How to Build Multilingual Web Apps?
Many development teams launch smart and innovative web apps that have a practically universal target audience, but how far can they really reach? If you start your web app as a single language platform, you will only be able to capture a tiny portion of your potential user base.
If you really want to tap into the limitless potential of a global audience, you shouldn’t stop at one or even a couple of languages.
There are three main ways web design and development services teams can launch multilingual web apps on the global market:
- Baby Steps: You start from the most basic level – translate only the app description, which can also be a quick test for the app’s potential. It’s possible that potential users of your app in Japan don’t even know it exists because they simply don’t search in English. Keep in mind that you should optimize the app title and its description, as well as keywords that should be based on local language search trends.
- Internationalization: The term internationalization implies design and development of an app in a way that enables simple localization for target markets. This means extracting images and texts from the app code, enabling localized content integration, dynamic content and user-generated content regardless of the location.
- Full Localization: Localization is the adaption of the web app’s content to specific linguistic and cultural demands of the target market. This includes an adaptation of numerical, dates, time and currency, symbols, icons, colors, text and visuals.
Best Tools for Building Multilingual Web Apps
There are many tools that you can use to develop multilingual web apps with ease. When it’s time to actually find native speakers who will translate and localize your app content for you, you can use translation services like The Word Point to find reliable language experts. Other web app development services mostly focus on helping you create globalization-friendly code:
Lingoport is an internalization and localization tool that helps you create a multilingual-friendly app code. Their web application development services are used by Cisco, Dell, Intuit and many other impressive clients.
The aim of this software is to reduce the chaos that’s commonly associated with the development of global web apps. It works as a combination of three resources: Globalyzer, Resource Manager and InContext, which combine to support all internationalization, localization and quality assurance needs your dev team may have.
If you create apps through Microsoft’s ASP NET, you can use the Globalization feature to prepare your app for multilingual use.
SDL is one of the most reliable providers of translation and localization technology, and they’re also active in the software space. With their tool Passolo, you can simplify team collaboration on web app developments in multiple languages, speed up the process and reduce your costs.
The software promises faster localization of web apps through reuse of translation resources (if you use SDL tools), faster time to market and better UX.
Alchemy Catalyst is one of the market leaders in tools for multilingual app creation. It’s a tool for visual localization that enables faster workflow and easier collaboration among team members. According to the company, over 80% of leading software companies use their program to enter international markets.
Step-by-Step Guide on Building Multilingual Web Apps
Now that you’re equipped with the right tools, it’s time to start developing a world-friendly app.
- Start with separating your code from your app content. You can use tools like Lingoport we previously mentioned to do this quickly and easily. In code, resources will be referred to by IDs. Depending on the platform you’re working with, resources will be stored and compiled in different locations. Localization tools in Python web development will perceive new IDs as new content, so you should not change the IDs in between releases.
- Identify localization spots. In your content and code, pinpoint the areas where the web app determines the user’s location and shows culture-specific content, such as currency, date, numbers or other information. Be very meticulous about this, because locale-specific content can be quite subtle and unnoticeable.
- Adapt your CSS content to specific languages. If necessary, change the font type and size according to the languages you’re working with. If you’re doing this yourself, it can be quite tricky, but if you decide to work with experienced web design and development services agency, you can save a lot of time and effort.
- Write up what happens when more or less content is shown in the app than in the original language. In a great majority of cases (perhaps sometimes not in Germanic languages), the amount of content will significantly differ when it gets translated from English. You have to make sure your app is prepared to handle these shortages or surpluses of text.
- Adapt your cultural references to fit your target language and culture. This is the trickiest part of localization because, if you’re not a native member of the target culture, it’s hard to determine whether something is acceptable somewhere else. Pay attention to symbols, icons, visuals and copy.
After you’re done developing your multilingual app, you have happy users from all over the world, business is booming, and the next thing you know – someone contacts you in their native language. And why shouldn’t they? You have perfectly worded content in their language and they expect they can address your team in the same language as well.
Depending on your resources and preferences, you can choose some of the following options for web app support:
- Full Spectrum of Languages Support: obviously, this option is by far the most expensive and can truly burn a hole in your budget. At the same time, it’s the most professional and user-friendly because you will really be able to interact with your users in their native language, which potential customers will see as a huge plus. Usually, only big software companies with huge budgets opt for this option.
- On-Demand Language Support: the compromise between full multilingual support and cheaper options is to find support agents only when there’s a demand for it. For example, if you get two support tickets in Arabic each month, it’s definitely not cost-effective to hire a support employee just for that. Rather, if you have a base of support staff who’s available on-demand and paid by the hour, you can save a bunch on support compared to the first option.
- Major Languages Support: you will often see this option in web apps. Even though they present their content in dozens of different languages, they will only offer support in a couple of them, according to their analysis of customer needs. Usually, they focus only on major world languages such as English, Spanish, French, Chinese, etc. This is another step down from full language support, but it’s dramatically cheaper.
- Chatbots: for multilingual apps, this is by far the cheapest option, but of course it has the lowest quality (you really get what you pay for). For some users, it can be a good way to quickly solve some of the simpler issues they have with the app, while for some it can be incredibly frustrating. You have to decide whether you want to take this risk.
Building a multilingual app is by no means an easy feat. Everything from the very beginning of development to post-launch support should be approached strategically and with great caution. It’s also important to keep in mind that poorly executed multilingual apps might bring you more harm than benefits, so you should definitely assess the risks before deciding to take this path.