Best Practices

Pro Tips for Multilingual Mobile App Development and Updates

The success of your multilingual mobile app development is going to depend on the elegance of your code. If it’s sloppily written or doesn’t follow best practices.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min

The success of your multilingual mobile app development is going to depend on the elegance of your code. If it’s sloppily written or doesn’t follow best practices, you’re going to spend a lot of time parsing and resolving inconsistencies.

Garbage in, garbage out is a fundamental of coding, and nowhere is it more evident than when you’re trying to translate your app into multiple languages.Unfortunately, very few developers create their apps with globalization in mind. Instead, they want to succeed in one market and worry about others later. While this isn’t an insurmountable blunder, it does mean you’re going to face some additional challenges for a multi-market rollout.

Tips for Multilingual Mobile App Development

If you’ve scoped out an opportunity in a new market, you may be eager to rush the localized rollout before someone else takes advantage of it. However, the quality will always matter more to users than speed. By taking some extra time with your localization strategy, you can ensure your app is the one that comes out on top. Here are some tips for making that happen:

Audit your code

The elegance of code equals elegance in app localization. However, with the size of development teams these days, it’s not unusual to have many hands in the system, all with different ways of working. These disparate development protocols can lead to inconsistencies and bigger problems later on. To avoid this path, review your code for

  • Consistent variable treatment
  • Standardized tagging
  • Comments and protocols for leaving tags
  • Ease of string interpretation
  • Overall writing standards

A careful review of your existing code will give you time to clean it up before the localization process. This is something you can do in-house, or you can work with a language service provider that offers this as standard practice.

Allow the localization expert to use the app

Giving the localization expert access to the app is necessary to provide them with context for translation. This strategy cultivates usage-based terminology management, as opposed to statistical or linguistic management. Consider the interpretation of something simple such as the word “home” on a transportation platform like Uber’s. “Home” could refer to the end user’s residence, or it could refer to the app’s home screen. In this case, the localization expert can map the term based on its usage, rather than simple statistical relevance. This kind of attention ensures that the eventual translations of both words make sense in the context given.

Understand your code storage and transmission

Whether you’re storing code in Github or another repository, you need a connector in place that allows for a seamless transition from translator to website. This includes allowing for potential issues related to localized content. Think of France and its different use of apostrophes. When you run machine translation in French to English or vice versa, those apostrophes will break the code. You need to anticipate these issues and work them out at a connection level. Otherwise, you’ll be fixing the same problems over and over again.

Provide clear feedback channels

Feedback channels are for both internal and external users. You want your beta testers and users to be able to share information, and you need to be able to check content before they even see it. You’re looking at feedback in two forms:

  1. Users: Consider the user interface and the experience (UI/UX). How do you engage your user in a way that allows them to understand that the app is open to change based on responses? Surveys, public feedback forums, automated crash reports? All these are options that will enable you to pivot and make your app better in a given market. Feedback also includes establishing permissions to collect data in line with the requirements of a given country.
  2. Quality Assurance: The more often you QA, the more output you’ll have to manage. It’s a delicate balancing act between getting the information you need and minimizing the complexity of the content cycles. You’ll also have to consider the accessibility of testing on given platforms. Android is typically open and allows testers to deploy APK files that you can emulate anywhere quickly. iOS is much harder to emulate and test. You’ll need to create different testing protocols based on these separate platforms.

Build a buffer for text

Text that fits in one language isn’t guaranteed to fit in another. Look at something as simple as the word “church” in English. In Spanish, it translates to the seven-letter word “iglesia.” That means it’s not going to fit into the standard six-letter text box you set up for the English version and will likely break your code. As such, it’s wise to add a 30% buffer to your text boxes to make room for these differences. Some languages, like German, are notorious for taking up more real estate than you might expect.

Tools to Help Guide You in the Localization Journey

A command line interface (CLI) is going to be the single best tool in your arsenal. It simplifies the viewing and management of your files and makes it easier for you to see where everything is in the process.

Ideally, you’ll have access to a platform that uses more than a standard term-base spreadsheet for keeping track of commonly used vernacular. It will offer dynamic workflow management where, if you change a single term in English, it triggers the change in all other languages.

You’ll also be able to access these changes and approve or reject them on a case-by-case basis, with accompanying commentary.Not all localization management platforms are quite this robust, but it’s exactly what you need in multilingual mobile app development. It provides an end-to-end solution that allows you to build on your work and eliminate redundant tasks.

With the right platform powering your localization efforts, you’ll be able to expand your reach to hundreds of markets while minimizing the cost of translation.

Bureau Works offers a platform that simplifies your multilingual mobile app development by providing a comprehensive place to manage translation requests, receive files, approve work, and more.Contact our team for more information.

Gabriel Fairman
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