15 Ways to Internationalize Your Website
When you’re ready to make your site global friendly(Internationalize), there are many ways – some easy and some not-so-easy – to accomplish this. Fortunately you can take small steps to make this happen. Below are 15 steps to make your website accessible and convenient to visitors from all around the world(Internationalize). Do you have additional suggestions or resources? Leave a comment to let us know! So, without further adue, here are the 15 ways (in no particular order):
- Optimize images – Complexity: 1 out of 5 – Take the time to save your images in as small a file size as you can without sacrificing image quality. The smaller the image file, the faster it will load – which is especially important in areas of the world where broadband internet is not prominent. Many free image optimizers exist online, like this one. Photoshop, Fireworks and other software also make light work of this.
- Use simplified English – Complexity: 1 out of 5 – Simplified English refers to English that can be understood by English speakers of any nationality. Someone who speaks English as a second language may have a hard time understanding a site that is full of slang and expressions.
- Use appropriate social networks for each country – Complexity: 3 out of 5 – Social media sites like Vkontakte are very popular in Eastern Europe. You may be doing social networking for your company on Facebook and Twitter but, depending on your website visitors’ country of origin, you may consider opening accounts and posting regularly to these alternate social sources. Learn more about social media networks around the world.
- Internationalize your currencies – Complexity: 5 out of 5 – This can be extremely involved but imagine how much more comfortable your visitors from other countries would feel if they were able to see everything in their own currency and know, without thinking about it, exactly how much they’d be paying. This would certainly provide a leg-up on your competition. To do this site-wide can be involved but with the help of companies like iGlobal Stores, this is, indeed possible. If you want a simpler step to get started, iGlobal Stores offers out of the box real-time currency conversion on their international checkout. Other options include currency converter widgets and plugins, like the Magento Currency Converter for Magento.
- Accept local payment options – Complexity: 4 out of 5 – Most eCommerce sites accept major credit cards but that simply isn’t enough for international customers. In Brazil, for example, the majority of transactions are done using installments (12 monthly installments of $X, for example). Credit cards simply aren’t as common. In China, most payments are made via COD or by local Chinese Debit cards. In our own experience, approximately 40% of our customers (all of which are outside the U.S.) pay with PayPal. Opening up your payment methods beyond the four major credit cards is crucial to global growth. Consider accepting payments from Boleto Bancario, PayPal, e-Carte Bleue, WorldPay and others.
- Choose colors carefully – Complexity: 1 out of 5 – While this one is likely to have less of an impact on conversion rates, it can really impact the perception of your website in certain countries. Red, for example, has positive connotations in parts of Asia yet “signifies mourning in parts of Africa.” (source: Deseret News)
- Calculate shipping costs – Complexity: 5 out of 5 – This one is huge, yet it can be incredibly difficult to do well. Calculating international shipping requires a host of information and data on your product (weight, country of origin, dimensions, raw materials, harmonized code, etc.) and additional information about the carriers you choose to use to ship the product. Then, as if that weren’t enough, country-by-country regulations come into play as well import and export laws. Many companies opt to simplify this by going with a flat rate or a table-based rate for certain countries. This makes things easier on you but tough on your consumers. Are you charging too much? Are you losing money? There are easier ways. iGlobal Stores, for example, takes care of all of the hassles of international shipping and gives your customers multiple shipping options. Best of all – you don’t have to deal with any of it.
- International SEO (ISEO) – Complexity: 2 out of 5 – There are several things that you can do to help your site to rank better in the international search engines. Among them are creating international versions of your site and then getting localized (in-country) links to point to them, telling Google via Google WebMaster Tools what country you’re directing your efforts at and doing some research on how your keywords translate into other languages.
- Country-specific TLDs – Complexity: 4 out of 5 – A Top Level Domain (TLD) is the extension at the end of the domain name. For example, the United Kingdom uses .co.uk while Australia uses .au. Registering your domain in other countries is a hit and miss effort. Some countries are easy to register in while others require a local address in order to register with their TLD. Google will reward your efforts, though – they like to send local traffic to a website that appears to be local as well. Some argue that a locally hosted website will do better in that country as well, though this has been a topic of debate.
- Make your site cross-browser compatible – Complexity: 2 out of 5 – There is a pretty wide diversity of browser usage around the world. When you’re developing your site, take a look at how it renders in each of the major browsers to ensure a consistent (or at least a pleasant) experience for users worldwide.
- Offer customer service in multiple languages – Complexity: 4 out of 5 – This one isn’t the easiest but the improved customer experience is undeniable. Consider working with outsourced customer service centers in different countries or possibly translation agencies that use native speakers. Optionally, consider hiring multilingual employees in your office and ask them to participate in customer service when needed. Shoppers are much more likely to feel comfortable discussing products and transactions in their own language than in a secondary language.
- Leave enough room for translated text – Complexity: 1 out of 5 – Because translated text may be longer or shorter than it is in English, be sure to leave enough room on your site for the various translations that you may choose to use. This can usually be accomplished via CSS changes or by carefully selecting what text is to be used and what font size to select.
- No Flash! – Complexity: 1 out of 5 – Flash is becoming less and less compatible with new devices and browsers – particularly the iDevices from Apple. If you’re unsure how many of your users visit your site using a non-compatible device, take a look at your Google Analytics or other analytics package to see. You might be surprised. Aside from incompatibility issues, Flash can be slow to load, causing an increased abandonment rate for those with slower connections.
- Use HTML text instead of images with words – Complexity: 3 out of 5 – This one serves many purposes. It’s excellent for SEO in your own country and just as helpful for SEO in other countries if you translate the text. The main point on this is to make it easy to translate text for your site – even if Google is the one offering to translate it. Translating text that is part of an image is much more difficult because a new image must be generated and used. Text, however, that is on the page is quick and easy to translate.
- Make your site available in multiple languages – Complexity: 4 out of 5 – Making your site ready for non-English speakers will go a great distance in attracting non-U.S. based visitors. Two items to consider are 1) Google Translate and Babelfish may be able to do the translation for you but those translations won’t be nearly as readable as a human translation and 2) if you’re offering your entire site in another language, visitors who speak that other language may assume/expect that you can also answer the phones in that language and respond to emails in that language. Evaluate whether or not you are ready to make the jump into full translation.
These are just 15 of many ways you can improve your website’s international footprint. If you have other suggestions or comments about these ones, please comment below. If you’d like help taking your eCommerce website to the world, contact iGlobal Stores, where international eCommerce is all we do.