Designing a site targeting an international audience can be a very challenging task. Besides contending with the language barrier, you also have to deal with other practical and cultural which are peculiar to different communities. Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind when designing a website for a global audience:
Most people have English as the language on their sites. However, someone living in Britain might not fully understand a site which uses American English. Therefore, when designing your site, avoid using terms which are country specific. For instance, ‘pants’ might mean one thing to someone in the US and another thing to a Briton. Using such a word might therefore end up being very confusing to a prospective customer. Besides country specific words, it would also be advisable to minimize the use of slang which might not make sense to some people.
2. Measurements and Prices:
The units of measurements and prices vary from one country to another. For example, the British measure weight in stones and price items in pounds, while Americans measure weight in kilos and price items in dollars. Therefore, to make your site have a global appeal, have a conversion calculator on your site. Alternatively, you could provide a link to one. When pricing items, you need to be specific about the currency you are referring to. For instance, when it comes to dollars, make it clear whether it is in Australian, US or Canadian dollars.
Colors usually have a strong effect on people and can have significant cultural implication. For instance, the color red symbolizes festivity and affection in some cultures. However, in other cultures, it is a sign of danger and evil. Therefore, when selecting colors, it would be advisable to go for neutral shades which would be acceptable in most cultures.
4. Site Navigation:
When designing your site navigation, you need to consider the language used. For instance, some languages like Hebrew and Arabic are read from right to left. If your site uses such languages, you need to ensure that your navigation makes it easy for visitors to read the content. For instance, it would be more appropriate to have a horizontal navigation bar instead of a vertical one. In addition, you need to ensure that your site has a symmetrical design. You could consider exploring the wide range of web design templates out there for different options of site navigation.
To make your site more accessible to a global audience, you could consider translating parts of it. Avoid using online translation sites which might end up changing the meaning of your text. Instead, it would be advisable to hire the services of a professional translation company. Such translators can also help you identify any cultural issues that you might need to address in your design.
6. Load Time:
Internet connection cost and speeds vary from one country to another. Therefore, to make your site more accessible to a global audience, make sure it has fast-loading pages. Avoid the temptation of filling your pages with too much content. If your site loads slowly, visitors will simply abandon it and go elsewhere.
7. Shopping Cart:
If you have a business site, you might want visitors to buy a product or service. Therefore, you need to ensure that your shopping cart has an international appeal. For example, most countries don’t use ZIP codes. It would therefore be advisable to make such fields optional. In addition, it would be advisable to offer several shipping and payment options to suit customers from all over the world. Remember to include a currency converter. Finally, avoid posting toll free numbers since they are not applicable in some countries.