The Internet, by definition, is a global network that recognizes no geographical boundaries and is consistent and ubiquitous across the world. But such is not the case with users, for whom apart from being constrained by services and bandwidth, language remains the single largest barrier to a uniform experience. And it is no coincidence that all the top mobile app development companies and products like Facebook and Google invest a considerable effort and resources towards creating a multilingual experience. Because they know that no matter how great someone thinks their app is, if it is not available in their native language, they can’t use it.
Now unless your app aims to serve users only in a particular geographical area, you must incorporate every language that your potential users may want. Additionally, this language variation must not feel like an extempore, but should offer a uniform experience for all languages- something that developers call localization of apps.
So, let’s first take a look at the various challenges that come bundled when you go for localization of your app:
Switching an app from one language to another isn’t all about translating the text but more like shifting the experience. Plain language translations are known to be crude and do not carry the same sense that the original text intended, thereby making it more frustrating.
Date & time
Language variations are primarily attributed to large geographical distances, which also result in many other kinds of variations that you must consider while a multilingual app. Be it shifting to time zones or incorporating local places, the overall content that you offer must also have the local flavor.
Apart from content, multilingual apps sometimes also need to be tweaked in their design to better suit a locale. One of the main considerations of selecting the icons is that they may be interpreted differently in different regions. Another aspect is to customize the menu, which should better reflect the usage patterns and preferences of different groups of people.
How to mitigate
There are essentially two strategies you can employ to incorporate multilingual capabilities in your app- 1. The easy but ineffective way; 2. The tough but effective way. We suggest you take a mix of both for optimum results. Here is how:
The easiest way to switch languages in your app is to make use of APIs that will not only save a lot of time and efforts but are also cheap. On the flip side, since these APIs use artificial intelligence for translation, the outcome isn’t as natural as you would expect and may end up ruining your app experience. A better way would be to hire app development experts and translate not just the content, but also the context and experience.
This is one area where you should take the easy way to achieve your goals. From managing date and time according to geographical location to incorporating local places by using Google Maps, there are a host of APIs that enable such tasks with ease.
This is again one aspect where you can’t rely on automation and need to rope in human designers. Because no matter how obvious and universal you think an icon is, people in other places may find it confusing and interpret it differently.
For example, you may be well aware of the Nazi symbol deemed as evil, but you may not know that if you just tilt it to a 45-degree angle, it becomes Swastika- religious symbol in Indian subcontinent and Buddhism. And it is small design considerations like these that have the potential to either ruin or polish your app experience and something that APIs can’t possibly handle.
Apart from these three significant factors, there are many other minor changes that you must also take into account if you wish to rise above the average.
Be it something as basic as using UTF-8 encoding or something mindful as giving users the option of customized keyboards for their language, the more you focus on minute details, the faster your app will reach perfection. And in a market where out of millions of apps, only a handful of them reap the major profits, perfection is the minimum you should aim for.
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