The internet is a global marketplace, and if you intend to take advantage of this and spread your message far and wide, you need to take into account the international user experience.
Localising your website for a different market isn’t simply about translating the content into the relevant language. Creating a good international user experience requires knowledge of your chosen market, and the customers you will serve.
It’s not only language that differs across the world, but the ways of doing things, and the meanings behind actions and words.
“I think IT projects are about […] communications between people and machines. They tend to fail due to cultural issues.” – Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of World Wide Web
Something what works well in one market might be meaningless or even insulting in another. This may affect the choice of images you use on your website. Panama, for instance, is more responsive to the notion of the group than that of the individual, whereas a thumbs up, pretty much universally accepted as a good thing throughout the West, may not go down too well in the Middle East.
Something as simple as colour choice might have untoward cultural or religious ramifications, so always research the local market before diving in head-first.
Localise the Brand
The temptation might be to translate your website verbatim for the market you’re targeting. However, this inflexibility means missing out on the opportunity to further localise your brand.
Slogans, tag-lines, and snippets of content can be rewritten or tweaked to reflect local demographical trends in the potential consumer base. Localising your message for individual markets will show users that you care about them, and with 68% of customers ditching companies because they think they don’t, this can only be a good thing.
The Devil’s in the Detail
The devil is indeed in the detail. Simple things that might get overlooked, such as spelling (UK vs American English), methods of communicating date and time, and the format of telephone numbers, will look sloppy if incorrectly tuned to the locality.
It’s these seemingly innocuous details (ISO codes, for instance) that can spell the difference between a passable international user experience, which is okay but doesn’t really engage, and a winning one.
To conclude on international user experience
The importance of researching the market beforehand cannot be stressed enough, and remember: Test everything. Assume nothing.
For localisation services and usability testing that will improve the international user experience of your customers, contact us today!