5 ways to create a global app with a local feel

1. Localise your system

Most of the world speaks one of ten main languages. It would have been easy for us to make 3 word addresses available in just those languages.

2. Every language has its quirks

The problem with very long words

Spelling variations

Right-to-left alignment matters

Good etiquette

3. Regional challenges

Every region that your product will be used will uncover new challenges. When faced with these challenges it’s important to weigh up the impact on the user base, against the cost of a solution. Here’s a few examples of challenges we’ve come across with our app, and how we’ve addressed them.

Cost of data

The cost of mobile data in different regions can vary enormously, especially when compared against the local average living wage. This was a particular issue in South Africa, where we discovered users were reluctant to download our app due to its file size. As discussed earlier our app is available in 36 different languages, however we soon discovered that getting the user to download only the languages that they needed reduced the average file size of the app by half. This increased downloads by 60% when we A/B tested in Colombia, which also has comparatively expensive data charges.

GPS accuracy

Our app relies on the GPS of the users device to help find their current location and 3 word address. However the accuracy of the GPS can vary between devices, and is also affected by other factors such as proximity to tall buildings, and atmospheric conditions. This is something we have absolutely no control over, however we’ve discovered that providing an estimated 3 word address — as long as we notify the user that it’s an estimate — suffices for most situations, especially in emergencies when time is precious. The user is notified of the accuracy of the GPS via the size of the blue circle, and they can choose to refine the 3 word address by using geographical landmarks on the satellite view to pinpoint their exact location if required.

4. The best localisation is a local integration

The objective of the Product Team at what3words is to make the best app we can, accessible to the largest audience possible. However, the overarching aim of what3words as a global addressing system is to become integrated into as many apps and services as possible. This is because when people use it within apps that they already use, the user experience is more seamless than having to download and learn to use a new app.

5. Diversity is key

At what3words, I may be in the minority because I only speak one language (despite a two month Duolingo streak). We have people from all over the world working in our London office. We also have offices in South Africa, Mongolia, and Saudi Arabia, filled with people that have a deep understanding of each region. Our network of 50 native language consultants per what3words language are also very much a part of the what3words community.

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what3words

what3words

what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. It has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address.