When Is It Time to Translate Your App?

Big game developers almost always deliver their apps in several languages. As an independent app developer, especially if you’re new to the trade, delivering a translated app isn’t always easy. It’s a challenge to figure out when to translate your app, or if it should even be translated at all.


Popular apps like Flappy Bird don’t require translation because they are self-explanatory and not language-centric. However, other more complex games like Clash of Clans or Hay Day do require a translation, otherwise it might be impossible for some people to understand.

Using an App’s Lifespan to Your Advantage

Games and other similar apps tend to have short lifespans. It is becoming increasingly normal for customers to jump from one app’s popularity to the next very quickly. Flappy Bird is a good example of this. It was incredibly popular for a good while, but it isn’t talked about much anymore. Games like Clash of Clans and Hay Day have kept their customer base for quite a long time by keeping this in mind how important it is to figure out where your app stands in its life cycle.

(Source: people.hofstra.edu)

Source: people.hofstra.edu

This graph presents the four basic lifespan stages: R&D, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. The amount of time between cycles is shrinking rapidly, and the reason for this is an increase in competition and a decline in customer loyalty.

What is a step to take before translating your app? Investigating the popularity of your app and its predicted longevity is a good place to start. A game like Flappy Bird is fun for maybe a week, but after that the game becomes repetitive and offers little variety. If your app is a game that has more layers to keep customers interested, and you are steadily gaining more popularity and recognition, it would be a good idea to translate the app to gain momentum in other markets. As a translator, these apps can be beneficial to your professional experience because of the credit you’ll receive from translating a popular app.

So, when is the best time to translate your app?

The easiest way to start is by translating the app as it is created. When you deliver the app in several languages, you will likely gain popularity in various countries at once. Another option would be to translate the app if you notice it gaining popularity in more than one country. For example, if your app is becoming popular in France, but you only offer the app in English, it would be a profitable opportunity to translate your app into French. It all comes down to what your gut says, and knowledge of the language in question, as well as your financial capabilities to translate and/or hire a translator to do the work for you.


About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.