Web globalization isn’t just about directly translating a site. There are many considerations and challenges beyond just the language offering. It’s about understanding the local culture, creating efficient workflows, implementing feasible technological platforms, and much more. I like to visualize the strategy with the following equation:
Globalization = Internationalization + Localization
Let’s look at some features within each of these that you should be considering as you set up your global website strategy.
Internationalization: Setting up the core processes
The internationalization of your website is about creating a consistent brand presence, efficient workflows and reuse of systems and materials. This requires a centralized strategy in the implementation of a unified infrastructure (the website CMS, for example) and the brand “look and feel”. These elements are generally invisible to the end user, such as site architecture, databases, usability and global design templates.
When globalizing a site, the following aspects must be considered:
- Global templates – provides consistent brand presence and efficient processes
- Global gateway – provides a system by which users are directed to their local site. May be simple text links, a drop down, or a welcome page with geographic links. Cookies can save country or language preferences.
- Domain access – register specific country codes and multilingual domain names
- Translation management systems – decide if a translation memory platform will be used and implement a translation workflow
- Global Content – includes material applicable to all regions, such as technical docs, tutorials, company information
- Global team – may be set up as a dedicated team with shared company resources
Localization: Are you sensitive to the local culture?
Customers are most comfortable on sites that are consistent with their own culture and language. That is why the localization component is an important part of the equation. A successful global website is one in which the company has taken the time to understand the subtleties of that culture’s symbols, perceptions, politics, and geographic circumstances. Such an understanding will help avoid common mistakes in product offerings and inappropriate marketing messages. (An example is promoting a Winter Sale to a country in the southern hemisphere when it’s summer there.)
- Brand name and taglines – How does the name and tagline fare when translated?
- transliteral translations – Goes beyond literal translations to create copy that gets to the correct essence of the message.
- Writing style and tone – Whereas in some cultures a strong selling message is accepted, in others it might be offensive.
- Colors and aesthetics – It may be necessary to alter color palettes in a localized website that may have a different symbolism than in other cultures
- Flags – The use of flags is problematic, as it may not correctly reflect all the languages spoken in a country nor all the countries with the same language.
- Images – Photography should be altered to reflect the local culture and population. Some imagery may be inappropriate in some cultures.
- Icons – The meaning of icons may vary significantly from culture to culture. (For example, whereas the thumbs up icon is generally positive, in some cultures it’s an obscene insult.) The use of icons should be vetted by a local expert to avoid inadvertently confusing and offending the local user.
- local content (promotions, marketing, logistics)
- time zones, Daylight Savings, calendars
- telephone numbers
- local search engines
- local laws and policies
- file weight for users in generally low bandwidth regions
Once you have your global platform up and running, you need to implement a decentralized process and set up a local team to handle the localized content for each relevant geographic area. This might include local web producers and content editors, local translation review, and the creation of a local marketing plan.
So now you have a general idea of what goes into a global web strategy. We’ll be going more in depth on some of these areas in future posts. Stay tuned, or contact us for help on globalizing your website.