What App Translation Costs

There is a solid case to be made for app translation and localization. If you translate well, you will enjoy more downloads and increased return on investment (ROI). Unlike many such ROI promises, this one has actually been quantified. A study from Distimo found that localizing an iPhone app garnered 128 percent more downloads and a 26 percent revenue increase per country added. However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story—what does it really cost to have an app expertly translated?

Revenue Is Universal

App developer David Janner ran an experiment to discover the kind of impact made by app translation. He found that in cases of non-localized apps, English-speaking users accounted for 76 percent of total app traffic. After translation, just 10 percent of downloads came from English-speaking countries and the total number of downloads increased by 767 percent.

In countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea, the effects of localization are even more pronounced, with some companies doubling their sales figures in new markets once localization was complete. The numbers aren’t surprising—users prefer to access the bite-sized content of apps in their native tongue and will gladly pass over untranslated or poorly translated options until they find information in their own language.

Clarity Is Complicated

Knowing you can reach more users and spur more downloads with effective app localization is one thing, but getting this process right is another. As noted by a recent LiveMint article, app translation suffers from the problem of inconsistency, especially when it comes to technical details, specifications, or commands.

For example, to combat this problem in English-to-Hindi translations, Rajesh Ranjan of open source software firm Red Hat created the Frequently Used Entries for Localization (FUEL) project, which developed a set of standard translation rules across all computer interfaces. FUEL is now the go-to localization tool for Red Hat deployments in India.

Or, consider a TAUS blog entry by language expert Attila Gorog, which discusses the translation of French poetry. While it’s possible to create multiple results that are all linguistically correct, which one is “best” comes down to a matter of personal choice and context.

So, what do FUEL and French poetry have to do with app translation? They highlight a key component of the localization process: it’s not always so easy. There are often multiple words used for the same concept, and the ideal choice depends on the context and intended usage. In some cases, the right translation may not be the best. Solving this problem requires a combination of computing power and human input, which is best served through translation software that employs high-quality machine translation coupled with input from local experts to ensure the right mixture of text accuracy and linguistic quality.

Bite by Bite

So, what does all this cost? On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much, since the snackable nature of most apps means there is a limited amount of text to convert and localize. For example, if you’re translating 2,000 words at 15 cents per word, that’s just $300 to convert your app into another language. However, it’s not quite so simple.

The best apps on the market are those with frequent updates and patches, meaning you also need to translate this new content and any associated documentation. In other words, while the upfront cost of translating an app is quite small, the ongoing costs can be daunting. One way to help keep prices down and revenue up is by opting for app localization that includes translation memory. This service “remembers” important words and phrases often used in your content, making it easier to update your app or even make significant changes.

The bottom line? The cost of app translation is a bite-sized affair, but be prepared for a multi-course meal unless you use translation software. Learn more about how translating your app can lead to increased market penetration, ROI and engagement.

Image source: Bigstock

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About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is a freelance technology writer with a passion for telling great stories about unique brands. For the past five years, he's covered everything from cloud computing to home automation and IT security. He speaks some French, is fluent in Ancient Greek and a master of Canadian English — and yes, colour needs a 'u'.