In our recent Q3 newsletter article, we discussed how budget-conscious brand expansion can benefit immensely from international website usability optimization. Here are five affordable tips to help you build a better international website:
1. Choose a local top-level domain. Nothing says, “We’re serious about our presence here,” like a top-level domain with local hosting in your target countries. Rather than shuttling your users to a U.S. hosted domain, boost your credibility (and possibly in-country search engine visibility) with a local domain.
2. “Abstract” your design, code, and content elements from one another. Basically, abstraction means that your code, content, and design can be edited independently of one another. Use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) with a robust international CMS (Content Management System) is the best option here. It all adds up to easier roll-out and maintenance for different countries.
3. Test site rendering in other countries. Rendering problems undermine credibility. Different written languages have dramatic (and sometimes catastrophic!) impact on your design. You need flexible design elements which can accommodate character sets for Asian and Arab cultures. UTF-8 is a good choice. It has unique character codes in over 90 scripts and 1,112,064 code points in Unicode.
4. Use responsive web design. How does your site flow from web browser to mobile phone? Are you ready to display your content seamlessly on both laptops and tablets? Responsive web design leverages technology to provide different layouts depending on screen size. This also raises the question: Do you know the dominant platform your international users will use to access your site?
5. Conduct testing early. Pick one country to begin with and learn lessons incrementally. Test sections or elements before the entire site is finished. Consider launching a microsite for market and usability research. This will educate you about your customers’ culture and inform future usability tests.
Taking steps to ensure good website usability can not only help streamline your website localization process, but can also help bolster your global presence.