Is your app available in English-only? If so, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.
The App Store consists more of non-English speaking nations than English speaking ones. In fact, 60% of the 130 countries with app store presence are non-English speaking nations. This translates into 100s of non-English speaking markets and billions of non-English speaking potential users that can accelerate your app downloads, and in turn, your revenue. If you want to tap into these large user bases, the best way forward is through localization.

Executing localization strategies at the global level may seem daunting. I know what you may be thinking: Doesn’t global localization mean huge investment? Not exactly. You don’t have to feel scared about the investment, or for that matter, the strategy. Say hello to Minimum Viable Localization and things will fall in place.

You may have heard of Minimum Viable Product model. Minimum Viable Localization works on the same model, but the focus is on identifying and localizing the core features of your app for different markets. Take a look at some of the major markets you may think about expanding into based on number of App Store downloads.

Monthly apps used and installed 2017

Image source

These major markets offer million dollar opportunity for app development companies and the majority of them are non-English-speaking countries. All you have to do is leverage the minimum viable localization model and take the plunge.

Minimum Viable Localization in a nutshell

Minimum Viable Products are launched with minimal features and functionalities. By the same token, Minimum Viable Localization focuses on a healthy minimum that stands somewhere in the middle of a polished and a final product, but still has the power to draw and delight the users. Your product may not be the best of the lot, but it should give value to users.

When it comes to localization, ‘minimum viability’ refers to localizing least number of features to acquire more users in your target market.

Who should adopt a Minimum Viable Localization model?

There are two major factors in adopting a Minimum Viable Localization model for your app:

  1. If your app is already up and running, and you mainly depend on organic searches for attracting users, then localization could be the key to globalizing your app.
  2. More importantly, if your app is firing all cylinders in English speaking countries, then it could be time for you to think about your localization plans.

If you fall into either of the above categories, the next step is to think about the steps you need to take in order to leverage the Minimum Viable Localization model for your app. Here are eight tips to help get you started.

8 steps to Minimum Viable Localization

Tip 1: Plan your app structure with localization in mind

If you have plans to localize your app in the future, make sure the structure is simple enough. Why? Because a simple app structure makes localization a lot simpler.

A flexible, simplified app structure speeds up the localization process, especially during the initial stages. Sometimes there’s a sudden customer demand for a localized app, leaving no time for major changes. In this case, a simplified, flexible app architecture comes as a saving grace.

Some of the basic elements that need to be accounted for while planning your app structure for localization include:

  • Externalization of all strings.
  • Inclusion of comments in strings. This will help the translator in figuring out the exact context.
  • If possible, avoid text in images, or localizing the text in your images.
  • Design UI with text contraction/expansion in mind. For example, Chinese text is shorter than English text.
  • Make sure the app’s structure is installed with multi-lingual resource files, even for the English language.

Case Study: No one champions localization strategies quite like Uber. In addition to having different logos for different countries, the company has placed customized logos for different cities of the same country. According to a story in Wired:

“Amin and his team decided to create colors, patterns, and images that were specific to each market, allowing Uber employees more autonomy in crafting messages for their own cities. The designers mocked up mood boards for individual cities, regions, and countries, piecing together images representing architecture, textiles, fashion, and art, among other things.“

Uber’s Mood Board for India

Uber’s Mood Board for India

Tip 2: Launch a localized app at the global App Store first

Here’s where many developers could go wrong. Sure, launching your app in the app store, in English, is the order of the day. But at the same time, you need to launch your app in other popular languages using the Minimum Viable Localization model, if you want to expand your reach.

Worldwide gross consumer spend by store 2017

When we say Minimum Viable Localization, it simply means to localize some of the must-have features of your app, like the app description, title, and keywords in a language specific to the country of your choice. This will help you test the interest for your app in that particular market. To assist, you can make use of mobile marketing platforms such as Sensor Tower or TUNE to know the actual positioning of the keyword in the targeted market.

Now, why is it important to test an app’s viability at the app store instead of the targeted market, directly? As shown in the graph above, the revenue flow from selling apps in the App Store is huge, and a large number of users search using their native language over English. By launching your app in different, popular languages at the App Store itself, you will be able to gather crucial stats as to which countries are best for your app’s localization debut.

Some of the favored foreign language markets with largely paid user base include Spanish, European, German, French, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Latin American, and more. Try harnessing Minimum Viable Localization strategy for these markets first before looking elsewhere.

Case Study: Evernote’s success in China acquired four million users after a year’s completion can be partly attributed to its Chinese title, Yinxiang Biji. The name is in keeping with the Chinese characteristics of a well-localized product name:

  • It’s easy to pronounce and remember in Chinese
  • The term ‘Biji’ stands for note-taking.

