Should I Localize My App?

It seems everyone is pushing localization. Apple frequently reminds you in iTunes Connect that you’re missing out if you aren’t localized. There are tons of services, such as Smooth Localize, that specialize in affordable localization. I have apps that are localized and apps that aren’t.

But is it worth it to localize? You do open your app up to new markets. You also open yourself up to what can add up to a lot of extra work.

Localization Options

When we talk about localization, you can lump it into two options. First, you can localize your description, title, and keywords in iTunes Connect. This is the easiest and least expensive option. When you hear app marketing specialists talking about localization, this is often what they mean. This helps with app discovery in other countries. The problem with this option is that the user may expect they are getting a fully localized app, but find out differently when they actually download. This can lead to bad reviews and a general lack of revenue. I did this with one of my apps and did not receive any negative feedback. It didn’t feel right to me, though.

A full localization includes all the marketing material, iTunes Connect data, and the entire app. It’s not too difficult to do, but it can take a lot of time. Keep in mind, though, it’s like many Xcode related tasks. I recently spent a full hour updating a lightly localized app because Interface Builder wanted to fight with my localization string files.

Testing Your Localized App

Testing a localized app can be a pain. Some phrases take up more space in certain languages and cause truncation. Also, even if you use a reputable service, you are never sure if the message you are trying to get across, marketing or app text, is exactly how you want. One trick I have found is to make different schemes in Xcode for each language so that when you build and run, it automatically runs the app in the desired language. This is more efficient than manually changing the language on the device or simulator. Apple has a nice guide on this here.

Screenshots Are Not Your Friend

I quit localizing my app Who’s Calling mostly because creating tons of new screenshots for every update was more time consuming than the extra downloads are worth. I had built in all the localization, but I just didn’t want to hassle with all the work for every update. Imagine when the app preview video will need to be localized. Fun. Also, if you have more than one app, imagine doing all that work for each app for each update. More fun.

Customer Service

It’s easy to forget that when you localize an app, customers from other countries will now email you support questions. As someone who only speaks English, this is a problem. Talking to someone through google translate is not a productive way to communicate. If you do this, you’ll mostly end up with disgruntled customers and bad reviews.

The Numbers

When I look at my app Who’s Calling, 90% of it’s revenue is from English speaking countries. When I localized, I didn’t see many extra downloads for the eight or nine languages I targeted. I spent a ton of time customizing the app, including contact images for different languages, with not much return. In the end it wasn’t worth it. However, I did learn how to fully localize and that is worth something is my growth as an app developer. I try to have that mindset with everything I try. Hey, that bombed, but I added the experience to my app toolbox.

My Advice

If you are working on an app, I would launch the first version in your native language unless you have a compelling reason to localize in other languages. See how the launch goes and monitor you downloads in other countries. You can add localization to an app at any time (though an update) so you aren’t forgoing localization in the future. If it’s your first app, definitely skip the localization. You have enough on your plate just getting the core features down.

When you do localize, try a couple of the most popular languages first instead of adding ten in one update. You can also consider only localizing the iTunes Connect data at first, but be prepared for the drawbacks I mentioned above. For us in the US, localizing in Spanish should be the place to start.


Automation Tips for Indie Developers

When you are a one man show, you have to automate everything you can. If you do a task more than once, spend a minute to see if you can automate it. I have three apps that I use extensively for automation.

TextExpander

First, I use TextExpander from Smile Software to answer support emails. TextExpander has tons of features, but I mostly use it for canned responses to common support questions. You type in an abbreviation and it expands to the full text.

An example:

I type: “;addv”

I get: “Thanks for the feedback. Adding voice to the calls is the most requested feature and I hope to add to the app soon.”

I type: “;pleaserev”

I get: “If you like my app, please take the time to give it a nice review. It really helps.”

TextExpander Automation

I also make a snippet for links to the app store for each of my apps. I type ;fflink for the link to my fake phone call app. If you get a lot of similar support emails, you will use TextExpander all the time. Be careful not to respond with only canned text. It’s important to connect with your audience, so be sure to personalize your response if time allows. Although a bit clunky, their iOS app makes it easier to respond to support emails on your iPhone or iPad. I use TextExpander along with Clips for this.

Keyboard Maestro

Next, Keyboard Maestro allows you to assign hotkeys to a command or series of commands. You could assign Control+Option+Command+X to open Xcode, xScope, Spectrum or any other app you use during development. There are tons of other uses as it allows you to simulate a mouse click, pick a menu action to execute, or execute a series of keyboard presses. This can be handy for scraping data from a web site or formatting an XML file. It works well with Applescript, so you can automate just about anything.

