While I was in Brasil one thing I noticed was that the Gmail login screen was in Portuguese (and then once I logged in my interface was in English). This got me to thinking about web apps and the huge potential to internationalize them. I would predict that we see increased efforts to internationalize web apps in the next several years. As products mature and product adaptation rates level, developers will look elseware for more customers.
It’s not just about providing another language:
- Language — You need to find a translator who can both translate and provide cultural nuance advice.
- Payment — Check with your payment gateway and your bank about accepting payment by credit card in a foreign currency and be sure to watch the exchange rate closely.
- Support — Here’s where it gets tricky: at some level you need to provide support in the languages you provide. This is more easily done if your web app is already making a healthy profit and you expect growth in that country, however it will by far be the biggest obstacle to internationalization and the most expensive.
- Marketing — Don’t forget to target foreign keywords in your search marketing and be sure to provide email newsletters and marketing materials in the languages you service. At the same time, care should be taken to have stock photos that fit your demographic.
Providing support will be the biggest hurdle and that’s probably why internationalization is overlooked by small web application developers, however, the economic impact could be significant.
Market size by language (native language):
- Spanish — 332 million
- Portuguese — 200 million
- Chinese — 1080 million
- Russian — 145 million
- French — 109 million
- German — 101 million
- English — 322 million