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How to Jumpstart Your Chinese App Localization Project – Beginner’s Guide (2019)

Maria Krisette Capati, Author

31 October 2019

Developing a game? Publishing an e-learning app? Don’t know where or how you can start localizing your mobile app in Chinese?

It can be daunting to start all over again when you’ve already developed the English mobile app. So, we have come up with a beginner’s guide on China app localization to cater to all types of publishers.

But why go for Chinese localization? Well, as an app publisher or developer, you can’t ignore one of the biggest mobile app markets in Asia.

READ MORE >> How Much Does Chinese Mobile App Localization Cost?

Let’s take a look at what App Annie, a mobile research firm says about Top Apps on iOS Store, China, Overall

what are the top apps in China app stores

Is your target audience interested in your genre?

Do you know what Chinese gamers love? They prefer playing shooting and MMO/MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games. King of Glory is one of the famous games. Other game genres include social casino, racing, and puzzle games. But puzzle games have become overrated, and the market is already saturated.

When it comes to PC and console, action, adventure, and puzzle games are popular among gamers. The competition is intense as well. You must have a unique selling point if you’re into these genres to gain traction.

Based on the top apps as of this writing, you’d have to consider what gamers prefer these days. When it comes to other types of mobile apps, if you’re in the e-learning industry, you also need to take note of the content you wish to localize like videos and subtitles and more.

For example, in our previous post, we shared how we helped one of our clients get cheaper cost on device testing for the Chinese video translations of e-learning content. As part of the localization process, device testing can help in assessing how your content would look like on several devices.

What to consider before localization happens?

So, before going deep into the process, you have to know first the pre-localization process. We understand that developing apps make take months or even years, especially for games. But there’s also a hard truth here. You can’t have the perfect mobile app in Chinese.

In China, mobile users are always switching to different types of apps. For example, when it comes to games, the product cycle of local gaming apps are also short in the market.

There’s always something new. Something interesting. So, you need to be flexible and agile. Continually improving, still tweaking, developing, and making sure you meet the demand.

If you plan to localize your mobile app in different languages like in Chinese, take a look at the following.

#1 Avoid hard-coded texts into the source code

Localization shouldn’t be your afterthought during the development of the mobile app. Developers should consider your plans in localization so that they will be aware of the practices as they develop the app.

Avoid hard-code the texts into the source code during the process. And while it will save developers more time and speed up the work, you’ll slow down the localization process. So, make sure you extract the texts from the source code and write it into a resource file that has a key/value pair.

Always create a resource file for the Chinese language to make the managing and translation of texts easier. Consider the three types of writing texts, too. Simplified Chinese (zhCN), Traditional Chinese Taiwan (zhTW), and Traditional Chinese Hong Kong (zhHK).

#2 Provide context, UI/UX guide, and glossary for translators

If your mobile app consists of complex stories (for games) and instructions, it’s better to provide full context and glossary for the translators to work on. This will save you more time, and it will also help them figure out those ambiguities between the source language and Chinese.

Keep in mind that whenever you translate texts from one language to another, there will be a discrepancy in length. So, you may want to provide more details on the phrases and words, which for example, English words can take up more spaces but when translated in Chinese, the phrases or words are shorter.

Discrepancies on the length of texts may compromise the images or writings can overlap videos, boxes, and other elements. So, better have contingency plans on UI/UX for your localized apps.

#3 Details and spaces matter

In connection to the previous pointer, you also have to consider that details and spaces matter in the localization process. Running out of space in your app can be a source of frustration. There will be adjustments on the design or layout.

If the texts in English barely fits into the layout or design, consider making some adjustments beforehand. Sometimes, the CTA buttons and images may have captions or characters that are just about right for the design. And then when you translate those captions into Chinese, they might be shorter than the English version.

So, you need to consider the differences and details of your design when you localize. The currencies and date formats, including weights and measurement, are relevant, too. Make sure you give an afterthought on the details and more flexibility when it comes to space.

#4 Regional differences of your target audience

Will you be launching your app in Mainland China, or will you also offer it in Taiwan and Hong Kong? The texts and captions of your images or videos should also be translated based on the regions where you want your app to be available. In Mainland China, they use Simplified Chinese characters. Plus, you need to match your texts to your voice-overs in Mandarin because that’s what they use for speaking.

The traditional version, The Traditional Chinese characters are preferred in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Chinese people living overseas like Singapore and Malaysia.

For your voice-overs and videos in your mobile app, make sure you hire a native Cantonese voice-over artist if you’re going to launch it in Hong Kong. Most developers would go for the Mainland users so, Simplified Chinese and Mandarin voice-overs can be prioritized. At the end of the day, you need to discuss your plans with the project managers if you want to support all Chinese languages.

#5 Set your budget and expectations

One of the common mistakes app publishers do is they don’t have a budget plan for the localization process. Developing apps can exhaust the company’s pocket, so they tend to cut the cost once they turn into the localization. One of the things you need to give an afterthought while developing or even before the development phase is to allocate a budget for your multilingual projects.

Following that budget will also keep you from overspending. It will also help you decide how much you’re going to spend on each task, from translation to voice-overs and more.

Should you start right now?

Publishing apps in other languages is a huge step. Not to mention the resources, energy, efforts, and marketing that you need to do to in that specific region.

But if your app has a unique selling proposition and you’re confident that you understand what your target market needs and demands, then jumpstart the process now and discuss with us. Let us know how we can help you step-by-step until you reach your long-term goals.

Fill in the form below and we will get back to you with a quote on your project.

As we are constrained by resources, we will only serve those deserve our attention and time. We will only focus on clients who are already decided which projects to prioritize and understand the importance of translation and localization efforts.

china market writer

Maria Krisette Capati

Krisette or "Sette" for short is a professional writer and copywriter who loves to cover disruptive technologies, digital trends in China, and a myriad of geeky and innovative topics. She's the Content Strategist at AZ-Loc and currently manages the English website and in-charge of the social media channels. She has been writing about China markets, business, and startups since 2012. She has gained her expertise as a China internet specialist and is fascinated by its business ethics, language, and culture. She's a major of Business Management and Entrepreneurship and an advocate of faith-based non-profit organizations. When she's not writing or dabbling with Sophie and the team, she satiates her wanderlust as a digital nomad. 

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