Your Checklist for Launching Global Websites (Part 1 of 2)
Bringing your business to another country often means doing business confronting a new language, new regulations, new risks but also new opportunities. While the transition into the unfamiliar might appear daunting at first, there are some best practices to follow for preparing your company to support a multilingual content strategy. This two-part blog series (read part two here) offers industry insights gleaned from the experiences of Lionbridge’s multi-national clients. The checklist consists of three steps:
- Step 1: Preparation
- Step 2: Internationalization
- Step 3: Localization
Step 1: Preparation
The initial step in launching your global website is a step back. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of assessing your company’s global readiness before eagerly diving in head first, but in order to navigate “international waters” successfully, a company must begin by evaluating itself. First you need to ask what your company’s target markets and locales are. Are you building a foundation on limited brand recognition in a new country or are you expanding to meet the needs of an already loyal domestic customer base? By talking with in-country teams you can define your company’s place in a local culture and better evaluate market-specific requirements. These local connections can also help you test the effectiveness of your pre-existing brand names or help you to create new ones.
When a brand goes global, so do its marketing strategies. It is crucial to ensure that your online content and/or applications are “world ready”. Ask yourself: can my company handle this in-house, or should we outsource to a vendor? With global websites, be sure to register country-code domain names for each country where your company expands. For mobile, develop a strategy that includes both mobile-optimized sites and mobile apps to ensure maximum reach.
Step 2: Internationalization
Ensuring a seamless user experience across multiple languages demands an assessment of the finer details as well as big picture ideas. Using global design templates to help manage your multilingual websites has become a best practice in web globalization. These templates allow you to easily manage multiple websites in various languages and to provide consistency to users on a global scale. Good practices such as removing embedded text from images and choosing culturally neutral pictures whenever and wherever possible will allow your company to maximize its utilization of key resources without needing to adjust minor details like buttons or stock photos for each language.
During the development process, testing the stability and flexibility of websites and software by inserting different languages is crucial to ensure that no tiny errors in the coding process can affect website functionality. In mobile apps, use languages that align with the default languages of the operating system's native settings. This gives users the flexibility to change language preferences, while also streamlining development. Looking at both the development and UX in such a way will ensure that the code and global templates can be flexible enough to adapt to things like increased characters when translating to different languages. This ensures you don’t end up with layout issues that ultimately affect the user experience.
A permanent global gateway should appear throughout your site in the top right corner of every web page, offering users access to every available translation. This ensures that through every stage of the global customer lifecycle an online visitor has complete access to appropriately translated information relevant to his or her language needs. This dropdown bar should display languages and country or region names in their native languages without using flags in order to minimize geopolitical and cultural complications. You should also avoid placing the U.S. or U.K. at the top of these language lists as that might suggest favoritism.
For more tips, pick up our report Benchmarking the Best Global Websites in the travel and hospitality industry. Be sure to check out for part two of this series, where we continue with a discussion of Step 3: Localization.
Jason Hobart is Vice President of Digital and Channels at Lionbridge, the leading provider of globalization services that enable clients to develop, localize/translate, test, and maintain their enterprise content.