Web App Localization: The Beginner’s Guide

Adedamola Ojedokun
09 Jan 2024

13 min. read


Your office is humming with activity. Coding virtuosos are toiling tirelessly, crafting the best app the web has ever seen.

At the same time, someone is microwaving tuna.

But returning to that first part, it would be a shame if only English-speaking users could enjoy that glorious web app of yours.

To fix that potential error, explore our web app localization guide.

We’ll teach you how to localize the textual and visual content of your web app, detail its benefits, and also throw in best practices for good measure.

Too bad we can’t help you with the tuna issue.

Pro tip: Save time, money, and effort by managing your web app localization process with Centus. Learn more.

What Is Web App Localization?

what is web app localization

Web app localization is the process of adapting your web app to meet the language, cultural, and functional preferences of different global audiences.

Web app localization requires finesse, creativity, and a thorough awareness of the intricacies of several cultures.

Imagine having a virtual passport that allows your web application to enter new markets, engage with various audiences, and have a global influence. That is exactly what web app localization provides: a method to expand your digital boundaries and embrace the global stage.

Benefits of Web App Localization

Web app localization is not just a fancy addition to your development checklist. Rather, it's a powerful business move offering multiple benefits.

Let's look at the key benefits of web app localization:

Broadening your user base and market reach

broadening user base

Source: Pexels

Localizing your web app helps you break through language barriers and reach a global audience. Since people are more inclined to engage with content in their native language, catering to different linguistic preferences broadens your user base.

Improving user engagement and retention

improving user engagement

Source: Pexels

Users are more likely to spend time exploring the features of your web app if they are comfortable navigating and browsing it.

Localized content instills a sense of familiarity in users, making them feel appreciated. This increases user engagement and retention rates.

Enhancing user experience and customer satisfaction

enhancing user experience

Source: Unsplash

A successful web app relies on a consistent user experience. When you adapt your app's interface and content to align with several cultural preferences, you provide a personalized experience for each user.

This increases client satisfaction and promotes positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Gaining a competitive edge in international markets

gaining a competitive edge

Source: Unsplash

It is essential to stand out in a competitive global market. Localizing your web app gives you a huge advantage over competitors who have not made this investment.

By displaying cultural sensitivity and understanding, you may gain the trust of international users and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Increasing revenue and business growth

increasing revenue

Source: Unsplash

A well-localized web app can allow you to enter new markets, thereby increasing your revenue.

Furthermore, satisfied consumers are more likely to become loyal customers, contributing to your company's growth and success.

Note: All of the benefits above apply to mobile app localization. Learn how to perform it in our comprehensive guide.

How to Localize Your Web Apps in 6 Steps

Now that you’ve understood the enormous benefits of web app localization and the potential it holds for expanding your reach in global markets, let's explore the web app localization process.

how to localize web apps

Step 1: Conduct market research and identify target regions

It's normal to want to share a great web application with as many people as possible after developing it. That is where localization comes in.

So, before you embark on this exciting journey, conduct extensive market research and identify your target regions. Consider it a thrilling treasure hunt where you're looking for hidden gems (i.e., potential user bases that will love your web app).

Here’s how you can conduct market research and identify your target regions:

Embrace diversity

Localization opens up a world of opportunities, allowing you to engage with people from different cultures and communities.

Explore the demographics of different regions to embrace this diversity. Learn about their languages, cultures, and preferences. The deeper you understand their differences, the better you can adapt your web app to appeal to them.

Analyze user behavior

Numbers don’t lie! Use web analytics to know where your current users are coming from. This data can provide significant insights into undiscovered consumers that are already interested in your app.

Pay attention to user interaction, conversion rates, and any emerging patterns. This will point you in the direction of areas where your web app can thrive.

Identify local competitors

Competition can be brutal, but it can also teach essential lessons. Research the local competitors in your target regions, especially those who have already entered the same market.

Examine their strengths, limitations, and what distinguishes them in each market. This will help you understand the landscape and implement the right strategy to stand out from the crowd.

Listen to your users

Your users are your most powerful allies. Use polls, feedback forms, and social media to interact with them. Inquire about their thoughts and preferences on potential localization efforts.

