The worst sites are usually not the truly local sites designed by local businesses or government agencies. Instead, the offenders often come from multinational corporations (small and large) that create country sites with horrible usability - and usually without a true understanding of the local market and users.
How can multinational companies solve this problem and get better country sites? By reversing the causes of the bad design: Don't let your local office throw away money to advertising agencies that don't understand Internet marketing. Instead, consider local sites as part of a global Internet strategy. Specifically:
- Document the design rationale for your website and your product line strategy, and ensure that local teams understand why the web team at headquarters does things in particular ways.
- Train local staff in web usability, Internet marketing, and other topics that will empower them to say no to inane design ideas from advertising agencies. (Even better: build up local web skills so that your main country organizations can produce the local sites in-house instead of suffering under agency-produced sites.)
- Recognize that local offices will resent dictates from headquarters. You can generate buy-in for a worldwide web strategy by including country representatives throughout the design process. (And, if you've followed the advice above and established local web expertise, the local folks will be able to teach you a thing or two as well.)
In essence, all of these bullets amount to one thing: recognize that a localized website is a user interface design project and treat it as such.
Surprisingly well localized website of a global corporation. Photo from Webdesign Weblog