Hazel

Finally, no Mac user should be without Hazel from Noodlesoft. Hazel allows you to assign actions to folders. Save or drop a file in a folder configured with Hazel and any rules in Hazel will be applied to that file. You can move, delete, rename, upload, reveal in Finder, etc. I often use it for cleanup of older files and moving specific file types to new locations. Pro tip: Use Hazel together to execute actions on files synced through Dropbox on a remote Mac.

Hazel Automation

 

Final Thoughts

If you love automation, check out Brett Terpstra’s site. He is an automation ninja. Visit David Spark’s site, macsparky too. Good stuff on Hazel and TextExpander there.

Also, don’t forget Automator, Apple’s automation tool that comes with every Mac. I find myself using it for quick automations such as image resizing.

If you have a cool automation tip, let me know. I would love to feature it on the site.


Announcing Indie iOS Focus Weekly

I’m excited to announce a new weekly newsletter focused on independent iOS development.

Indie iOS Focus Weekly will include topics such as

  • Developer tools
  • Frameworks
  • Tricks (Xcode, ASO, balancing life)
  • Indie lifestyle management
  • Marketing your apps

I look at it as a brain dump of all the stuff I’ve come across in the past week with a focus on the independent developer. Oftentimes, the coding is the easy part. Indie iOS Focus Weekly won’t be very code heavy as I want to focus more on the toolbox you will need to be successful in this crazy app market.

I’ve been independent with a full time ‘regular’ job for over three years and have released over 10 apps. I’m passionate about iOS development and run across cool stuff all the time. Time to share!

If you see something cool, send it to me at cdbeshore@cozyapps.com or on twitter @cdbeshore.

First issue is January 22nd, 2015.

Subscribe to Indie iOS Focus Weekly




The Success of Quit That!

A few months ago, I created an app that lets you track bad habits you are trying to quit. It is a simple app and I borrowed (heavily) from Stuart Hall‘s 7 Minute Workout app. I had read his awesome An App Store Experiment article and it motivated me.

The app is called Quit That! and it has received a lot of praise and some success. I measure the success not on how much it’s made (not much), but on downloads, reviews and customer support emails. As an independent with a full time job, I’m trying to build my knowledge and portfolio, learning along the way. The feedback I have received from the app is immeasurable.

Quit That! Main Screen

Quit That! has been downloaded about 8,000 times. That’s not a ton compared to some of my other apps. Engagement is good, though, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to get tons of emails telling me how much the app has helped them. There are plenty of bad habit apps on the store, but I wanted one that was dead simple without all the features that can bog down the main purpose.

“Ah!! A free app, a good app, that is without ads, and voluntary donation!! That is to my heart. Beautiful. Thank you.” -Anne

“Just donated. No intrusive ads, early iPhone 6 support. This is a great model for apps and you’ve helped me give up smoking for 23 days. Thanks from the UK.” -Paul

I get emails like this all the time. Also, if you take a look at the reviews, it’s more of the same. People from all over the world love the app.

Quit That Reviews

Now the hard part. Quit That! doesn’t make any money. I’ve made less than $100 since it was released back in August 2014. I wasn’t trying to make money on the app. It was more of an exercise to see what I could do with a week and some motivation from Stuart Hall (Thanks Stuart!). The experiment part of it for me was making it donation ware. Not a good model to make money, huh? Here’s the donation page I used.

Quit That Donate Screen

I wanted to make it personal. (BTW, I know it doesn’t look the best on iPhone 6 Plus, I only have so much time!) I think it works pretty well, but you’re not going to hear a bunch of stories of developers living off their donation ware.

Why is Quit That! successful?

  • I learned a few new tricks while developing it (nice clean flat ui, iCloud, etc)
  • I learned more about ASO and marketing the app with no budget
  • I get great feedback which motivates me to improve Quit That! and my other apps
  • I have genuinely helped many people fight their addictions (have I mentioned this is cool)
  • I added to my arsenal of app templates if I want to create something similiar (I already have and will post about that experiment soon)
  • I did make $100 so it paid for 1/5 of my new iPad

Success in the App Store is what you get out of it. Quit That! is a step in the right direction. I do plan on adding a few features and making a Pro version, so maybe I can turn Quit That! into a nice app that pays for dinner every day.