• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL



Launching a global web site does not necessarily make a company globally aware. In fact, a global web site could create more problems than it solves. After all, the web site is just the front end of the company. To be successful, companies must also globalize the back end. For example, customer support departments can’t answer questions in languages they don’t understand. If your web site creates the impression that your company offers multilingual support, you must have a staff that can truly support all the languages on the web site.

Be Careful What You Wish For

True story: The marketing director of a professional society wanted to expand the subscriber base in other countries. The society already had many international members, but because none of the publications had been translated, members needed at least a moderate grasp of English to reap the benefits of joining. So the marketing director decided to translate the society’s membership form into Chinese, in the hopes that it would make joining the society much easier for Chinese speakers and increase membership.

Within a few weeks, the society received its first completed Chinese form by fax. The membership director, unaware of what the marketing director had been up to, looked at this form, filled out in Chinese, and said, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” The membership director didn’t understand Chinese. No one on her staff understood Chinese. Even if someone on her staff did understand Chinese, their membership database didn’t accept Chinese characters.

So this person in China completed the membership form and subscribed to a couple of publications and the organization could do nothing about it. The professional society didn’t even know what publications were selected because the publication names were translated into Chinese—and they had no English template to compare it against. It may seem obvious that you shouldn’t create marketing materials in a language your company can’t support, yet companies that jump into global markets too fast frequently repeat this scenario.

So much of web globalization has nothing to do with a web site: employee training, product localization, international trademarks. Before your company takes that fateful leap into web globalization, make sure you can support not only a global web site, but also the many complications and questions that will arise after the site goes live.

So Many Countries; So Many Questions

Imagine that your company has just launched localized web sites for four countries: France, Germany, Japan, and Spain. Suddenly, you and the departments in your company face a range of challenges and questions:

Customer Service

  • “We just received a dozen emails in Japanese; at least, I think it’s Japanese. Who here speaks Japanese?”

  • “Someone in Germany says the order form isn’t working correctly.”

  • “How can I help this person in France navigate the site when I can’t read the site?”


  • “I need a dozen banner ads in German, French, and Spanish by Friday.”

  • “We just rewrote the English pages and we’re tweaking the design; can you make these changes to the rest of the languages by Friday?”

  • “Actually, Friday is too late. Can you have it done by 5 p.m. today?”


  • “Because of privacy laws, the personal information you collect from European customers cannot be managed the same way you manage the domestic customer list.”

  • “We may be violating a German law on this promotion.”

  • “Are you collecting taxes properly?”

  • “If this instructions page isn’t translated correctly, we could be held liable if something goes wrong.”


  • “Can you post these new job listings in all those languages?”


  • “We’re not allowed to sell that product in Germany, only France, or our distributor will go ballistic.”

  • “The web site is great, but now I need a brochure in Japanese for our sales reps. Can you have it done by Friday?”


  • “This globalization effort just tripled the size of the web site, and we’re going to have to pay more in hosting fees. Whose budget is it coming out of?”

  • “Who’s going to pay for all these new international domain names you want registered?”

And let’s not forget the CEO…

  • “Great job on those new sites! The feedback I’m getting is fantastic. Now when are you launching sites for China, Brazil, and Israel?”

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint