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Lesson 4Globalization of content
Objective Describe the Challenges when designing for a Global Audience

Globalization of content and visuals

Globalization will continue to become increasingly important in Web site planning and design.
The World Wide Web is a global phenomenon. Any company that wants to expand its market needs to consider the implications of globalization. This is especially important when creating signs and metaphors.
When a Web site expands to serve an international customer base, it may take one of two different approaches: accommodate international customers on its current Web site, or develop localized sites. Note that these approaches are not mutually exclusive. You may choose to maintain one main internationalized site, but offer selected localized features. This is a design issue where visual designers, content editors, and information architects all need to work together.
See, for example the pull-down menu of countries on the Hewlitt Packard site at Note the differences in page layout, use of colors and images for the sites of different countries.

Cultural differences

Culture is the lens through which people interpret signs and metaphors. Therefore interpretations of a Web site may vary from one culture to the next. For example, visual images such as traffic signs or animal images may have different meanings or no specific meaning in another culture. Color symbolism can vary as well. The color red can signify death in some cultures and can mean "stop" in other places.

Attitude adjustment?

Editorial tone may need to be adjusted for global audiences. For example, forthright self-promotion may seem fine to some North American audiences, but can be negatively perceived as too aggressive by other cultures. Some cultures value informality, while others may see it as disrespectful or arrogant. The best way to decide on appropriate approaches for a specific culture is to interview and test your signs and metaphors with people from that culture.

Learning Web Design

Language differences and translation

Direct translation does not yield text of consistent length. Text may be 80 percent longer in German than in English. Some languages read from right to left and others read from top to bottom. This should affect your decisions for the interface design and layout.
In some cases, a product name may have undesirable meanings or connotations in another language. A well-known example is the Chevrolet Nova, which Spanish speakers read as no va or "doesn't go."
Chevy Nova
Chevy Nova

Idioms and humor

Idioms are often meaningless when translated directly into another language. If you were to employ the image of "rolling out the red carpet," users in Peru might think you are referring to the "Red Path" guerrilla group. The metaphor of a "Wizard" who helps guide users through software set-up confused people in some cultures. There was not an intuitive understanding of the meaning of a wizard in this context. Likewise, many aspects of humor are culturally specific. What is funny in one culture may be incomprehensible in another culture, or may even be offensive.

Labeling localized sites

If you create localized pages on a site, think carefully about how you represent the localization. For example, some sites use country flags to denote language. This can be offensive if a user has to click on the flag of a neighboring country or a former colonizer in order to access information in their native tongue. In other words, country and language do not always have a one-to-one correspondence in the real world.
See for example, the Telecaster site for Canada, where two languages are spoken. The languages are labeled by their names, not by flags of foreign countries.
In the next lesson, you will learn about some factors that may constrain your strategies for creating signs and metaphors during design and development.

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