How to approach internationalisation

How to approach internationalisation

11 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, 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

Upload speeds

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:

  • Speak your customers’ language
  • Create a localised website version
  • Build on your branding
  • Max your searchability
  • Consider currency and payment
  • Keep the customer satisfied
  • Make it legal
  • Attend to the detail

  • Find out more about localising your website

Design development

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.