Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies.
If your Web site is not designed for or understood by a global audience, you are excluding an estimated 200 million people, according to John Yunker in Beyond borders: Web globalization strategies. Yunker contends, "Web globalization will open your organization to virtually unlimited opportunities, but also many risks" (p.3). It is these opportunities and risks that Yunker examines in his book.
Many of the considerations involved in creating or converting documentation for a global audience apply also to the Web and are covered in the book. For example, many have probably heard about a USA-made car that was called Nova, which in Spanish translates to "no go." So if you've been involved in or read about translation related to documentation, some of the text may seem familiar. However, in Yunker's treatment, what may be familiar is melded into the overall concept of globalizing your Web site.
To quickly assess if this book is for you, turn to the Introduction. Here a "Who this book is for" section identifies the intended audience. This introduction is followed by a brief synopsis of each part. Checking the table of contents, you find the chapters are organized into seven parts that convey the flow of globalizing your site. The focus of each part ranges from preparation through implementation and strategies for successful global promotion. Part 7 contains a helpful glossary and appendixes, the content of which is referenced in various chapters.
In addition, throughout the book, Yunker "Spotlights" various organizations such as Monster.com and FedEx. Through these spotlight glimpses, you learn how these organizations went about developing their global Web sites and the challenges they faced. To help you gain experience in developing sites in other languages, Yunker offers "Hands-on" sections. These sections offer files that you can download to help you create actual sites in various languages, including Spanish, German, and Russian.
Chapter 1 ("One Internet; many voices") provides some basic information on the Web and why Web globalization is important. If you have been involved with products or documentation that are going international, this information may be familiar. Concepts and terms such as localization (L10N), internationalization (i18N), and globalization (g11N) (pp. 17-21) are explained. According to Yunker, "Success at Web globalization demands high attention to detail and the ability to look at your Web site through the eyes of someone else" (p. 11).
Many languages coexist on the Internet. Chapter 2 ("Navigating the multilingual Internet") offers information on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Internet that make the coexistence of these various languages possible. Here you learn about writing systems (ideographic and phonetic), character sets (ASCII and Unicode), language identifiers, and country codes. Yunker provides this information to extend your information on the internal aspects as a groundwork for understanding what the outer elements of a localized Web site are based on. It is a lot to grasp at once, so bookmark this chapter for future reference as you proceed through the book.
Chapter 3 ("First steps--and missteps") prepares you to go global with your Web presence. Here you can get a head start by learning about the mistakes that other companies have encountered as they took their Web sites to a global audience. And more importantly, you learn how you can avoid these same mistakes. Multiple examples of the Web sites in question are provided, such as overweight sites (less than 89 kilo-bytes is recommended), sites that play hard to get (keep navigation simple and consistent), and sloppy sites (avoid mistranslation errors and inconsistencies).
In Chapter 4 ("Are you ready to go global?"), Yunker helps you to evaluate your global readiness. Before going global, review the Reality Checklist (p. 81) and determine if your company, products/services, and brand names are ready to go global. "Localization requires keeping an open mind about foreign languages, cultures, and traditions" (p. 81).
Yunker provides checklists of areas within your company such as customer service, marketing, and legal that will be impacted by your globalization. For example, you have converted your Web page (the front end) to Spanish, but can your customer support staff (the back end) handle questions in Spanish?
After you have evaluated your readiness, you decide you are ready to go global. Chapter 5 ("Web globalization workflow") introduces you to the basic strategies for developing and managing global Web sites. Yunker provides you with a to-do list (p. 123) for going global. For example, you find out what's involved with localization, such as translation (test, create, implement), editing (test, create), and graphic design (design, develop, test); and content management, such as developing content, localization maintenance, and customer support. The list is a convenient roadmap with detail on what each globalization component requires.
The globalization strategy that you select needs to best fit your needs. Yunker provides three scenarios on different localization strategies available and how each strategy effects the workflow (p. 135).
And as with most ventures, "show me the money." You may be ready to go with your globalization efforts but your budget may not. Chapter 6 ("Let's talk budget") addresses this touchy subject. Yunker provides a checklist of globalization expenses you can expect to incur as well as the areas these expenses will come from such as "the five major slices" (p. 141).
