Although every website is global from the moment it goes live, few are designed with the world in mind. That is, they don’t take into account the many modifications that must be made to accommodate different languages, scripts, and geographic and cultural requirements.
This article presents a number of best practices to ensure that a web design is truly global by design.
When Designing for the World, Less is More
Creating a global template that works globally requires input from all local offices. Many global web design mistakes originate from the idea that a design that is popular with one country or region will necessarily be popular in other places. As a result, companies sometimes try to force the exact same design across all countries and regions without listening to people in the local offices. Sometimes a company gets lucky and the design they created for the home market travels well. But more often than not problems arise.
For example, if a website uses photographs of people, these photographs don't always travel well. The ethnicity of models, their poses, and their clothing can lead to unintended negative consequences in different countries. Also, some local websites may not have the same diversity of products or degree of customer support as the global home page. These limitations have to be planned for when designing the global template.
And then there is product assortment. During the month of June, a fashion website may promote swimsuits in the U.S. but winter clothing in Australia. A global template should be flexible enough to support totally different products or services in different markets, such that the elements can simply be swapped in and out as needed.
The global template should be thought of as an underlying infrastructure for the web design. Culture-specific images should be avoided and navigation should be limited to the most global elements: "about us," "products," "services," etc. This template can then be rolled up into regional or divisional templates. But by beginning with an austere structure, each instance will support the same look-and-feel.