International firms have some extra considerations to make when thinking about their website. It goes beyond merely translating content to different languages.
Once a firm crosses borders it not only has the same challenges as domestic firms with creating a website that is both functional and effective, but also a specific set of considerations that touch not only the technical management of website and the role of technical teams, but also span areas such as corporate governance, culture, and legal compliance. While some of the international considerations simply improve the experience for global visitors, others can be as important as compliance with international law.
Any firm doing business across international borders should be considering each of these factors in how they set up, manage, and market their website.
1. Technical implementation
One of the most fundamental but imperative considerations when internationalizing a website is how to handle the implementation, technically speaking.
Nearly every website that is positioned for international success will implement some form of localization technology, which redirects the user to the relevant version of the website based on their location information.
But even beyond that, there are important questions to consider, such as how these alternative versions of the same website will be stored and managed. Will each localized website have its own domain name (e.g., SmithBradley.com vs SmithBradley.co.uk)? Will each site exist on a subdomain, such as UK.SmithBradley.com? Or will they simply exist within a unique directory of the main website, such as SmithBradley.com/uk?
Each of these examples has its set of advantages and disadvantages. And these technical decisions can have huge ramifications for the management of your website as well as impact the visibility of your website, vis-à-vis your SEO and marketing efforts.
2. Content management and workflow
With an international website, your firm may quickly find that the traditional content creation, approval, and management process is not sufficient. While tools like Google Translate can help international visitors to understand your website, these are not sufficient for a truly global firm to compete internationally.
Instead, content for the website will need to be manually indexed and translated for key target markets to ensure consistent messaging and compliance.
Each language and dialect may require a separate version of each content asset to be created, which means that your team will need experts on hand to translate and review content in each applicable language. Even some regional content may need to be reviewed based on cultural differences within countries that speak the same language.
These extra steps can dramatically restructure how your firm’s website is managed and operated.
3. Data and privacy management
The obvious point here is that any legal firm operating in multiple countries should be well aware and in full compliance with any legal or ethical requirements regarding user privacy and data use.
4. Server and hosting infrastructure
Although it can sometimes seem as though all websites are created equal, the reality is that server and hosting infrastructure still play a big role in the performance and accessibility of your website.
At the most basic level, your server location and configuration can degrade performance for international visitors--creating a poor user experience and possibly driving them away from your website. In more severe cases, your system may actually deny service to certain countries based on their IP or otherwise impede their ability to visit your site almost entirely.
Testing and managing this aspect of your technology stack is hugely important. You could be shutting yourself off from an entire region of the globe without even knowing it.
5. Internal roles and ownership
With growth for your firm also comes growth in your staff. And as you expand internationally, it can become less obvious who has final ownership of certain portions of your operations.
With websites broadly, and specifically those that are geared toward international audiences, where offices from around the globe may be involved in its day-to-day administration, this can present clashes over personnel roles and powers.
At the end of the day, there must be a ownership hierarchy in place for all of your digital assets--from the website itself to every word of the content. This must be owned, managed, and ultimately the responsibility of a certain individual or set of individuals. Without establishing such a system, things can quickly become muddled or confusing as multiple website managers tussle over ownership of specific content or digital technology.
To conclude, while website internationalization is a is a multi-faceted endeavor it can be achieved with meticulous planning. Don’t let the prospect of website internationalization keep your company from the growth potential of new global audiences.