Designing for a global audience should be straightforward simple, right? You'd just translate the written content on your current website into all the different languages of your target audiences and you're good to go...

Well, not even close. Closer maybe, but definitely not close. 

For, as the Globalization & Localization Association (GALA) says it, far more accurately than I could:

“The aim of localization is to give a product the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location.”

And proper localization (or contextualization, if you prefer) is precisely what you should aim for when trying to reach a global audience.

Now, making your website internationally-friendly is subject to a lot of considerations; translating the written content into different languages is but one of the many steps to take.

Let me point out to you just 5 of the essential ones to keep in mind:
 

1. Can Your Current Web Hosting Solution Handle That Amount of Traffic?

Let's take this hypothetical (yet not impossible) scenario:

You've been selling custom-designed stationary in Canada for a while now. Your eCommerce website's server is in Vancouver. Still, your Canadian customers just don't seem so “mesmerized” with your hand-crafted products as you expected them to be. So, what do you do? You go global! You start selling your stationary in... South Korea, as well, and online orders start to ramp up. 

But your web hosting provider doesn't have servers in Asia, as well, to back you up with, and so the page loading speed on your website gets close to... lousy. There are scripts, files, images to be loaded and to all these all too common heavy-weighing factors, now you add the distance factor, as well... 

Your server just can't handle it...

In this hypothetical case here, you have 3 viable solutions at hand:
 

  1. you supercharge your website with a CDN for high speed
  2. you replace your current provider with another one that can provide you web hosting globally
  3. you upgrade your current hosting plan, opting for one that can handle higher volumes of traffic
     

It's up to you how you'll equip your website to cope with the expected larger-than-normal amount of traffic.
 

2. Is the Used Imagery Culturally Relevant for Your International Audiences?

And yes, when designing for a global audience you need to consider this aspect, as well:

Will all the international audiences that you're targeting resonate with the images displayed on your website? Do these images convey the same message, irrespective of culture, location, spoken language...? Are there any culture-specific meanings or symbols that you might have overlooked?

Make sure they're not “packed with” references that a global audience wouldn't understand. Or risk misinterpreting...

And, above all:

Take your research seriously when you're planning to reach global audience; ensure your site's imagery can't get interpreted as offensive in some of the cultures that you're targeting.
 

3. What Do Your Chosen Colors Symbolize in Different Cultures?

Make sure that you base your color choice on an in-depth research on the color symbolism in different cultures. And not solely on aesthetic aspects.

In this respect, the examples of colors having both positive and negative connotations, depending on the cultural area, are numerous:

Take white, for instance, a color that means both cleanliness, innocence or/and... death (in China).

Choose your color palette wisely and do not leave the selection up to your designers entirely.

Designing for a global audience is no more than a compromise, after all:

You trade visually-striking design for a globally-relevant one. One that's both... global and local.
 

4. Remember to Use Hreflang Tags when Designing for a Global Audience 

Why bother? 

Well, you could take the hreflang tags as some kind of “traffic signs” indicating to  the search engines:
 

  • that the content on your website has been translated into multiple languages
  • precisely which version of that content they should deliver to your site's visitors, depending on their location
     

As for how you can add them to your site's content, the Moz team has a more than “enlightening” blog post on the topic of hreflang tags, so I'm not going to get into details here.

Now, let's move on to the last point on my list of aspects to pay attention to when designing for a global audience:
 

5. Is Your Website Optimized for Globally Accepted Keywords?

And “globally accepted” sure doesn't come down to:

Showing the translated version of each one of your target keywords each time it shows up.

Now, let's take this common example:

What if you're optimizing one of your site's pages for the keyword “dinner recipes”, but in some parts of the USA the equivalent “supper” is more frequently used?

Then, you'll need to:
 

  • do your own research on all the possible keyword variations 
  • account for them when doing keyword optimization on your website's pages
     

Et voila: these are just 5 of the essential aspects to consider when designing for a global audience.

As you can see, translating the words on your website is just the very base of the “pyramid” of techniques to apply for avoiding common gaffes when you go global.

That if you want to do it the right, of course...

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash.

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