5 Tips for Developing a Global-Friendly Website
1. Optimize for Speed
Making sure your website loads quickly and efficiently is important regardless of your audience, but speed optimizations are incredibly important when trying to reach to a global market.
If a website takes more than a few seconds to start to load or to show content, most users are going to give up and go someplace else. When targeting an international audience, you need to not only keep in mind the potential Internet connectivity options, but also how you are serving your content.
The Yahoo Developer Network goes over some best practices and tips for speeding up your website.
The entire document is worth a read, but if you are cultivating a global audience, one tip to keep in mind is to use a content delivery network. A content delivery network, or CDN, is basically a collection of web servers located at various locations all over the world. So instead of just having all of your content served from your web host in Los Angeles — even if your visitors are in France — you can speed up site performance by allowing content to be served from Paris.
CDNs can be expensive, but even if you choose to only use them when serving certain types of media (like videos or photographs), it can greatly improve performance for your global visitors.
2. Reduce the Use of Text in Images
The web is becoming a more accessible place on a global level, in large part because of machine translation systems like Google Translate. These systems are getting better and better at making it easier for users to translate websites written in other languages. However, machine translation doesn't work on graphical images.
That means that if you frequently use static images for headings, aspects of a logo or for call-out information, you can be cutting off some of your audience.
It's not realistic to expect that all websites get rid of all images with text, but thanks to the rise of web fonts, there are more options at a designer or developer's disposal for creating real text that is styled the way you want it to look, preventing the need for lots of text-based images.
3. Allow Your Text to Grow
Optimizing your website's text for global access goes beyond limiting the number of graphics that utilize text — you also want to make sure your layout can survive machine translations.
By this, we mean you want to make sure that when your text is written in English and converted to another Latin language, Cyrillic or an Asian language, the flow will be supported by your layout.
Most modern websites that use dynamically generated content will flow correctly when converted to another language, but certain elements may have display problems, and it is important to test your site using a machine translation service to get an idea of how elements are displayed.
4. The Cultural Meaning of Color
Color is one of the areas where designing a global-friendly site can become most difficult, because what a color connotes can vary greatly depending on culture. Green, for example, can represent serenity or eco-friendliness in the United States, but in some countries, it is associated with greed or naivete. We've heard that green can even indicate an unfaithful husband in China, so keep that in mind when picking out stock photos.
Color is something you should be aware of with your website, but don't feel compelled to obsess over its subtle meanings too much. Focus in on your target or expected markets and find out what colors or color combinations work in those areas.
5. Make Your Shopping Cart Internationally Friendly
If you sell something on your website and offer international shipping, be sure to offer a way for users to convert payment into their own currency. It just doesn't make sense to accept payment from international users, to process international shipping, yet only offer the payment amount in one currency.
There are a number of different API tools for completing exchange rate and currency conversions on your site, without the need for a lot of hassle.