How to Make Your Website Work for a Foreign Audience

The Internet is a world base source and this is why web designers should consider that many people browsing their websites could be foreigners and not necessarily master the English language. Another aspect to consider as far as Google research is concerned is that there is much less foreign content on the web, which give you an advantage as far as search engines are concerned.

The issue you will be confronted with is that your website is most likely more adapted to an English speaking community and if you want to reach out to a larger number of users you will have to tailor it to be user-friendly for foreigners too.

Here are a few considerations and issues to tackle if you want to adapt your design and make it accessible to an international audience.

Unicode is the best tool for developing multi-lingual pages as different languages use different alphabets and Unicode can support a larger number or scripts. You can also consider using UTF-8 that will open up your website to a very large number of written languages and non-English characters such as Hebrew and Cyrillic.

Keep in mind that some languages are also read from right to left; this means you will have to change the location of your navigation bars as they would look funny for these populations. You can decide how to place your menus, either by placing them horizontally, which may be the best choice or changing your vertical menu from left to right.

Using Flash for an international audience is not a good idea as you may have to re-build your whole website. Keep in mind that not all countries have access to high-speed Internet connection and the loading times of web pages can really cause problems, making readers change to other more user-friendly websites. You can amend this by using HTML and avoid images that are too heavy and sophisticated tools such as Flash, which are becoming redundant anyway.

The content in the website is what makes the success of the project, despite what most web designers will say. You can use tools such as Babelfish and Google Translate that can help you translate your content, just keep in mind that this method cannot possible be as good as human translations. It will also help you avoid making errors in linguistic nuances and jargon, which would make your website appear very unprofessional.

The language will not be the only issue you have to consider. You will also be dealing with different cultures. A good source for understanding and classifying the different cultural trends is a framework devised by T. Hall. He divides the various cultures in high and low context. The Eastern countries prefer high context that provides more visual stimulation and enhanced communicative tools, while the Northern countries prefer low context that provides shorter, more direct and clear sentences.

Color schemes are also extremely important, as different colors represent different meanings for ethnic communities.

For example the color red symbolizes passion and power for some countries, while for others it is a color that represents death. So it is best to choose more neutral backgrounds using light colors and dark colors for text.

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One comment

  1. awesome , very insightful. I like it in deed. I come acoss this site by ASK search engine. Keep on the good work. – A techie

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