Things to think about when designing a local app

September 3, 2014

Different countries and communities interpret physical gestures in different ways. Nod your head at a person in the UK and they will likely think you're in agreement. Nod your head up in Greece and the recipient will actually think you mean no.  Knowing these simple things is important when you are designing apps. The world is getting smaller and, as a designer, you may find yourself designing an app in a country that is not your native country. This can be a challenging task because you need to learn the practices, terms and subtleties of life in that country to deliver a great user experience. It is not as simple as changing the language. Let's look in more detail at some of the key elements you should consider when building a localized app.

App interaction

People interact with mobile apps in different ways depending on their location and it is your responsibility as a developer to study how they interact in the area you are targeting. In March 2014, Turkey banned both Twitter and YouTube and neither site can be accessed on Turkish Internet networks. If you were designing an app for this area that had a Twitter sign in, it isn't like you will get much activity. It is important for you to check:

  • Government regulations - in China, you must register every website with the Chinese government and then get a serial number. Without this serial number, your website will be blocked.
  • Connectivity - If your app relies on a high-speed connection you may want to check the connectivity speed in the country, especially in developing countries. User experience is key and users don't like to be kept waiting.
  • Competition? There may be a local social networking site that is more popular in the country than Facebook and Twitter. VK (originally VKontakte) is the most popular Russian social network and the second largest in Europe after Facebook. Would it be better to use these types of networks in this country instead?
  • Culture - We don't all have time to fly places and watch people interact, but developing some understanding of how people in the local area use their apps is important. Do they buy things on their phones? How do they find out about new trends? Do they read on their phones?


Colours have different meanings in various countries and you need to be aware of what they mean in your target user's world. For example, People in the USA wear black to a funeral to represent mourning and sadness. For people in the East death is marked with white.  In China the royal colour is yellow whereas in the UK purple is the regal colour. You do not want to use a colour that naturally just deters people from your app because of its connotations.

Language, characters and symbols

Each language varies when it comes to character and symbol length. English is middle of the range so a good starting point. Also the Chinese language has a much larger height than other languages. Hebrew and Arabic are read from right to left. This will effect how you set up your interface to ensure it fits logically on the screen. You need to consider these factors when you design a mobile app for certain communities.

By hiring a mobile app development company that focuses on user experience, youll have an app that will be appreciated by your target market.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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