localization experiment. Before the app he was testing was localized, 76% of traffic was coming from English-speaking users. Once he translated the keywords, the sales went up 767% (and English-speaking segment turned out to be only 10% of the total interested mass of users.)

However, not everything is so easy. Besides difficulties with adapting certain words for various languages, we have asked our iOS and Android mobile developers what they thought were the worst pain points in mobile app localization.

For all platforms:

There are times when the word (or a phrase) in another language is much longer than the original text (and in the original design, as follows). Therefore, one of the main problems with localization is figuring out what exactly to write so that it fits into the allotted frame without breaking the UI/UX.

  • Some of the text might overlap the elements
  • Line wrapping might be hard
  • Alphabetical sorting might get all tangled up
  • Remember to translate the screenshots for your app description in the app stores. Some users react to text, some users react to pictures. You would want to attract both.


  • Whether you are translating an app for iPad or iPhone, there are problems with translating xib / storyboard.
  • When you add new elements that require translation, it is necessary to update the entire file. However, this leads to the loss of previous data.


  • Android developers have to deal with pain points when localizing mobile apps for Arabic languages. Right-to-left text fields gravity should be handled in screen layouts, which adds another layer of work.
  • All the files that need to be localized should be stored in external files (instead of hard coding that), so that it is much easier to translate. 

Our mobile developers know how to solve all these challenges

Author: Natalie

Natalie is a Project Manager who is a great team leader for her mobile development team. She is an expert when it comes to iOS and Android development and to building apps that win markets.

Tags Native Marketing Cross-Platform Development Hacks

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