Best Practices for Website Internationalization

The Internet knows no bounds, however, if you don’t use your content wisely, borders will set in, making your business inaccessible and unappealing to the wider market. Clearly, internationalization is key. But what does this mean and what is the best way of doing it?

Language

website internationalization

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/a5LYwC

The most obvious root to internationalization is through language. First and foremost your website should be in your native language. Get it right in this language first.

Then get it right in English. After compiling their report ‘The English Effect’, the British Council says that “English is spoken at a useful level by a quarter of the world population.” It is a truly universal language.

An international English will have no idioms, colloquialisms and no jokes. The cultural difference between Singaporean English and UK English means there is no room for quirks, they will mean nothing to an English speaker the other side of the world.

The next level is to localize. Get your best text translated into languages for local sites. And don’t ask your friend’s mum, a professional translator will write in good marketing style, using text that works for your intended market.

Technology

Get the right tech in place so that your site can detect who is looking from where. It will then direct them to the right site in their language. If this localizing hasn’t happened in their region, direct them to the Universal English site.

Remember to give people options. Because someone is in Germany looking at your website does not mean that they speak German. They could be simply passing through… or they could live there but their handle on German is not up to scratch. Changing the language automatically, as well as currency while we’re on the subject, is fine but incredibly frustrating if you can’t easily change it back again.

Content

It doesn’t take much to tweak your content to fit a geographical area. If you’re in Spain, a customer service centre in Dallas, Texas is not as useful as your local office in Madrid. An outlet in Delhi is not going to be much use if you’re in London. A certain level of assumption on your part is useful to your end user.

Taking it a step further, a customized micro-site, a kind of localized version of your main website, means that the marketing team can promote your service to the demographics’ specific needs, for example how does your product fit with public services in the area, how does your service work with the community? Giving a personal feel, whatever language you use, will put your brand in the hearts and minds of your audience.

Design

Think about the images you are using. What would your web visitors be more drawn to?

Generic shots of Middle America won’t speak to the city dwellers of Barcelona, mountain landscapes of the Scottish Highlands won’t help connect with beach lovers of the South of France.

A picture says a thousand words and by getting it right, you could be bagging yourself a few new fans and customers.

Product

Know your market; understand what they want and whether it is possible to give it to them. All the promotion in the world won’t matter if delivery costs are prohibitive. If the market is already saturated, you may want to look at diversifying. Do all your homework to avoid looking silly.

Internationalization is Localization

Ironically, by taking your website through the steps of internationalization, you are localizing your website. You end up with a depth of local understanding in different regions, a broader catalogue of text in different languages, and a bank of images and design ideas that relate to a range of demographics. To be successful, this stack of geographical micro sites must connect to your Universal Site, they must offer choice and flexibility and once they do, you will have a truly international website that has no boundaries.