Website Globalization - What it really means for US-firms
01 May 2012 Archived as Articles
Reading time: 6 - 10 minutes
Many businesses are unsure of what the term "globalization" means in the context of web-site creation for global markets. For websites, the term "Globalization" specifically refers to the mechanics of creating a website that communicates and functions correctly for specific locales. In general, globalization consists of two components, Internationalization and Localization.
A company planning to conduct business globally, or at least in several global markets, will need to develop and execute a website globalization plan. This plan involves a multi-disciplinary team working to address an array of website strategic and tactical initiatives. Issues ranging from target market analysis, translation services of website content into different languages, to the establishment of multilingual support capabilities all must be addressed in order to create a truly "globalized", working web presence. While website globalization should be part of any initial website design and development plan, often times companies devote thought to translating their website only after their native market site is up, running and producing measurable ROI.
While the over-riding purpose of website globalization is to enable a company's web presence to communicate and conduct business globally, different organizations have different motivations for undertaking globalization.
From policy makers to power generators
In order to keep their members and constituents up-to-date on the latest developments in the Western Hemisphere, the Inter-American Economic Council (IAEC) www.inter-american.org needed a dynamic, multilingual, database-driven website which their staff could update on a daily basis in three languages (English, Spanish & Portuguese). With a membership list that includes presidents, cabinet officials, central bankers, political leaders, country experts, academia, and private sector leaders from British Columbia, Canada to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the IAEC's first generation, English-only, static site did not communicate with many of the IAEC's constituencies in their native Spanish and Portuguese languages, nor was it cost-effective or time-efficient to keep updated.
So this DC-based non-profit sat down and put together their own website globalization plan. The results of this effort over their English-only, static site were significant. Site log files post-globalization showed an average increase of 35% in total sessions served, 25% in average page views per session, and time spent per session increasing significantly in the 2-5 minute and 6-15 minute ranges compared to averages from the previous 6 months.
"The feedback was overwhelming," said IAEC President Barry Featherman. "The quality and quantity of timely information we can now make available to our members in their native languages is an amazing goal realized, and our membership and potential members definitely responded."
Basic Systems, (www.basicsystems. com) one of four companies that make up the BSI Group of Companies wanted to pursue market opportunities outside the US. While they had international expertise across several power generation disciplines, they were not communicating this fact to possible markets outside the English-speaking world. Several markets where Spanish is the native language and Russian-speaking markets presented great opportunities for their combination of project management, facility engineering, industrial control system integration, engine and compressor automation services.
Their website globalization initiative would initially involve key sections of their website, and include Spanish and Russian localization. This market (locale) specific approach allowed Basic Systems to seek contracts in new markets from Mexico and Venezuela to the Ukraine. Acknowledging website globalization is more than translated web content, Basic Systems employs several Ukranian engineers at their facilities in Ohio which ensures they can back up what their web presence communicates.
It takes a team
To fully enable your web presence to conduct international e-commerce, it takes a multi-disciplinary team consisting of professionals from various fields applying their skills to your web planning and presence. These skills are a combination of language, project management and technology expertise.
Your global website team may consist of "players" from as many as ten areas of global e-commerce expertise. Understand that the expertise and services provided by any of your ten team members may be available in-house, and therefore the outside player may or may not be necessary.
So, who are the players and what do they provide?
- Trade Organizations: Governmental and Consultancies Initial information, contacts and research required for determining target markets and localizations required for your website.
- Legal Counsel: Review website content for target market appropriateness and local legal requirements including "distance selling" restrictions, advertising standards, privacy and data protection, and online terms and conditions/"clickwrap" enforceability.
- Accounting and Tax Advisors: Accounting advice regarding currency and tax consequences of webtransactions.
- Web Graphic Design and Development Firm: Site design and development services including determination of the appropriate e-commerce enabled architecture for your site.
- Website Globalization Firm: Web localization and internationalization services includingenabling a site to function and display correctly in various naturallanguages (i.e. Spanish, Chinese, Arabic).
- Global Hosting Provider (ISP): Website hosting and managementservices including security, monitoring and housing for your global site.
- Multi-currency Transaction Service: Service and technologies to allow your site to accept and make payments in any currency.
- Search Engine Optimization Service: Global search engine submission and optimization services to ensure people in any country, speaking any language, can find your site. For more information check Global SEO Services
- Global E-Fulfillment Providers: Storage, packing and shipping of your products ordered from your site to major destinations worldwide
- Multilingual Support Service: Global multilingual 24/7 support and help desk for your site, products and services
By now most of us realize our website creates a global presence for us. It allows us to advertise our products and services around the world, and therefore should allow us to conduct business anywhere. However, just as speaking Spanish or Arabic is no guarantee of a successful business transaction in a Spanish or Arabic speaking country, merely translating a website into different languages is no guarantee it will be an effective tool for global e-commerce. US firms looking abroad need to take a holistic approach to their web globalization efforts. Combining education and planning, with effective implementation and organization, will allow for achievement of measurable ROI in these new global markets.
12 steps to consider when planning a website globalization project:
- Complete a target market analysis to determine into what languages you should translate your website.
- Draft a business case for translating your site including projected ROI.
- Design and develop an effective multilingual architecture and navigational scheme for your site taking steps to ensure any internationalization issues are addressed.
- Review existing English site content for legal and cultural correctness issues.
- Develop a comprehensive glossary for any new languages.
- Prepare a "Localization Kit" which is all the source files required for translation.
- Determine what other content requires translation beside web pages (i.e. documentation which might be posted to the website such as brochures)
- Select a translation agency or team to complete the translation.
- Determine a site update and maintenance plan.
- Hire multilingual staff anticipating communications (emails, phone calls, and requests for information) will now be received in other languages.
- Plan and execute a promotional campaign for your new multilingual website
a) Announcing that your new site is available in several languages is a great opportunity to get some press!
b) Make sure your new site gets submitted to all the search engines including international ones.
- Plan on-going multilingual support options for users of the site.
Globalization (G11N) = Internationalization (I18N) + Localization (L10N)
Abbreviated I18N, it is defined as the process of developing a program or website whose core feature design and code do not make assumptions based on a single language or locale and whose source base simplifies the creation of different language editions of the program or website.
Abbreviated L10N, it is defined as the process of adapting a program or website for a specific international market, which includes translating the user interface, translating graphics, customizing features, and testing results to ensure that the program or website still works. Locale A combination of language, geography and culture which helps define required functionality or format rules for software or websites.
- 12 Steps to Website Globalization
- Planning a Website Localization Project? Where do I start?
- Website Translation: 14 Steps to an effective worldwide website!
- Website Translation, Website Localization and Website Internationalization
*Definitions adopted for websites from: Developing International Software (Microsoft Press), by Nadine Kano
Martin Spethman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Managing Partner USA for Globalization Partners International (GPI). GPI provides website internationalization and localization services in over 25 languages.
by Martin Spethman