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differences in localizing websites

Friday 22 August, 2008

I caught this article by Anick Jesdanun in the Chicago Tribune U.S. Web firms taking native approach to expansion which highlights the issues in localizing websites. Many things that we take for granted here are different (to varying degrees) everywhere you go. The main point is that more & more today, you have to go local.  A few years ago I checked out the websites of the Fortune 100 & found that only about 1/3 had localized their websites into a different language.  I hope that’s changed.  I spoke with John Lee of Hostway about the differences in websites internationally 4 years ago: Q&A: Founder John Lee of Chicago’s Hostway on Growing Globally Q&A: Founder John Lee of Chicago’s Hostway on Web Site Localization where he specifically mentioned the situation with Google in Asia.

I also spoke with a couple of other localization experts:  Q&A: Brian Briggs of Acclaro on Whether to Outsource Localization Q&A: Brian Briggs of Acclaro on the Complexities of Localization Q&A: Brian Briggs of Acclaro on International Localization Services & Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Translation Tools, Costs Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Globalization, Translation Q&A: InterPro Translation CEO Ralph Strozza on Intercultural Translation Issues

In a lot of ways, websites throughout the world reflect local culture.  The differences aren’t in just attitudes, connection speeds, & payment mechanisms & the opportunity is not just in advertising revenue, as this article might have you believe.  Some of these differences are easy to decipher, but you have to dig deeper to learn some of the differences in values & decision-making to get to the core many issues.

What concerns me about the article is that it features on the biggest names in technology like AOL, mySpace, Google, & Microsoft. Small firms have to do the same things these big guys do, but they don’t have the same resources to put towards these kinds of things. This kind of stuff requires research to find out what kind of issues need to be addressed & what needs to be changed. It requires people who are aware enough that they recognize all of the various possibilities of what need to be addressed.  Part of the solution can be delegating these activities to local partners, as even AOL does, but there are risks associated with that too.

I use a few different browsers & have a different international home page for each, Yahoo Deutschland for Firefox, Yahoo Sverige for IE, Yahoo Asia for Opera, & Yahoo Telemundo for Flock.  It’s a good way to get a local perspective on what’s going on around the world.

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