Designing Websites for a Global Audience

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You have a responsibility as a website designer to create a place where usability is the highest priority. While this is simple enough for a single demographic, what happens when you are hoping to reach a global audience? Suddenly, the task becomes much more difficult to achieve, because you are dealing with a long list of factors that can affect the final result of your web pages.
But if you keep the right targets in mind while drafting your page concept, you should be just fine. These are a few elements to check while you create your website design and tips on how to make it globally friendly.

Allow Users to Select Their Language of Choice

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Hiring someone to provide multiple language translations might seem like a lot of money and work, but it pays off. Having language selection will immediately widen the draw for your web page from all over the world – just by making it accessible in the native language of the viewer, which is both common sense and courteous.
Any country that you provide service to should be included in this language translation from the front page. Sometimes creating a landing page for a starting point can be helpful. It also provides a base for a creative language selection tool.

Remember That Not All Dates Are Equal

The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe follow the same calendar and date system. But other countries such as China, Israel and the entire Arab world maintain different systems based on different elements. For example, the Chinese calendar is based on a lunar cycle. In most of Europe, the numerical date puts the month in the second slot instead of the first.
Write out your dates clearly and concisely, avoiding anything that might cause confusion in the viewer.

Think Your Graphics Through Completely

You might find that the relevance of certain images doesn’t apply as well. Sometimes, they can even be considered offensive in a different region. Or it could mean something altogether different, shifting the tone of the entire page. Make sure you take that into account before proceeding.
There are sites that will give you a rundown of significant images and icons through the world. But to be on the safe side, it is sometimes good to hire someone from each region to explain any possible conflicts.

Have a Clear Idea of Your Target Regions

In order to do the above, you have to know what target areas you are looking to market to. This should be pinpointed to direct regions to account for the language changes that can occur within a single country. Try to be as specific as possible.
If finding a translation service is difficult for each region, you can try to stick with basic languages that might be more widely known. For example, English, Spanish, French and German are good trade languages with a wide following around the globe.

Remember That Lines Can Change, but Shouldn’t

Compensating for line length from translations can be difficult on a layout. Just basing it on a grid isn’t often enough, because there are some languages where the placement of the lines is of utmost importance. Hebrew is the perfect example of this: You read it from right to left, and so text has to be properly aligned on any page.
When you switch from one device to another (such as when you have mobile pages enacted), this can be broken and make it unreadable for the viewer. Use a program to make sure the page is flexible in order to adapt itself for consistent alignment.

Stay Formal and Avoid Casual Phrasing

Not everything translates, and things like metaphors or popular sayings won’t make a lot of sense to people from other regions. Avoid using them at all cost, instead sticking with standard and formal language. Be direct and to the point and avoid colloquial phrases that could generate confusion.
Also, watch out for the expansion of text that happens when you translate. The difference in size can be immense, putting you up to 50 percent larger than what was provided originally in English. So stick to the point.

Don’t Assume Your Text Will Read the Same in All Formats

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People make a lot of assumptions about text, especially when it comes to text that has been translated. Not only will the font you use always stay where you set it to, but it can often be two bytes instead of one. Plus, it isn’t always read from left to write, but can be read from right to left in the case of Hebrew and Arabic.
Then you have characters for languages like Chinese, which will significantly change the look of your chosen font. Just remember that you have to go through each page for readability, and be sure to get the translator to do a usebility test to see if it can read it properly before moving on.

Conclusion

There is a lot to think about when you create a website meant to be global. But in the end it is worth it to expand your audience and make it a more positive experience for the user. Just make sure to cover all of your bases.

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