So are you going to internationalize or localize your Web site? Chapter 7 ("Internationalization and localization") helps explain the two terms. "Internationalization is the process of building a Web site so that it can support multiple locales, while localization is the process of modifying that site for a specific locales" (p. 171). Yunker discusses constants (items that remain the same no matter what market) and variables (items that change based on the market) (p. 175). You read about elements that will help you create a balance between global efficiency and local customization in creating your global Web sites.
Chapter 8 ("Translation management") addresses "the most important, and most noticeable, component of localization: translation" (p. 193). Yunker covers the various phases, components, and attributes associated with translation. Included in this chapter are the phases of the translation process such as creating a budget and a translation/localization kit. Your options related to translating your Web content include handling it yourself with in-house personnel or contract translators; or you can hire a translation vendor (focuses on text translation only) or a localization vendor (manages text translation as well as graphics and Web page localization). You learn what to look for and expect whether going it on your own or hiring a vendor. And if hiring a vendor, be aware that "the translation industry is not regulated" (p. 215).
To provide assistance with all the demands of Web translation, Chapter 9 ("Computer-aided translation") offers information on software to aid in the process. Yunker focuses on the two most common computer-aided translation (CAT) tools: translation memory (TM), software that stores previously translated sentences for reuse, and machine translation (MT), software that translates whatever text you enter.
The value of TM software is not just that it recycles text, "but that it helps you track changes to already translated text" (p. 221). In discussing TM software, Yunker gives a brief overview of one of the most popular packages, TRADOS 5. Discussing MT software, Yunker covers the most popular, AltaVista's Babel Fish. TM software is more expensive and provides quality and consistency, while MT software is faster and cheaper but error-prone. According to Yunker, "Computers are better at assisting translators than replacing them" (p. 219).
Just as with taking printed doc and "dumping" online, what works for your source site (for a specific audience such as the United States) may not be the best for your entire global audience. Chapter 10 ("Writing for a global audience") encourages you to think globally as you create the text on your source site. This practice of thinking globally can help you save on translation cost while maximizing your translating dollars. For example, ways to create translation-ready, globally friendly text include keeping it short, avoiding slang, and punctuating properly. "A poorly written Web page will be reflected in poorly written translations ... but a well-written Web page has the potential to increase sales and set you apart from competitors" (p. 277).
Chapter 11 ("World wide design") focuses on the design of your Web site: building your global template and localizing that template for each Web site. "A global template enables companies to make the most of one design, to centralize control, and to convey a consistent image to the world" (p. 282). A major consideration with the global template is the "global gateway". This is the portal off your main page for users to access their localized Web sites. "It requires a combination of design elements and technologies that, when used together, ensure that users find their localized Web pages as quickly and effortlessly as possible" (p. 283).
A localized Web site needs to be sensitive to the cultural environment. Yunker discusses various culturally sensitive design concerns such as power-distance (conveying power structure and class definitions, or treating all people as equals) and characterization of females versus males.
However, your company may want a completely localized Web site for each location instead of a global template. Both methods are discussed with examples of actual Web pages.
Familiar with Unicode, the Internet's default character set? Chapter 12 ("Creating multilingual content") discusses Unicode and creation of multilingual Web content. Unicode supports all major languages; however, not all software supports Unicode. "The tricky part about working with different languages is that you need to understand their underlying character sets.... Everything depends on your target languages" (p. 314). Yunker discusses tour methods for managing text in Web pages and graphics and each methods strengths and weaknesses.
Having one Web site creates challenges in managing the site content. If you then take that original site and localize it into various languages, your content management challenges have greatly increased. Chapter 13 ("Global content management") provides information about addressing these challenges, including discussions on software that can help you manage Web content. The main challenges in keeping source and localized Web sites in sync include update control, error control, turnaround time, and business rules.
If you want software to assist you in managing Web content, Yunker discusses content management systems (CMS) and globalization management systems (GMS). He presents a brief look at two leading CMS vendors, Documentum and Idiom, and discusses some of the factors to consider in selecting a CMS vendor, such as the flexibility of the system and whether translators can use the system.
In the United States, we have the domain name system (DNS), which allows us to enter Amazon.com rather than 22.214.171.124, its IP address. Chapter 14 ("Mastering your country domain") explains that DNS is not so user-friendly with a global audience. In addition, DNS allows for only a subset of the ASCII character set, raising issues "for companies with names in languages that use no ASCII characters at all" (p. 375).
