UX Design Practices to Consider on Your Website for International Users

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Lexie Lu
A UX/UI designer with expertise in marketing, web design, and graphic design.
Any business that wants to seriously grow needs to keep the needs and desires of an international audience of their websites in mind. Making a website friendly to international users isn’t prohibitively expensive and can provide an incredible return on investment if handled right.
The world is interconnected like never before. Korean pop videos become global sensations. Products are shipped anywhere in the world with just a moment’s notice. Customers are no longer limited to the immediate vicinity around a store or office building. Instead, thanks to the internet, they can come from anywhere in the world. It’s easier than ever to go international with a product or service.
Any business that wants to seriously grow needs to keep the needs and desires of an international audience of their websites in mind. Making a website friendly to international users isn’t prohibitively expensive and can provide an incredible return on investment if handled right. However, it’s a delicate process that requires planning and insight to make it work.
There are a number of key practices to keep in mind when tailoring your website to an international audience. Here’s exactly what you need to know to plan an internationally focused website.

Offer Different Languages

One of the most logical and common ways to reach customers from a new country is to offer language options on the website. Making it easy to switch between the languages is very effective, especially when the design is simple yet unobtrusive.
Having a fairly static switch language option at the top of the page is perhaps the easiest way to go about things, but you can make this more targeted. Google, for example, offers the option to switch to English the first time you fire up the search engine in a new country. After that first search, they make it easy to switch back or to whatever language you prefer.
Be diligent with the translations. A rough Google translate will be off-putting to local speakers. Even big brands like Taco Bell have been known to completely mess up translations when entering a market.

Consider Country-Specific Pages

Translating your existing content is one way to cater your website to a new audience, but it might also make sense to create country-specific pages. That’s how Amazon operates, offering unique pages and services in a number of countries. Obviously, it makes sense for an online giant like Amazon to appeal to an international audience.
However, smaller and more specialized websites can still make this work. Business Culture, a website offering business-related guides to nine different countries, also utilizes this strategy as a way to expand its reach.

Choose the Right Format for Specific Pages

If you choose to implement specific pages for each country, then you need to decide how to best go about this. There are several different routes to take that range in terms of complexity and cost.
  • Country-specific domains are the most expensive and time-consuming, as you’ll need to manage various domains. Popular domain extensions include .eu for Europe, .au for Australia and so on. Some countries have fairly prohibitive rules in order to get the domain extension, so do some research if you’re angling for a specific domain.
Implementing either of these isn’t especially difficult, but you’ll have to plan an SEO strategy accordingly because multiple domains, subdomains and folders can have a detrimental effect on your search ranking.

Think Locally

From a design standpoint, you have to have a good idea of the culture and habits of your intended audience. Colors, for example, have unique connotations across the world and can impact how visually appealing your site is.
Stock photos can also fail to make an impression on international audiences. A photo of someone playing American football won’t impress people. Photos of people obviously from a different country should be used sparingly depending on your website.
McDonald’s has this figured out perfectly. Head over to their international website and then click on any country’s homepage to see how different each experience is. Whether the site is for Bosnia or Brazil, the pages are designed with the local audience in mind.
While few companies are blessed with the deep pockets of McDonald’s, it’s possible for anyone to take into account cultural preference in design. It takes a little work to figure out what works best for the intended audience, so experiment around and track what content or design changes have a positive impact.

Market It Correctly

The content of your site is important — but so is what you do with the site after. Successful marketing in one country can differ greatly. This goes into knowing the culture, but there are some surface-level decisions to make when marketing your website.
For starters, social media posts directly intended for the international audience should be timed accordingly. The six-hour difference between New York and Germany could make for a very ineffective post if not timed properly.
Much like the content of your site, the marketing efforts need to be designed with the intended audience in mind. An under-researched campaign or a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for everyone, as brands from Coors to Pepsi have discovered.

Know What to Invest In

Before you implement any changes, it’s critical to know your audience and what your focus is. Creating country-specific sites or translating existing content can be a big waste of time if you make it focused on the wrong countries or languages. That’s why you need to think about what countries you’re targeting and what the users prefer. Translating pages into a language doesn’t make much sense if English is widely spoken in the country you’re hoping to reach.
Similarly, the new audience might be so tiny that it’s not worth the effort in implementing the changes due to a poor return on investment.
From the start, think long and hard about your website’s goals. Also, track the traffic numbers for your website. Maybe people from a certain country bring in a lot of traffic but quickly bail when they see the site isn’t optimized for their needs.

Author:Lexie Lu
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