Ways to prevent global websites from failing at being global

As someone who has spent nearly half my life living and working professionally in both the United States and Europe, it seems to me that people are quick to assume highly Americanized global websites are simply the result of insular thinking among Americans.

Perhaps to an extent, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason why many global websites fail at being global. They fail because they’re failing to take care of their biggest market – at home – before expanding into other markets.

Growing sales teams and acquisitions outside the United States create an immediate need for localized and translated copy on the company website. Underfunded web teams scramble to catch up and often end up serving in a reactionary capacity, completely side-stepping strategy and planning.

This creates sloppy, half translated, outdated content that ends up being an embarrassment more than an asset.

In my experience, smaller to medium-sized companies will hire exactly one do-all, be-all person to manage the entire global corporate website and anything connected to it. The job duty includes, but is not limited to:

The content administrator.

The designer.

The developer.

The troubleshooter.

The email … everything.

The marketing automation magician.

The analyst.

Meanwhile, marketing teams are able to call themselves just that – a team – likely filled with more than one graphic designer to design outdated print collateral. And do not get me started on the fact that these types of companies will hire an entire human being to manage social media alone. </endrage>

This problem has a few solutions.

  1. Establish a designated person to be the gatekeeper of localization. Nothing suffers from the deferred responsibility phenomenon more than managing versions of a website no one understands.
  2. Decide which areas of the site are most useful to sales teams and customers abroad. Make sure the English language content is completely in order, and focus localization money and effort here first.
  3. Inventory the crap out of your current English language content. Chances are high that 75% of it can be deleted, reworked or consolidated.
  4. Create an independent web team outside of marketing. Even if this team consists of one person, placing them outside the bounds of other teams will better enable them to serve the broader interests of the company both internally and externally.
  5. Hire a content administrator. Companies throw tens of thousands of dollars down the drain by forcing a web manager or designer to do the work of a new college grad or paid intern. An experienced web manager should not spend half his or her week copying and pasting words onto a website or uploading and deleting documents. You’re paying them big bucks for their technical expertise and strategic thinking – use it!

In future posts I’ll explore these points at a more granular level. I could go on and on right now because the topic of managing global websites is a genuine passion of mine!

 

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