Yunker helps you make your Web site more accessible to a global audience by selecting domain names that are familiar to each specific country. There are generic addresses such as .com and country code domains such as .jp for Japan and .uk for United Kingdom. Registering your global Web site in the structure of the country for which the site is localized offers trademark protection, usability, marketability, and search-ability. For example, "Local search engines give preference to Web sites that use country-specific domain names" (p. 374).
If you have created a globally focused Web site, the front end (Web page) addresses your global audience. However, don't forget the back end (support for customers using your site). Chapter 15 ("Supporting international customers") provides support information that was briefly addressed in earlier chapters. Although customer support may actually be an issue after you have customers, it is something that you need to think about and plan for in the early stages of developing your Web site.
Yunker addresses the challenges you will face in supporting a global audience and your options for providing customer support such as Web, e-mail, phone, and retail. For example, if you sell your products or services online, your site will need to reflect the currency and payment collection fees for the particular site location, as well as applicable taxes. And don't think that every customer will be happy with your product/ service--be sure to incorporate delivery and return options.
Your site will have little effect if no one knows about it. Chapter 16 ("Promoting your site globally") focuses on Web-centric approaches to promoting your site such as search engines, banner ads, and e-mail. Yunker provides an explanation of each type. The basic message is to make your promotion fit the specific locale. "Just as Web sites must be localized, so too must their promotions" (p. 439).
In wrapping up his discussion, Yunker addresses what lies ahead for Web globalization. Chapter 17 ("The future of Web globalization") offers insight into likely trends in Web development, commerce, and content. In Web development, Unicode encoding <charset = UTF-8> will soon start displaying on Web pages and should increase in popularity as more and more people upgrade to Unicode-friendly Web browsers. Other developments include the use of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) to separate form from content, increased standardization, and globalization-specific software such as Dreamweaver 12: The Globalization Edition.
In commerce, Unicode will enable Web developers and designers to have more control over development of Web pages in various languages. This will force localization firms, which thus far have had a monopoly on localization software, to focus more on "quality, customer service, and value-added services" (p. 464). And "as customers come to expect more from localized Web sites, companies will face the challenges of meeting their expectations" (p. 465).
In the development of content, human translation costs are not expected to decrease, so companies will be more specific in what they choose to translate. In addition, because of the costs associated with changing the texts in graphics, companies will closely evaluate their use of graphics.
Web globalization is still in its infancy. Yunker has amassed a wealth of information that will help you and your company as you begin or expand your globalization efforts.
Although the information speaks for itself, I do question the arrangement and presentation of the information. For example, the "Contents at a glance" (p. iii) effectively categorizes the chapters based on part classifications such as "Implementation" and "Text and translation." However, within the book itself, there is no reference to the parts; you have just the chapters. Having a section on each part (probably taken from text in the chapters) would provide a good lead-in for the text to come. As it is now, the lead-in text for the next chapter comes at the end of the previous chapter. This is great if everyone reads the book sequentially, but I would say that someone converting their Web site will probably go directly to the chapter that has the information that they are addressing at that moment and will not see the nice lead-in text.
In addition, I don't understand the significance of having the Spotlight and Hands-On sections at the end of certain chapters. These sections are definitely beneficial, but I don't find a correlation between the sections and the chapters they are included with. I find that they take away from the flow of the book and would have been better in their own chapters or appendixes.
Through an e-mail exchange, Yunker said that he spread out the Hands-On sections to provide a more gradual immersion into the subject, and the Spotlight sections were spread (out as well to compliment the Hands-On sections. Yunker explained, "I envisioned these combined sections becoming a sort of real world rest break amidst the more academic chapters."
With this text, you have a compiled reference to begin your quest of globalizing your Web page. Whether you will work in two languages or twenty-two. Yunker has delivered a resource for expanding the reach of your Web presence.
JEFF STAPLES is an information developer in Houston, where he creates online and print documentation. He is a past president of the STC Houston Chapter and is managing editor of the STC Quality SIG newsletter, DocQment. In 2003, he was awarded the Distinguished SIG Service Award by the Quality SIG.