You’ve made your parent website brand-building, searchable, engaging, and navigable for your home audience. How to achieve this for each potential new market abroad?
To make it simple for users to find what they need, in their language, on the device of their choice.
How to go about it
First, start your journey on Market Finder to see how your website scores on desktop speed, mobile-friendliness and speed, and find out how to improve it. Or, if it’s still in the planning stages, or there are other areas of your existing design you want to think about in a global context, here’s our checklist to going international.
Taking Your Website Global
Treat everyone the same
Think of yourself as an international company with local customers, rather than a local business with international customers, and treat customers in each market the same. Aim to have the design, functionality, and content of your website(s) deliver the same user experience wherever those users may be.
One universal website or individual localised sites?
A universal multilingual website offers content in more than one language e.g. a Canadian business with an English and a French version of its site, or a blog on Latin American soccer in both Spanish and Portuguese. A universal multilingual site using a single domain such as .com has many advantages:
- It says you’re a global business
- It’s quicker, simpler and cheaper to register
- It’s more intuitive for users to find
- But you still have to meet the needs of your target market in each localised market
Individual localised multi-regional websites explicitly target users in different countries. Multi-regional websites each use a country-coded top level domain (ccTLD) names e.g .ie, .de. or .fr:
- It’s a way to emphasise your close connection to your customers in each country and a reassuring signal for users who want products and service in their
language, and familiar payment methods
- But it can be time consuming and expensive to buy and register a ccTLD for each export market
Some sites are both multi-regional and multilingual. For instance, a site might have different versions for the USA and for Canada, and both French and English versions of the Canadian content.
Choose your domain name
The top level domain is the suffix (e.g. .com, .org, .net) and many ecommerce sites choose .com because users try .com first when trying to find a company without a search engine. Although Google uses the content to determine its language, the URL gives your users useful clues about content. For example, the following URLs use .fr as a subdomain or subdirectory to clearly indicate French content:
Signalling the language in the URL can also help you to discover issues with multilingual content on your site. It’s fine to translate words in the URL, or to use an Internationalised Domain Name (IDN).
Do your international SEO correctly, and your Google search users should land on the correct language version of your site. If you visit Google.com, for instance, and you will automatically be redirected to your country-specific Google search page. But, imagine a user arriving from a Spanish I.P. looking for English content. Forcing them to redirect to the Spanish section would diminish that user’s engagement, so what are your options?
No geo-redirect gives user the choice to stay where they land on your English site despite their Spanish I.P.
No geo-redirect until payment lets the user choose their own journey until they arrive at ‘Buy Now’, when they are automatically redirected
Automatic geo-redirect gives the user no choice but to automatically be redirected to your Spanish content
Pop up geo-direct banner such as: Would you like to go to our Spanish site or stay on our English site?” — gives the user the power to decide
Don’t assume users will have access to 4G networks; much of the world is till 3G or slower. So design your site to load quickly so people don't give up before they even get in. Some hints for increasing upload speeds:
- Eye-catching media are an effective way to engage users. But, too much can cause your site to load slowly and have users leaving before they see your most
important information. Compress any images you use
- Limit the number of navigation links
- Avoid pop-ups or other features that could interfere with navigation
A localised website has the same content as your home website but translated in a culturally appropriate way to the language of your export country. (When a straightforward translation is not possible — for example, of an English colloquialism — transcreation aims to communicate the same meaning and feel, and elicit the same response in the target language.) For each new market you need to:
Unicode is the industry standard, designed to promote and facilitate the consistent representation of text, irrespective of script. Any written language, from Greek to Cyrillic to Chinese, Arabic or Hebrew, whether it reads from left to right or right to left, can be catered for. Unicode supports over 100 scripts, with a repertoire of over hundred thousand characters. UTF-8 is most commonly used.
Best practices for websites in any market
Put important information towards the top of the page
Make it immediately visible without scrolling.
Your customers use small screens on mobile phones and tablets throughout their day. Create a website that automatically adjusts to a user's device to make sure users find what they're looking for, no matter which size screen they’re on.
Use clear, eye-catching headlines
A clear introductory headline on your site helps customers quickly know that they're in the right place and encourage them to stay longer.
Say it with colours
Colours are also a form of language, so research your potential market’s relationship with colour before you launch your site in a new market. Colours symbolise different things from country to country. For example, white in Western countries is used for weddings; in China it is used in funerals. Red is a high prestige colour in India, whereas in the United Kingdom it is purple, and in China it is yellow.
Clearly list the benefits
Make sure users know right away why they should stay; that your product or service benefits are quickly scannable. Bullet points are a great way to do this.
Provide quick links to more information
For example, a prominent ‘Learn more’ link.
Give a clear call to action
When you're clear about the action you want people to take on your site, visitors are much more likely to actually take that action and bring you the business you're looking for.
Build customer relationships
Build trust by making it easy for people to reach you
If you request personal information from customers, make it clear why you're asking for it and what you'll do with it
Include customer testimonials or 3rd party verifications
If you run ads, make sure you distinguish these ads and sponsored links from the rest of your site content