Thoughts On Strategy: Going International
- A Brit, working in Switzerland at a multinational scientific research organization, invented the Web to help his colleagues easily share the results of their research from anywhere on the globe. The Web has been, and always will be, a global communications platform.
- 20% of the world’s population has access to the Web as of December 2007.
- 50% of the world’s population has cell phones.
- Asia (including India and China) has the lowest percentage of population online but the greatest number currently online.
- Internationalized systems support deploying content and services in multiple languages and support gathering data and payment in different formats and currencies.
- Localization is the process of applying content, design and functionality to an internationalized system in order to address the needs of a country or region whose people share common cultural, economic, and linguistic attributes.
- Not all web site audiences are created equal. Focus your efforts on serving those with the highest potential value to your outcomes.
- Being truly global means being local everywhere. Do your homework, focus on your highest value audiences and build your international offerings over time.
Case Study: The Chinese Olympic Committee
The Chinese Olympic Committee is the body that won the 2008 Summer Olympics for China. They have deployed two sites as the country prepares for the big event later this year. One is in English and the other, naturally enough, in Chinese. They provide a good example of an organization developing two different presentations of their brand and information to two broadly differing audiences.
The English language site, en.olympic.cn, is clearly targeted to the entire world outside of China. It is in English and provides links to resources, information and headlines for anyone interested in the Olympics in China. Notice that the colors, although featuring some red, use more orange, blue and white.
The Chinese site, www.olympic.cn, is completely written in Chinese except for a link to the English language site and some roman numerals that count down the days until the Games begin. The color red is predominant and Communist Party iconography is much more in evidence. It is also a much more polished presentation and design compared to the English language site.
A few things to note:
- The two sites have different designs and content, tailored to the outcomes and audiences for which they were created.
- The navigation bars had to be structured differently, even if the sections were the same, due to the varying sizes of Chinese and English characters.
- The one consistency between the two sites is the branding of the Chinese flag, Olympic Rings and the name of the organization in Chinese and English. This is the one visual element that ties the two together as part of the same organization.
By bifurcating their audience in this way the Committee is able to provide tailored information and design to their domestic audience and a different presentation and language to everyone else. This simple approach allows the home country visitors to have a culturally (and politically, I’m sure) tailored experience while the rest of the world can access foreign-targeted content in a generally more accessible language. However, the English language content still carries a very identifiable political spin to news and events, as the torch relay of the past month has triggered protests around the world.
High Geekery: Machine Translation
Machine translation of language is not anywhere near ready for prime time use. Executives everywhere are tempted by the low cost of machine translation when compared to hiring a human to do it. However, as in so many cases, you get what you pay for when you take the road less costly.
For example, using the venerable Babel fish web site to translate the home page of the Chinese Olympic Committee leads to the following headline in English:
“The badminton champion lucky new huge mythical bird and the numerous stars sings refuels China.”
Who knew badminton birdies have a role in the energy markets?
If it’s worth translating, it’s worth hiring a human to do it. If you cannot justify the expense, increase the value of what you are trying to achieve online or simply stick with your native language.
New Offerings from David
Here are a few new resources and events from C. David Gammel:
- Article: Web Design Implications for Translated Web Sites
- Blog Post: Why Heathrow’s Terminal 5 Failed Miserably
- David is moderating a panel on building community and collaboration with global customers. The panel is in New York at the BDI Global Communication conference on Tuesday May 13.