Originally Published EMDM May/June 2001
Originally Published EMDM May/June 2001
Web WatchThe Multilingual Web
How to successfully plan for Web globalization
By 2003, experts estimate that only one-third of Internet users will be native English speakers. It follows that the other Web users making up almost 70% of the on-line population will come to expect content in their own languages. In the wired world, more than ever, it's important to think globally and act locally. For companies that maintain a presence on the World Wide Web, that translates to engaging the user in his or her primary language.
Building and managing a global Web site is a complex task: juggling the needs of the marketing, IT, regulatory, and sales departments, and communicating with in-country offices is difficult enough. When you add vendors, software tools, and the regulatory requirements of each country to the mix, the process can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, companies with global ambitions have little choice but to adapt their Web sites to local users. The key to successfully managing this process resides in knowing the obstacles to avoid and the tools that are available to help you achieve your objectives.
Define Your Goals
Before taking the plunge, a company must clearly articulate its rationale for introducing a multiple-language site. Is the goal to generate international sales and to develop new markets? Is it part of a global marketing and branding effort? How important is it to offer support to international users?
At Medrad Inc. (Indianola, PA, USA), a supplier of vascular injection systems and magnetic resonance coils, and a subsidiary of the German pharmaceuticals firm Schering AG, the goal is to provide general product and company information to existing as well as potential customers. "We want to portray the international nature of our business," says Richard Dewit, Medrad's manager of technical publications. "A significant percentage of our customers are located outside the United States, and it is important to offer them local-language pre- and post-sales support."
Similarly important is the question of who will pay for Web globalization. Depending on the amount of material involved, an initial translation can cost between €50 and €100 per page and per language. As a result, it is advisable to view every Web page on a cost-benefit basis. You may discover that it is not necessary to translate every page at once.
Web globalization efforts are complicated, especially the first time around. It is critical that an internal champion take on the role of managing outside service providers such as translators, technology vendors, and marketing agencies. He or she should also keep senior management motivated by evangelizing on the benefits of Web globalization.
It is important to include in-country offices in the process from the start and to obtain their support. Some Web teams share globalization plans with overseas affiliates so that in-country offices can make content suggestions and work with translation vendors.
Depending on the objectives of the multilingual Web site, in-country offices should write market-specific, local-language content. However, beware of the temptation to have affiliates or distributors handle the actual translation. Take into account potential issues such as a lack of control, long turnaround times, linguistic inconsistencies, and prolonged absences and vacations.
Consider this: a 200-page Web site, when translated into six languages, easily balloons into 1200 pages of content. Never before has content management software been more important. While some of the major vendors (Vignette, Interwoven, and Allaire) provide support for managing English content, these systems are not designed to manage multiple-language sites or translation workflow.
Fortunately, a growing number of tools for managing multilingual sites are becoming available. Idiom Inc. (Amersfoort, Netherlands), for example, offers WorldServer. Tools like WorldServer "alleviate much of the transnational site maintenance burden by providing a set of rules to define automatically what should happen whenever there are changes anywhere," says Don DePalma, vice president of corporate strategy at Idiom. "This eliminates a lot of the potential for error."
These tools allow for the synchronization of foreign-language content by providing business rules that manage content authoring and maintenance workflow across multiple languages. The software can be customized to suit a company's needs.
Choosing Your Domain
Companies must also consider where local-language sites will be hosted and whether or not they will have their own domains. Users will benefit from better response times if the site is hosted in-country. However, a distributed hosting model is more complex and expensive.
There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding domain names, but e-commerce sites typically register local domains (http://www.medrad.co.jp, for example) while sites that translate for marketing purposes usually include them as a subset of the parent URL (http://www.medrad.com/french).
When translating a Web site for the first time, some companies find that they need to adapt their existing multilingual publishing processes. These processes are usually print-focussed and geared to translating instructions for use, labelling, and print collateral. Moving to the Web requires a different set of skills and tools.
Developing an Asian-language site can be particularly challenging to companies outside the Asia/Pacific region. To streamline Web site development, device companies require technology and in-house expertise to support so-called "double-byte" languages. They also need expert linguists who possess medical device experience plus English-to-Japanese translation skills and familiarity with Web globalization.
Usability testing is important for any Web site, regardless of the language; nonetheless, a surprising number of companies skip this crucial step. Testing does not have to be cumbersome: some organizations rely on in-country offices for this work while others outsource the task to their translation vendor or to a specialized testing service.
Often overlooked is the question of how to promote globalized sites abroad. To meet stated objectives, globalized sites usually need to be supported by marketing budgets. Expenses may include site registration, direct marketing, content creation, public relations, and updating existing printed marketing collateral.
A multilingual Web site announces to the world that the underlying organization is also multilingual. International customers typically require assistance in their native language, during local business hours.
Multilingual Site Maintenance
To facilitate maintenance, translated Web sites should be planned (or redesigned) with international markets in mind. Review features, graphics, and content with an eye toward easing translation work. Some sites may need only a few minor design changes; others may require an entirely new look for each target market! For instance, Asian users often share terminals; consequently, they prefer shallow sites with long, easily printable pages to graphics-heavy sites with lots of secondary pages.
The key to successful marketing has always been to speak to your customer's needs. When entering foreign markets, you must first speak your customer's language. The creation of a multilingual Web site represents a critical step toward cementing your company's international presence.
Medical Packaging Material Selection Available On-Line
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Orthopaedic Portal Recognized for High Site Traffic
For the second consecutive time, http://www.orthoworld.com was awarded the Hardin MD Clean Bill of Health award for excellence in a bone and joint diseases site. The site, which logged 71,000 users in January, provides links to http://www.orthosupplier.com, http://www.orthodeals.com, and http://www.orthocareers.com. News items about regulatory issues are prominently featured on the portal, and visitors can request information by e-mail on specific orthopaedic questions.
Redesigned Syringe Pump Site Unites Users and Engineers
TriContinent's Web site, featuring liquid-handling products, has been updated to include a direct link to the company's engineers. The Engineers QuickLink feature allows users to ask fluidic engineers technical questions. The site, http://www.tricontinent.com, now includes downloadable PDF files of specifications, options, and ordering information on microplate washers, syringe pumps, and other liquid-handling products. Customers can order any item from the firm using a link located on the site to its Internet distributor at http://www.sciquest.com.
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Software Creates Interactive Graphs for Web
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Revamped Site Benefits Engineers
Industrial heaters, sensors, controllers, and software are displayed on Watlow's (Kronau, Germany) updated site at http://www.watlow.com. The site now contains a reference section that allows engineers to search for data, guides, tutorials, and equations for use in their day-to-day work. Other features of the site include a new literature section to download detailed product information.
On-Line Form Determines Optimal Bonding Method
Information on thermoplastic assembly and liquid-processing equipment can be found at http://www.sonicsandmaterials.com. Sonics & Materials Inc.'s (Newtown, CT, USA) recently redesigned site contains a downloadable request form to aid in determining which method of bonding is most appropriate for plastics assemblyultrasonic welding, vibration welding, spin welding, heat staking, or hot-plate welding, Information on ultrasonic liquid-processing and -atomizing equipment is also posted on the site.
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