The multiple language website maintenance challenge
It’s hard work creating and publishing high-quality content on any website. It’s an even greater challenge maintaining content in multiple languages on corporate websites.
As English is the most widely used second language and the language of international business, global corporations typically have English and local language versions of their corporate websites.
In collecting data for our online report ranking the top 20 most effective corporate websites, by their digital eQ, we examined the English language websites of 200 global corporations, restricting ourselves to the group / corporate sites (as opposed to brand etc). And the process highlighted why English language versions of corporate sites need strict quality control.
Despite English’s wide use, it is still tricky getting written English right. Should the main navigation menu say Talent or should it say Careers? Will potential investors or analysts be looking for a Finance section or an Investors section? Will NGO researchers understand Commitments or will they be looking for Sustainability?
Moreover, website visitors are an impatient bunch. They arrive intent on finding information as quickly as possible. They skip from page titles to sub-headings, read some paragraphs and scan others. In fact, writing for the web around those behaviours has become a (data-informed) art in itself.
The most effective corporate sites ensure that this key content uses idiomatic, readily understandable, English. They minimise typographical errors. And, in doing so, they improve communication with their audiences and deliver the best possible user experience.
Getting it not quite right blunts digital effectiveness
Every working day, communications, investor relations and digital teams work hard to prepare and publish high-quality website content for their various corporate audiences.
Global corporations also perform an excellent job of issuing financial information, press releases and other forms of written communication in English. But, the challenge of maintaining websites in multiple languages isn’t spelling or grammar. It’s ensuring the hard work of creating web content meets its audiences’ needs when it’s subsequently viewed on-screen.
Some sites have content editors for whom English is their primary language, many do not. The latter often have a harder time with the content that drives website navigation, page headings, sub-headings, copy explaining the content found in website sections or the micro copy on website buttons and other navigation aids. The content that makes websites work for their users, is only periodically updated, but is viewed every day by thousands of visitors. And, those on-page differences are noticeable.
Use process and perspective to meet the challenge
The key to closing quality and effectiveness gaps is process. The world’s top tennis players, footballers and athletes use coaches. Business leaders use mentors and outside consultants. Writers use editors or have others review their work. The top performers use external perspectives to close performance gaps and to become the very best.
There is a simple reason why the world of corporate communications has converged on preferred English language terms for website audiences such as, job seekers or potential investors. Because, audiences more readily understand familiar and widely used terms that speed up navigation and let them complete tasks or get to the information they are after faster and more easily.
If English isn’t your organisation’s primary language, adopt the habits of effective individuals (and organisations) by building in an external perspective. Have English language website ‘experts’ periodically review your site’s navigation and other content to ensure your visitors focus on your message and not the language.
This process will let you dot your i's and cross your t's (as the English expression goes) lifting your end user’s experience and closing any digital effectiveness gaps.