Developing apps for users around the world

Push creates apps for a huge variety of users, including different languages and from different countries around the world. These kinds of varied apps require special attention, because cultural backgrounds have a strong effect on how people interpret apps and the content within them. For example, the colour red means warning and errors in North American culture, but represents money and wealth in Eastern cultures. How can you design apps to ensure they are accepted in all your target markets?

Languages: Localizations

The first way to accommodate various users around the world is also the easiest. Localization is the technology that allows apps to change their language based on the phone’s settings. It is important for apps to detect which language the phone is set to, and to use that language in the app. All modern mobile platforms have support for localization, and if you set up the app correctly, this should just work out of the box.

The hard, and extremely important step, is to translate the interface elements (e.g., the menus and buttons in the app) to the appropriate languages. Do not do this step using Google Translate! If you are not a native speaker of the translated language, you must hire someone to do the translation for you. There are far too many examples of PR nightmares out there when developers tried to translate interface elements themselves; even if the words are translated correctly, the combination and structure of the words in the translated language may have connotations that only native speakers of that language would understand.

Languages: Content

In addition the interface elements like menus and buttons, many apps pull content from a central server (e.g., blog posts). To ensure users receive this content in their native language, you may need an app-based language selection that will display the content in different languages. There is less support for this on modern app platforms than with interface element localizations, so you will likely need to roll your own solution for this.

Cultural backgrounds

One of the most difficult parts of designing apps for a world-wide audience is understanding how different cultural backgrounds will interpret your app and its content. This requires an on-the-ground understanding of the natives of your target markets, typically gathered through in-person interviews and focus groups. This is very time consuming and difficult because it may not be obvious what kinds of questions you should be asking.

Submission to multiple stores across the world

Once you are confident your app is ready for world-wide release, the simple part is actually doing the worldwide release. All modern app stores have separate stores split by country. As the app developer, you can choose which countries your app is available in. There is no additional cost to limit the countries or to make it a world-wide release, so there is little to lose when releasing to the world except if you didn’t do your homework and users are upset or offended. It is always better to try to anticipate problems that could occur than to try to back peddle and recover from a PR nightmare.

Conclusion

Digital products are so easy to distribute across the entire world that it is tempting to just release apps world-wide; however, there are potential pitfalls with this approach, as an ideal user experience would translate the interface and the content of the app to the user’s language and cultural background. It is important to understand your target market, and to understand how they will interpret your app and its content.

 

Andre is the Product Director at Push with a PhD in Human Computer Interaction. Andre believes that thoughtful design can simplify people's lives, and strives to make all of Push's products easy to learn and use, while providing compelling, useful, and joyful experiences.

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