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Cultural content adaptation: winning the hearts of your Russian users

Photo: Ilia Schelkanov

When it comes to app content, surely writing it once and writing it well should be enough? Yes, if you’re targeting one market, but if you want to make your product available in several languages, not really. Translation makes your content accessible to speakers of other languages, including Russian users, but sometimes the copy needs to be adapted to the local market and culture to make it more authentic and relatable.

We like to read about what’s relevant to us and prefer content that doesn’t scream “I’ve been translated”. The only thing that’s worse is the content that screams “I’ve been translated, but the budget and the deadline were tight, so you’re only getting second-rate stuff, sorry”.

Brands that are serious about international expansion and want users to become loyal supporters need to invest in good-quality localization. I’ve talked about some strategies for app localization into Russian in the previous post. Today I want to focus on what changes and tweaks your Russian localization team might want to introduce to make the content more authentic.

1. Units of measurement

This one’s easy: Russia uses metric system, so it’s best to eliminate all references to miles, pounds and feet. They will only distract the readers and signal that the content they’re reading is a translation.

2. Country-specific statistics

While it’s easier to keep the US or UK data and just translate it, users are generally more interested in what’s going on in their country. In the context of health apps, for example, this might refer to how many calories are consumed on average or how much processed food people are buying.

In my experience finding official figures for Russia is often tricky, if not impossible. Sometimes I have to do quite a lot of digging to find anything relevant. When that fails, for health-related app content I tend to use global data by organisations like WHO to make the copy less US/UK-centric.

3. Neutral or Russia-specific images

This might not be possible for all images, especially if your app has a lot of them, but when your users look at your content and chuckle with recognition because they see something culturally relevant to them, you’ve earned a bit more of their trust and loyalty.

Getting the balance right

When adapting app content for your target users, it’s also important not to go too far the other way. When I worked in localization and customer support teams for pregnancy and parenting apps, I noticed that while some users were put off by foreign-looking content, many actually welcomed a fresh ‘western’ perspective and advice that was different from what they could find in Russian online space.

So, what’s the secret to winning the hearts of your international users? Build a trusted localization team to help guide you through the localization process and encourage them to use their unique cultural knowledge.