“How to Design a Site for International Audiences” – Part 3

We’ve reached part three of the series: “How to Design a Site for International Audiences”. This part will deal with the importance of professional translator, maintaining global branding, privacy laws and trivial details.

So Far We Have Looked At:

First part: Focuses on importance of Unicode, understanding the cultural symbols and their symbolic meanings and the symbolism of color. Click here to read the blog.

Second part: Deals with country specific design patterns and the use of flexible layouts to account for language compatibility. Click here to read the blog.

Use Professionally Translated Text for Local Content

While writing content for your localized sites, ensure that your content has been translated by a professional translator and vetted by a cultural authority for that culture to ensure that no careless or glaring mistakes have been made. While it might be tempting to use Google translate or a local employee to do a rough translation, lack of knowledge of translation nuances can lead to some embarrassing results as shown below:

Pepsi’s ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ slogan reportedly turned into ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ when translated into Chinese.

Germany was not entirely receptive of Irish Mist whiskey liqueur, Clairol’s mist stick curling iron or the Rolls Royce Silver Mist model. This isn’t surprising when you consider that ‘mist’ is German for ‘manure’.

Also be aware that slang is also avoided as much and what might be considered as acceptable words in a specific language might be considered as very offensive slang in another language.

Also note that names might be called differently or might be spelt differently depending on the language. For example Munich (the capital of Germany) is spelt as “München” In German.

Also note that not only selectable text should be translated but also text which is embedded in images to ensure there is a cohesive user experience and uniformity across the site.

Lastly, note that literal translations should also be done carefully while choosing website names as shown by the example of Holland’s hit festival which whose domain name becomes http://www.hollandshitfestival.nl/

Check out this article Ten Tips for Localization and Translation for additional inputs on best practices while doing translations.

Maintain Global Branding

Though care should be taken that the site is localized to reflect local customs and considerations such as color and local symbols are taken into the consideration while doing the site design, the site still maintains its brand identity to increase trust and acceptance across customers.

Be Aware of Privacy Laws

While designing a localized site, be mindful of the privacy laws of that country. For example, Europe has very strict data collection laws as opposed to USA and we must ensure that there is no violation of that as that can have serious consequences as shown as below:

The absolute worst case scenario is that the EU denies US firms the right to do business in Europe where there is any possible human data transfer back to the US. Some examples include:

  • Bar all e-commerce unless data about Europeans is processed in European and follows the new rules.
  • Airline and Hotel firms could not transfer any data about European customer’s preferences such as eating and seating.
  • Medical research data could not combine European and American data sets.
  • Firms that need data about individuals such as accountant, insurers and investment bankers would be severely curtailed.

There are numerous examples of companies who have made efforts to ensure these laws are met. For example, Citibank in collaboration with the German National Railway made an agreement to collectively launch the largest German credit card offering. In order to get approval the two firms had to negotiate for six months to institute numerous privacy protections to satisfy the new privacy directive. Another example is that Anitha Bondestam, the Swedish privacy watchdog instructed American Airlines to delete all health and medical details on Swedish passengers after each flight unless ‘explicit consent’ was given.

Be Mindful of Small Details

A successfully localized website is one that appears to have been developed locally, even when it wasn’t. Since localization mistakes and oversights can be awkward for website users and potentially embarrassing for the company, ensure you get it right. The last thing any company wants is to turn away potential customers from its website before those visitors ever have a chance to experience the product or service. Generally speaking, website localization means giving some extra attention to things like:

  • Dates: Be mindful of date formats used (DD/MM/YYYY vs. MM/DD/YYYY)
  • Time: 12-hour vs. 24-hour time.
  • Currency: Pay attention to conversions and formats.
  • Phone Numbers: Formats are different around the world.
  • National Holidays: Holidays are country and region specific.
  • Metric Units : Be mindful of the metric units being used in that country
  • Website Language Codes: ISO codes are important to know.

Also be mindful of details such as how consumers in your target country access your site. An excellent example is how Facebook customizes its tagline depending upon its target country. The English page says, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” The Japanese page says, “Using Facebook, you can connect with friends, colleagues and classmates to deepen your connections. Also access Facebook from cell phones and smartphones.”

The thing to notice is that the Japanese page mentions users can access the site with phones, but the English page doesn’t. This is perhaps because this study 95% of the Japanese population is mobile subscribers. To quote the study:

Japan has 125 million mobile subscribers (95 percent of the population), of these 103 million (84 percent of mobile users) are mobile Internet subscribers.

Conclusion

In closing, there is significant research done on the best practices to follow while doing localization on a site. Ensure that you pursue all the research that is available before jumping into a localization problem and follow the best practices recommended to ensure there is little or no embarrassment when the site launches thus driving your site towards greater globalization.

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