The word globalization has become a major buzzword in the business world. Nowadays, businesses realize the important role that the internet plays and as a result have tapped into it to reach new and emerging markets on a global scale.
Of course, planning and designing a business website aimed at a global market is simply more than translating your website into a chosen foreign language. E-marketers will understand that cultural differences will play a substantial role when it comes to your relationship with prospective visitors and clients.
This means time and effort should be taken when it comes to your website for cross-culture success. There is a lot more than first meets the eye, but as overwhelming as it may seem, there are ways in which you can create a successful website for a foreign market.
Consider these five tips on how to effectively produce a website that meets international demands for your business.
1. Know who your audience is
Before jumping into the design process of your website you should undertake the required market research first. This will help you to establish which country you should target first and which country will benefit the most from what you can offer them.
The worst thing you can do is skip this part only to realize after launching your website that you have to contend with local competition. Once you have determined the best route you can then move on to creating your site.
Something to consider during the design process is whether or not your context should be high or low. According to cultural theorist Edward Hall, High Context cultures, for instance Asian cultures, take meaning from the context presented, whereas Low Context cultures, for example those in Northern Europe, derive meaning purely from the content.
This means that a website aimed at LC should be straightforward and succinct and one aimed at HC should be complete with imagery, video and interactivity.
2. Loyalty with individuality
A survey by Experian in 2010 found that 83% of respondents want companies to understand their needs. In today’s society, everyone wants to be treated as an individual and websites are no different from this. When it comes to translated websites, you may find that they are missing an integral part, which is often where native speakers can play a fundamental role in getting your message across.
To attract a loyal base of customers you can also make sure that you employ top level country code domains, for example www.example.cz (Czech Republic). Not only will this increase your search engine rankings, but it will boost your credibility with the locals, which is essentially what you want.
3. User friendly
When it comes to tailoring your website, you will find that making your website as simple as possible in terms of navigation and layout will make a big difference. Choose a top-tab design along with horizontal navigation making usability user friendly and universal for languages that read left-to-right and right-to-left.
Another point to bear in mind is that you should make sure you have enough flexibility in your image and text boxes so that you can change these when required with ease. For example if you are targeting a German market you will find from your research that they require 30% more space, on average, to say the same thing that you would for your English market.
4. Picking the right colors
While choosing a color for your website may not seem like it needs much thought, it does. Colors, after all, can play a vital role in many cultures.
For instance, while Western cultures may consider red to mean either love or danger, in China the color red is used for celebration and good luck. Because of this, it’s best to pick a neutral color that doesn’t have any background connation. A worldwide color that works is blue.
5. Utilizing the best tools
If you have plans to design a number of sites and want to switch between languages without having to start the design process from the beginning then you should use Unicode. This is your one-stop-program that makes switching between characters easy.
With more than a hundred thousand characters and over 90 languages, you can transform your site from English to Chinese, to Arabic, to Hebrew, to Thai. The most frequent character encoding for this package is UTF-8, which is most used for websites and emails.
Another tool to utilize is CSS, or what is known as Cascading Style Sheets. This allows you to easily keep content and images separated and doesn’t require you to begin from the start when you need to alter the language of your site. Not only that, but because the files are small your pages will load faster. This is particularly useful to know when it comes to maintaining new and existing clients.
About the author
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, one of the world’s fastest growing translation agencies. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.