The effects of translating your app’s title and description into multiple languages

Translating your mobile app's title and description
Localization is great and translating your app’s title and description will increase your downloads. For Android it’s easy with the built-in Google Translator. However, machine translation might never become as good as human translation. If you speak more than 1 language, you know what I am talking about. Words have different meanings and certain words can be used only in certain contexts.

Translating the title and the description of your app cannot be handled the same way. Once you decide to translate your app’s description, you need to decide if you want to translate its title as well. Here’s why: if your app’s title is descriptive enough (e.g. hearing test), translation can increase conversions. If people can tell what your app is about by looking at its name, then do it. You are probably a freelance developer and with an app name „hearing test” you can’t do branding.

The problem with localization is that people will see your app in their own languages on Google Play, but they will notice the spelling mistakes Google Translator made. There will be meaningless sentences and words used in places where they shouldn’t be. What the biggest negative effect will be is one star ratings and comments. Take one of my apps as an example. Before I added translations, it was downloaded 750 times, had about 50-80 downloads per day and an average of 4.8 rating. After I added translations, the daily download rate increased to 140-200, but I received many comments complaining about the language. The rating quickly went down to 4.5. Ouch! People who read the description in their own language, downloaded the app and were shocked to see that the app itself was not in their language! This means, if you publish your app’s title and description in multiple languages, people expect to use the app in their languages. Translating a whole app is a big and expensive process. Luckily, Google Play made it available for developers to submit their strings.xml file to translation for about $50-100/language. The prices depend on the number of words to be translated and current rate is $0.07/word at the moment. For iOS you need to ask friends or pay for professional services that cost a fortune.

Some comments I received for one of my apps after having the title and the description translated to many languages:

  • It’s English, I don’t understand it
  • Since it’s English, it’s total crap
  • Until you translate it to Russian, only 1 star
  • Good but the app should be in French
  • All in English! I will write a complaint!

One other problem you might run into with Google Translator is that the maximum amount of allowed characters can easily be exceeded, because some languages need more characters and words to say the same thing. In this case, you need cut down the app’s description a bit in order to fit the limit. I suggest to create an app description as long as possible for SEO reasons.

My suggestion is that you should wait until you have a few thousand downloads and a solid rating and only then add translations so these bad ratings won’t have such a big effect on the overall rating of your app.

I need to note here that adding translations made my app kind of viral. After two years, it’s still downloaded 1000-1200 times every day even if it’s rating is 3.6 now.

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Balint Farago

Entrepreneur, startup enthusiast, gadget fan. I travel a lot and in the meantime I develop and promote mobile apps.