Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies
A book review
by Jeff Staples, Information Developer, Kitba Consulting
John Yunker. 2003. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing. [ISBN 0-7357-1208-5. 552 pages, including indexes. $39.99 USD (softcover).]
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.
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.
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 provides some basic information on the web and why web globalization is important. 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 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. It is a lot to grasp at once, so bookmark this chapter for future reference as you proceed through the book.
Chapter 3 prepares you to go global with your web presence. Here you can learn about mistakes that other companies and, more importantly, learn how you can avoid these same mistakes.
In Chapter 4, 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. 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 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. The list is a convenient roadmap with detail on what each globalization component requires.
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 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 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 locale" (p. 171). 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 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.
To provide assistance with all the demands of web translation, Chapter 9 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.
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 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.
Chapter 11 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). 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 discusses Unicode and creation of multilingual web content. Unicode supports all major languages; however, not all software supports Unicode. Yunker discusses four 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. Chapter 13 provides information about the challenges associated with managing multiple sites, 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.
In the United States, we have the domain name system (DNS), which allows us to enter Amazon.com rather than 188.8.131.52, its IP address. Chapter 14 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).
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 provides support information that was briefly addressed in earlier chapters.
Your site will have little effect if no one knows about it. Chapter 16 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.
In wrapping up his discussion, Yunker addresses what lies ahead for web globalization. Chapter 17 offers insight into likely trends in web development, commerce (companies will be more specific in what they choose to translate), and content.
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.
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