In an era of expanding global business, no matter where you are in the world one of the first things prospective clients or customers check out is your website.
In some cases, the website is a tool of commerce, but often it acts as an electronic brochure where prospective customers read detailed information about your company and products to verify your claims. A well-designed website is a “must have” aspect of international business, so think about:
Multiple languages — Your website must be rendered in all languages where possible customers might reside. In addition to listing alternatives at the top of the front page, use an image of the national flag to make it even more obvious where targeted customers can click for pages in their native tongue.
Grammar and syntax — One of the hardest elements to get right, this is also one of the best ways to put your best foot forward. While advances have been made in computer and machine-based translation, you want the human touch. For every new language page added, engage professional translators to develop the text. Send draft pages to native speakers in the target country. Also, be sure the translators have the necessary technical proficiency to cover complex subjects with clarity.
Color — Some colors have negative connotations. While it may be impossible to develop a website where the color scheme and logo pleases all, it would be helpful to investigate specific prohibitions for the targeted countries. If need be, the pages on that specific language could be done in a slightly different palette.
Navigation — Make the navigation as simple as possible with a concise, practical array of initial drop-down menus. Many parts of the developing world do a lot of business on smartphones. You want to ensure your website (in all languages) will be clear and legible on small devices. In some cases, you may want a separate mobile site.
Pictures — Be sure that pictures and illustrations show diversity. While the text may be in a native language, generally you can use the same pictures as long as there is global representation amongst the people portrayed. If you’re trying to do business in areas with political or religious prohibitions on certain images, consider whether to create a unique regional website or limit pictures that would be offensive.
Technical detail — One weakness of international sites is that the difficulty of translating detailed, technical information causes website text to be condensed or simplified. If you desire those customers, people from that country will want the same degree of technical background as your home country. Plus, people who are multilingual may review both pages.
Referrals and endorsements — When using these, try to have specific endorsements from every country where you intend to do business. This demonstrates your current global outreach and that international customers have as much focus and attention as domestic customers.
If you follow these guidelines, you may soon find the volume of business from your international pages exceeds that from your domestic ones.
David Iwinski Jr. is the managing director of Blue Water Growth. A global business consulting firm with extensive experience and expertise in Asia, Blue Water Growth services include merger and acquisition guidance, private capital solutions, product distribution, production outsourcing and a wide variety of business advisory services for its Western and Asian clients.