Evernote's Chinese success

Evernote’s jaw-dropping success rate in China can partially be attributed to its Chinese title.

In another example, Flipboard keeps its app title same in all the markets, but offers to localize the descriptive part of its title—Your News Magazine—in the native language.


Tip 3: Make a plan with help from locals

It pays to be prepared. Enticing users of another country without a checklist in hand could be damaging for your app downloads.

Points to keep in mind while localizing the basics of your app:

  • Speak to potential customers and domain experts of the targeted country, or people who are already operating tech companies in that country.
  • Connect with who are running their businesses in that country. For instance, if you have an Australian client who has operations in South Korea, they would be a great person to talk to in order to share pain points before you begin.
  • List out all that is required to make your app launch stronger in newer markets. This could include special features and local behaviors, and also things like payment processing, mass mailing, hosting, etc.

Tip 4: Narrow down your target market for advanced features

Speaking to natives and gathering information from other sources may help you gather exhaustive data about your new audience.

But then, you don’t have to develop everything that’s there on your check list. Remember, you are working out a thinnest MVL model possible. So, aim to localize 10 out of the 20 to 30 items on the list, then sit down and figure out the cost and time required to create all these features. Plug: The GoodFirms research team has already figured out this for you.

Some of the features you need to consider while localizing your app include:

  • Metadata
  • Text strings
  • Help files
  • Privacy, terms, and conditions
  • Push notifications
  • Live tile updates
  • Videos with subtitles or voice-overs
  • Date and time formats
  • App icon
  • Colors and style

It’s up to you to decide whether you’d like to localize all the above features or just a couple of them. But, if you happen to localize all these features, your app will be better placed and chances of success will automatically shoot up.

Case Study: AutoCAD has 10 million users worldwide, of which only 1.5 million are native English speakers. Their success could entirely be attributed to full app localization. Backed by strategic and acquisition-focused localization, the company’s download rates increased from 1,500 to 5,000 a day in less than six months.


AutoCAD has over 1.5 million users, thanks to its full app localization strategies

Tip 5: Consider multi-lingual speakers

If your targeted audience is multi-lingual, or are non-native English speakers, you don’t have to strictly comply with the localization strategies and translate every word of your app.

How do you decide as to how much your app needs to go under the translation hammer? You can start by leveraging the EF Education First English Proficiency Index to zero down the nations with high, average, and low fluency rates in English. According to a OneSky Report, young people across the European Union speak more English compared to older citizens. Malta, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, among many other European nations, have 50% of their younger generations speaking English. Case in point, you don’t have to go word for word while translating your app for these countries.

Tip 6: Conduct users tests before launch

User tests ensure your app is free of functionality bugs, and that symbols and texts are not missing in the process. Be sure to conduct your tests on an actual device and not on a simulator.
Your testers should be native speakers and shouldn’t have any knowledge of the localization process your app has undergone.

Some of the crucial tests your users need to conduct include:

  • Linguistic testing: Make sure all text and symbols are translated correctly.
  • UI testing: Make sure text expansion doesn’t affect the user interface.
  • Functionality testing: Make sure that app still functions the same.
  • Usability testing: Make sure users within the target market will understand how to use the application.

Tip 7: Launch your app and engage your new audience

Once the localization process is over, go ahead and launch your app!

Plan some engagement activities with your new audience via your localized web presence and multilingual support services. This will assure your end users won’t be left on their own in case issues arise.

Tip 8: Leverage external localization resources

Make use of some credible resources to help you with the localization process of your app.

Some widely used resources include:

  • AppAnnie: Popular business intelligence tool that helps track competitor’s localization efforts through detailed analytics. Over 7,00,000 apps and 94% of the top 100 publishers are already using AppAnnie. You can also employ Sensor Tower tools for the same.
  • One-Hour Translation: A top player in offering professional translation services, especially apps. The company has a team of 15,000 translators in over 100 countries. The services are available at competitive prices.

Bonus tip: Crowd-funding as a localization strategy

Leveraging Minimum Viable Localization and launching a localized model in the App Store is the best approach toward localization. But you can also choose the crowd-funding way toward localization.

For instance, Everlane, an online brand selling designer wear, wanted to spread its footprints in Canada in 2013. So, to test the market potential of their product first-hand, they launched campaign #CrowdFundCanada and offered rewards for different contribution amounts.

Eventually, the company received over $1, 00,000 in 17 days with over 1,400 contributors. Everlane not only managed to gather the initial funding but also managed to build a strong user base.


Minimum Viable Localization is the best way to test uncharted foreign terrains before you go the whole way in localizing your app. But when it comes to the right approach, you need to scope it out for yourself. Whether Flipboard’s calculated approach is the safest bet for your app or Uber’s all-in approach is best, only you will be able to tell.