You might be shocked at how excited they are about the concept. Their insights can be gold nuggets that might pave the way for a successful web app localization journey.

Step 2: Choose a translation management system

centus dashboard

Choosing the right translation management system (TMS) for your web app is a crucial stage in the web app localization process. A TMS is like a trusted companion, assisting you in navigating the wide and diverse terrain of multilingual content.

Here’s how you can choose the right TMS:

Explore different TMS Solutions

Picture yourself as a fearless explorer in a world of limitless possibilities! When it comes to TMS solutions, there are dozens of options available. Each TMS brings something unique to the table.

Align with your goals and objectives

Remember that not all heroes have capes, but they all have a strategy. Ensure you align your desired TMS with your localization goals and objectives before choosing it.

Do you intend to rapidly expand into other markets? Or perhaps you want to improve client satisfaction and experience. Knowing your mission will help you find the right fit.

Embrace the power of collaboration

The age of lone wolves has passed. Your translation management system should enable smooth collaboration among your translators, engineers, and project managers.

To create the ideal team, look for features like real-time collaboration and file sharing.

Scalability: Think long-term

Your web app will grow and evolve as it enters new markets. Your TMS should be prepared to evolve with you. Choose a solution that can easily handle a large volume of content and multiple languages as your localization requirements grow.

Step 3: Manage translators

A well-managed translation team may make a huge difference in the quality and efficiency of your web app localization process. Here are key tips for managing translators during the localization process:

Choose qualified and experienced translators

When you’re selecting translators for web app localization, work with individuals who are not only proficient in the target language but also have expertise in the specific niche of your web app.

Translators with relevant experience will understand the technical terms and context better, resulting in a more accurate translation.

Establish clear communication channels

Effective communication is essential for effectively managing translators. Establish clear channels of communication to provide guidelines, answer questions, and handle any concerns that translators may have during the localization process.

Localization management platforms like Centus have several collaborative channels that can enhance communication between you and your translation team.

Create a style guide and glossary

Create a style guide and glossary that cover unique writing rules, tone, and terminology choices to ensure consistency throughout the localized content.

Providing these resources to translators can help them match their work with your brand message and create a consistent user experience.

Set realistic deadlines

Since web app localization projects usually have tight time constraints, it's crucial to set realistic timelines for each stage of the translation process. Be aware of potential time zone differences, as translators may be located in various parts of the world.

Step 4: Localize text and non-string content

It’s now time to tackle the soul of your web app: the text and non-string content. Buckle up, this is where the real magic starts.

Prepare the text for localization

The content of your web app, including buttons, menus, pop-up messages, and even Apple App Store descriptions, must be localized into your target languages.

Remember that localization is more than just changing words. It's an art form that captures the soul of your app in each new language.

Hire professional translators

While Google Translate might seem like a convenient quick fix, its use could be detrimental to your brand’s image. Instead, work with professional human translators who understand the various intricacies of language and culture.

Learn more about the difference between human and machine translation here.

Keep it contextual and friendly

A clever pun may be hilarious in English, but it may be a complete flop in another language. Let's try to avoid heedless mistakes.

Icons with universal appeal

Icons act as mini-ambassadors for your app by effortlessly transcending language borders. However, proceed with caution! Icons can have diverse meanings in different cultures.

So, choose wisely, and if in doubt, consult with your localization team.

Step 5: Localize visual content

Although textual content translation is critical when localizing web apps, don't ignore the importance of visual content localization.

Visual elements are crucial in influencing the user experience, communicating information, and interacting with your foreign audience. Here are key practices that can help you successfully localize the visual content in your web apps:

Embrace the power of imagery

A picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to localization, images may communicate a lot to your users. When choosing graphic elements for your web app, consider cultural differences and preferences.

Icons, graphics, and images might have different meanings in different regions, so ensure you choose visuals that are meaningful to your target audience.

Emojis are a universal language of emotions. Don't forget to sprinkle them around for a playful touch.

Language-friendly user interface

Remember that text overlays on images must also be localized! Ensure that any button labels, subtitles, or error messages fit comfortably within the visual elements.

Nobody likes seeing text that is uncomfortably cut off or overlapped. It's like trying to fit into your favorite clothes after too many pizzas.

