Business is going mobile (and global)

I go to many conferences each year across many different industries, and aside from almost everyone giving away some sort of Apple product at their booths, the consistent theme is that mobile is the future.  There are almost twice as many mobile users as Internet users (roughly 5 billion versus 2 billion, respectively), and what are these 5 billion people doing on their phones, aside from playing Angry Birds and updating their Twitter accounts?  A whole lot more than just talking. 

ABI Research's prediction is that mobile commerce worldwide will be almost $120 billion in 2015.  In Japan alone, the mobile commerce market was more than $10 billion in 2009.

So what does this mean for localization? It means that you need to have a strategy in place to embrace this growing market.   Effectively, you need to move from a Web strategy to an online strategy that encompasses mobile sites, as well.

The key consideration in localizing mobile websites is related to testing.  In most cases, businesses have already localized their Web content, so moving that content to a mobile site is a relatively straightforward process.  You have already established a translation memory (which is a repository of previously translated content), so you can re-use most of that work and avoid making new investments in translation, unless of course your mobile site experience is completely separate from your main website.  The content challenge will be more related to economy of words, so there may just be some editing of your existing content required.  Functional testing is where the big challenge is to get things right.

To ensure an effective mobile localization strategy, make sure that you are testing on all of the main mobile browsers AND the main mobile platforms, as these will impact how your site displays on various handsets and the mobile operating systems.

We also recommend having the mobile version of your site less graphic and media intensive.  You want your pages to load quickly on any network, regardless of whether users are on 3G or 4G networks.  So, until the mobile bandwidth is consistently on par with what you would expect from a wired or Wi-Fi connection, it is a good idea to build your mobile sites for speed and ease of use versus a full-featured, media rich experience if you want to grab a piece of that mobile market.

The use of apps in the mobile space is obviously a huge driver for sales, as well.  And since apps contain relatively small amounts of content (these are typically designed to drive a process versus build brand affinity), the localization of these components can be relatively cost effective.  Again, the main consideration here if you are going to provide a localized mobile app is the testing component.  How does it work on Apple's OS versus Android versus Windows Mobile versus Blackberry?  And in the case of Android and Windows Mobile (at least today), you need to do testing based on the hardware, as well, since different handsets may only support certain flavors of an OS.

The good news is that while this market is top of mind for almost every business in every industry, it is still emerging.  But given the predictions, it will not take long for mobile devices and smartphones to become a huge part of online commerce and an integral part of how companies connect with their customers. 

It's hard to believe we used to just use these things for conversation.

Matt Hauser is VP of Technology for TransPerfect Translations.

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
Shop Tech Products at Amazon