Technology has become integral to humanity at large. It would be impossible to imagine a world any less technologically integrated. Such a world where web driven interface is commonplace. The world in its reach has shrunk and access to any part is merely a click of a mouse button away.
The digital divide is minimal at best 1 Geographical barriers have no place in the internet age.2 It has opened up a world of endless opportunities for businesses all across the globe. You are not limited to what is merely your local surroundings and proximate outreach, the whole world is your marketplace and your target audience.3
With the advent in technology, websites have become the new face for e-commerce and the new direction for business to expand their markets. Thus, a website is used to communicate your business and target potential clients.4 Therefore a business must strive to communicate effectively and cater to international audience unless it wishes to limit its market and outreach.
The need of the hour is to take a step forward and give your website an international flavor. So, what must a website have that caters to the needs of a truly international audience and how does one make sure that the website communicates the right and the proper way? What is this internationalization of a website that we speak of? How does one design a website which can communicate effectively across cultures?
The concept of Internationalization is often confused with Globalization, whereas both are two different sides of the same coin.
Internationalization is the state of being International and increasing the importance of international trade, relations, treaties and alliances whereas Globalization is integration of many national economies into one global economy, primarily by free trade, capital mobility and easy migration.5
The concept of internationalization was already there in our society but it re-emerged more powerfully with the introduction of Internet.6 The idea is to design of your website which entices international audiences and helps increase your global business footprint.
It needs an effective engagement strategy addressing the needs of customers while eliminating cultural impediments:
Customized & Flexible Design
In order to develop an internationally acceptable website, pay extreme attention on its visual appeal. Mainly there are two ways of building websites: one is developing a single corporate theme website and changing the layout, content and language from one site to another when explored by international audiences in different regions to suit their taste and by positioning content via localization or in the alternate design different websites for audiences of different countries and regions.7
The second style is a bit complex and time consuming and more expensive but its more flexibility and enables you to convey your message directly relevant to the local diaspora in a more targeted manner. Therefore, choose the type of design for your website that seems appropriate for your business in such a flexible and customized way that it can be easily adapted to a diverse variety of audiences.
Think about Cultures
If your potential customers are the people sitting across various geographies, then while designing you must consider the aspect of cross-cultural values. Think about country, their cultural norms, trends, preferences, lifestyle and many other related things and communicate the way locals would find acceptance.8
Put yourself in your Audience’s Shoes
For designing a website that communicates to your audiences in a right way, put yourself in the shoes of your customers to understand what kind of informational content they need. Craft your message to bridge cultural differences and maximize the impact of your products or services on your potential customers.
Select Suitable Images
Graphics and imagery play a big part in the overall look and feel of your website. Therefore, make sure that the imagery you put is relevant to your audience i.e. don’t use Caucasian models for selling fashion products to an Asian market. Use images to reflect localization in an attempt to sell your international product line. Remember, the audience wants to know if you even know them customers or are you merely trying to push an alian brand down their throat. If your customers care, so should you.
Everyone knows that an image is worth a thousand words, but in case of wide audiences, especially culturally diverse audiences across various countries, your images may miscommunicate.9 So, in order to bring internationalism to your website avoid using images that are considered offensive in the culture of your target audiences because it is better to be safe than sorry.
Images communicate more than or words do, so do not reduce their importance by choosing inappropriate ones.
Colors Communicate Too
For many people colors seem like an ordinary thing, but designers feel that they create an extraordinary impact on viewers. Colors are deeply rooted in our cultures and every color symbolizes something valuable. Research perceptions of colors among your target audiences and then adapt web design accordingly. Colors have a significant emotional effect and strong cultural connotations.
Colors communicate in a different way and also influence people of different cultures differently. Like yellow color represents summer or happiness in Western countries, but this same color denotes mourning in Mexico. Similarly, in some western regions it signifies cowardice, whereas in Japanese culture it is associated with exactly opposite meaning, i.e. courage.10
Customize Search Engine Marketing
International search engine marketing is all about selection of suitable search engines, keywords optimization and content localization.11 Keywords are like two way passage that not only allow website owners to offer their users what exactly they have to offer but it works for users as well enabling them to search what they exactly want.
While designing a website for specific international audiences pay greater attention to the keywords that helps in bringing visitors to your website.
By implementing the aforementioned tips, you can easily bring internationalism in your website’s design and can stimulate your reach among international audiences.
1. University of Texas, School of Information. Blog posted on 27 February, 2012, “The Internet Revolution and the Digital Divide.”
2. Bill Gates, 1 December, 2000. “Shaping the Internet Age.” Microsoft’s News Section.
3. Osmond Vitez, Demand Media. Post on Chron “The Effect of the Internet on Modern Businesses and Corporations.”
4. Aidan Doran. Article on SelfGrowth.com, “How to Use your Website to Communicate with your Customers as Effectively as Possible.”
5. Keith Rankin (1999) "Economic Internationalism", New Zealand Political Review 8(4):14-18.
6 Stuart Hodkinson, University of Leeds. “Reviving Trade Unionism: Globalization, Internationalism & the Internet”
7 Blog post on Globalization Partners International, 10 August, 2011. “Creating Culturally Customized Content for Website Translation”
8 Erica Swallow, 01 November, 2010. Posted on Mashable, “Five Tips for Marketing Online to an International Audience”
9 Sarah, 13 May, 2011. Post on Your Inspiration Web. “Webdesign: Let your Website Communicate the Right Way”
10 Christian Arno, 27 July, 2010. Article posted on Six Revisions. “How Web Designers can Adopt a Global Mindset”
11. Erica Swallow, 01 November, 2010. Posted on Mashable, “Five Tips for Marketing Online to an International Audience”