Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Considerations for Global Website Experiences

Brian Browning
Design / Platforms / Content

Managing a global website represents a unique challenge, one that requires a delicate balance of information architecture, user experience savvy, and cultural awareness. From a business perspective, the fundamental goal of an international website is to ensure that visitors have a local feel to the site and the experience. This means delivering user experience components and content in a way that is completely localized, leveraging not just language, but dialect, imagery, and an awareness of local customs and expectations. From a technical perspective, the goal of globally-facing website focuses around the idea of managing a single instance of a CMS platform that provides the ability to share common content across all geographies, but that's managed in a single, easily-accessed instance.  

Considerations When Getting Started with a Global Website  

It’s important to begin any discussion of international websites with a solid understanding of how business goals and processes vary by geography. We can’t treat the entire world the same way, even if we have similar content, products, or messaging to share across markets. Each marketplace offers its own unique challenges. As we think about the communications we intend to deliver, we must consider how we expect to support customers in each region based on their unique needs and expectations. Each visitor should experience the site content in a way that makes them feel as if your company or organization is just down the road.  

Conducting actual commerce complicates this mission even more, as we must contemplate differences in the way that products are made available, how region and country-specific tax models vary, delivery channel differences, pricing changes, regulatory requirements, and follow-up support variations. Ensuring that you have a fundamental understanding of these differences while developing e-commerce experiences will mitigate a lot of rework and costly overruns.  

User experience is another important area when considering the development of globally-facing website experiences. Being aware of language differences is an important starting point but understanding the need to accommodate different dialogs within languages is just as important. For example, delivering French-language content in Canada is not the same as French content in France. Extending this understanding to SEO techniques is important, along with taxonomy and content strategies.  

At a visual level, we must be aware of how colors are perceived by different cultures. In the West, the color red sometimes typifies danger or warning, while in China, the color red is usually perceived to be representative of prosperity and strength. The same holds true when it comes to photography; we must be aware of the differences in cultural perception of people, roles and what is considered appropriate. Using generic imagery to represent concepts is usually a safe approach in some geographies, but we must reconsider that as we extend it to new regions and locales.  

Today’s web content management systems are ideally suited to delivering experiences tuned to exacting locales and geographies. Not only do they provide powerful tools to manage multilingual content (including language and dialect support, even for symbol-based languages like Japanese or Chinese), they offer extreme flexibility in the way that templates can be designed and presented (for example, templates that offer left-to-right versus right-to-left reading models). 

As we contemplate the diversity of considerations for an international website, it makes sense to focus on developing a strategy up-front to save costs and time in implementing them. Many customers approach this question by developing a US-based presence initially and then add additional locales over time. While this approach can be successful, it requires a careful awareness of the need to expand in the future so that additional sites can be built easily without re-working the information architecture. Special focus and attention should be paid to the re-usability of content, awareness of different currency, time and related formats, workflows associated with authors and administrators around the world, and with an understanding of how to support a global content and commerce team.  

We have extensive experience in supporting multinational website experiences, leveraging our understanding of the various components I have shared in this article. Our Managed Services team specializes in providing long-term global support for organizations who take on international initiatives. Companies that invest in global presences typically see significant returns on their investment, especially when a carefully considered approach is utilized to crafting international experiences that feel local to their users.  

We’d love to talk about what this means for your business. To learn more about approaching localization and internationalization, please connect with us here.

Brian Browning is VP, Digital Experience Solutions at Rightpoint. Follow Brian on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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