What Makes For A Great International Website?
One of the key challenges for businesses in 2014 will be how they truly tap into the online global economy. The website perhaps offers the quickest route in and the fastest ROI. However if you are going to launch an international website, be warned – don’t rush it – or you could up with egg on our face.
Going global can seem daunting – language, culture and legal differences can all make you feel a bit worried but in truth, if you plan well and work with good people, it can be pretty plain sailing.
So, for those looking to use their websites to increase their reach globally, whether its consumers of content or consumers of chocolate, what are the key elements that will make your international website stand out?
Although there are many factors covering everything from SEO keywords to using Unicode to payment gateways, here are three areas I believe nobody can ignore.
There is lots of debate as to whether you should use in-country domains, subdomains or suffixes to create the international domains of your website. In truth, it’s six of one and half-a-dozen of their other, however, having an in-country domain I feel makes all the difference.
Why? It’s about your statement of intent. For example, if a French visitor comes to your site and sees website.fr as opposed to website.com/fr, they will feel that the in-country domain is specifically for them as opposed to an add-on. It shows the visitor that you are for want of a better word, ‘French’. The same applies to any country – as a brand, this scores your brownie points.
As well as for the users, having an in-country domain will also help your local SEO efforts.
Design, UX and Culture
One of the most fundamental elements of any great website is good design. However, when you take a website abroad you need to tweak that design, the usability and the feel of the website so that it is culturally suitable.
An extreme example would be localizing into left-to-right languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. Not only are you going to have to flip the text, but also your whole navigation system, images, etc.
Icons for example can get lost in translation – what looks like “home” to us in the UK or the US doesn’t necessarily work in Japan or China. Even usability is completely different. Go look at some of the popular Japanese websites for example – they don’t see white space and nice big margins between images and texts as a positive things. They cram things together which to us can look like a mess, but for them it works!
If you can, consider some localization or UX testing on a foreign site to get feedback on what works and what can be improved upon.
Remember the key is to make users feel as though they are on a website that was designed for them. You can’t do this by applying your cultural lenses on their digital space.
Content Written for Locals
Perhaps the most important thing of all is language. The late, great Nelson Mandela perfectly summarised why it is so crucial to have your website in the language of the readers: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Yes you have to make sure that you translate your content, but this doesn’t mean you shove it through Google translate or use the cheapest translator you can find on a freelancer site. No. It means giving your copy some love and lots of attention. Anything less and your visitors will smell the difference!
Engage with good professional translators or copywriters who can also give you advice and pointers on how to go about presenting your product/service/company. They understand the psyche and the culture of the target audience and will know how to pitch the language, tone, facts, USPs, etc.
As with any great website, you won’t be great with mediocre content so ensure what you’re delivering is world class.
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