Right-to-left (RTL) languages

Ah, the RTL language dance – Arabic, Hebrew, and others. Remember that some languages flow from right to left. Therefore, you must flip the entire arrangement like a mirror image.

Note that RTL arrangement has a considerable impact on the user experience. Do it right the first time if you want your users to dance through your app rather than stumble over a tangled mess.

Colors: The cultural kaleidoscope

Colors are like a cultural kaleidoscope, with different interpretations in each place. White, for example, is linked with purity and calm in some places but grief in others.

So, choose your color palette wisely, and you'll create a pleasing image for your users. Remember, you want your web app to be a cheerful celebration, not a hand-me-down costume party.

Step 6: Test your localized web app

You've worked hard to make your app available to people all over the world, and now it's time to ensure that your localized versions sparkle just as brightly as the original.

Testing your localized web app is a crucial step in ensuring a pleasant user experience for all of your foreign users. So, how can you do it?

Involve real users

Involving real people from the target regions is one of the most effective ways to test your localized web apps. Contact friends, colleagues, or even recruit native speakers of the languages you've localized.

Real users can provide vital feedback on language accuracy, cultural appropriateness, and any potential faults or concerns.

Explore usability

Remember that web app localization is not just about translating the content but also about ensuring that your web app's functionality, layout, and design work properly in each localized version.

Ensure that the user interface elements fit within the available space, especially for languages with longer text strings than the source language. Then, switch languages and run QA tests again.

Test your localized content

Ensure that all translated language is consistent with the tone and voice of your brand.

While automated translation systems can be useful, they may not always capture linguistic nuances. Therefore, it is advisable to have human reviewers go through the content.

Learn more about the process involved in ensuring localization quality here.

Best Practices for Web App Localization

Now that we’ve explored how you can localize your web apps, how can you get the best results from the web app localization process?

Establish a global-ready development approach

Adopting a global-ready development approach from the start is a critical foundation for successfully localizing your web app. This implies including localization in the production process rather than treating it as an afterthought.

Here are some practices you can implement:

  • Ensure your web app is internationalized from the get-go to be easily adaptable to different languages, cultural standards, and regional preferences. Learn more.

  • Use Unicode encoding to show characters from multiple languages and scripts. This ensures that your app can effectively handle multilingual content.

  • Create an expandable user interface to accommodate text expansion while translating from one language to another. Some languages may require more room to express the same message than others.

Collaborate with in-country reviewers and subject matter experts

collaborate with local reviewers

Source: Unsplash

Working directly with in-country reviewers and subject matter experts can improve the quality and cultural relevance of your localized web app.

These subject matter specialists can provide vital insights into local preferences, linguistic intricacies, and user expectations.

By including them in the localization process, you may avoid potential mistakes and ensure that your app meets the needs of your target audience.

Monitor user feedback and iteratively improve localization

monitor user feedback

Source: Pexels

Web app localization is an ongoing effort, and it is critical to frequently get user feedback from international users.

The value of local users' opinions cannot be overstated, as they can help you identify difficulties or areas that require further work.

Feedback loops can be linked into your development cycle, allowing you to rectify any issues and iteratively update the localized content.

Localize marketing and promotional content

localize marketing content

Source: Unsplash

Successful web app localization goes beyond the application's fundamental functions. Localizing your marketing and promotional content will allow them to resonate with different cultural settings and values.

Translating your app's website, social media content, and advertising campaigns shows that you care about knowing and interacting with your target audience on a human level.

Stay updated on language trends and market shifts

stay updated on language trends

Source: Pexels

Languages, just like user preferences and behaviors, evolve. Pay attention to language trends and market shifts in your target regions.

Prepare to upgrade the content and functionality of your web app to reflect the changing landscape and user expectations.

Regularly examine market research and local language usage patterns to ensure that your web app remains relevant and interesting to the local audience.

To Sum Up

Web app localization is not a luxury but a strategic necessity. It goes beyond mere translation. It's about developing a stronger relationship with your users and establishing a borderless digital experience.

You can successfully expand your business’s horizons, engage new audiences, and succeed in international markets by recognizing the benefits of localizing your web apps and implementing the suggested best practices.

Enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of delivering a fully localized web app to global audiences by using a localization management suite – [Centus] (https://centus.com/).

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