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White Paper

Best Practices in Web Globalization

An Effective Approach for Building your Online Brand
September 2005 | White Paper | Copyright Lionbridge 2005
White Paper

At a Glance
Projecting a globally viable, coherent brand on the Web is not
a trivial proposition and requires much coordination, planning,
structure, and resources.

Executive Summary
Website globalization eliminates misunderstandings by adapting information to meet a target
locale's cultural, linguistic, and business requirements. By translating your website, you enable
users to access information about your company quickly and easily. By allowing your customers,
partners, and employees to communicate effectively with you in international markets, the cost of
doing business decreases while business results increase. But, creating a global presence for your
website often requires extraordinary efforts to keep your brand strong.

Four components work together to form the foundation of the worldwide web — Strategy, User
Experience, Content, and Technology. While this framework is well established within the
United States, globally it is still in its adolescence. Most companies with global markets have
developed solutions that serve those markets, but the level of support varies greatly. After a Web
site launch from headquarters, for example, there are often significant reverberations within the
local country offices as users struggle with things like inconsistent branding, fragmented
localization, and inappropriate content.

This white paper presents the Lionbridge view on Web globalization and describes what we
believe to be an effective approach to mastering it. We believe that to create and sustain a strong
global Web solution, an organization must address each of the four “Web pillars.”

Web Globalization — Typical Issues and Challenges

The following represents key issues that clients who take their online solutions global typically

Fragmentation — Same Company, Many Faces
Seen and unseen “demarcation lines” between the spheres of influence within a company impact
the globalization effort. Geography plays a key role in these spheres of influence, and the
distribution of responsibility and resources across global markets can be extremely uneven. The
corporate office typically drives the Web initiative, but may lack the budget and the reach to
effectively position the company on the Web across all markets. Consequently the in-country
offices that are close to the customer and own the revenue in the markets often need to create a
local online presence — typically by adapting the corporate content, look-and-feel, and
functionality. It also sends the overall message to the prospect and customer base that they are
dealing with multiple companies online as opposed to one global company.

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International Market Has the Greatest Growth Potential
The international markets are growing at the fastest rates. For most companies, a big opportunity
lies in growing revenues internationally.

Source: Global Reach

Brands are Not Protected Globally

It is typical for most companies to suffer from one of two “globalization brand syndromes.”

• Corporate site, translated — just a pure translation done with little input from the local
offices. The message is unfocused, and not specific to the country, with no means for the
local office to address the site unless they build something of their own.

• Runaway brand — which results when local offices solve the need of supporting their
prospect and customer base by creating their own versions of the site. In extreme cases,
the local site shares only a logo with the corporate site and presents the company
completely differently than the main Web site.

Projecting a globally viable, coherent brand on the Web is not a trivial proposition and requires
much coordination, planning, structure, and resources.

Localization Efforts are Fragmented

Companies that lack a planned approach to localization often get the content ready for global
users in a stove-pipe fashion, with multiple entities (departments, countries, individuals) involved.
This complexity belies the real cost of localization, since it is buried in so many budgets and does
not allow for a high-quality approach with economies of scale, reuse, and standardization.

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User Experience
When looking at user experience, two components are addressed: visual (color scheme, imagery,
icons) and information/interactive architecture (navigation, integration). Both of these impact
and are impacted by Web globalization.

Brand Not Applied Consistently Globally

The “look-and-feel” aspect of sites is what gives the first (visceral) impression to a global user.
Many companies do not have global brand guidelines for the Web. The “global branding”
planning is a foundation for supporting the global brand through user experience, which should
address color scheme, imagery, editorial tone, and fonts.

Use of Imagery and Color Internationally

There are a few aspects to getting the imagery and color “right” globally. Let’s remember that we
are dealing with people and their senses, and people in different countries can have vastly
different cultural norms.

The following table illustrates the meanings attached to something as simple as color in different

Color China Japan Egypt France United States

Red Happiness Anger, Danger Death Aristocracy Danger, Stop

Blue Heavens, Clouds Villainy Virtue, Faith, Freedom, Peace Masculine,

Truth Corporate

Green Ming Dynasty, Future, Youth, Fertility, Strength Criminality Safety, Go

Heavens Energy

Yellow Birth, Wealth, Grace, Nobility Happiness, Temporary Cowardice,

Power Prosperity Temporary

White Death, Purity Death Joy Neutrality Purity

No color is inherently “safe” or “good” and therefore a design needs to consider the color scheme
in context.

The same must be said about imagery. Companies must pay attention to cultural sensitivities —
for example using people of the right ethnicity. People’s gender, dress and gestures — none must
offend the cultural norms. Iconography is a subset of imagery and, since it typically aids the
navigation, it needs to be global-friendly.

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Most companies are careful when using stock photography and either go for a “global look” or
allow local offices to create locale-specific images. Some rely on their distributors and partners to
take care of the Web efforts for a particular market.

Are Your Global Users Second Class Citizens?

A not so infrequent scenario we see with customers is that the look-and-feel (especially the “feel”
— what they can DO with the site) is best and most consistent for the main site users (e.g., U.S.
users for a U.S. headquartered multinational company), with global users being second-class
citizens. A number of issues make a site globally unfriendly.

One problem is hidden country and language selectors due to poor placement on the page. It is
absolutely paramount for a foreign user to find this feature, yet so many sites provide language
selectors that are half-hidden, or below the “fold” of the page.

Another issue is lack of language consistency. Once a user selects a language, he or she expects the
entire experience to be in that language. But often the user is presented with a mix of local and
U.S. content, which leads to a fragmented experience. Not all functionality (or content) is
available in all target languages.

The switch between the local and the corporation’s national language is not something to be taken
lightly and must be analyzed for impact on the user. Does the user speak the corporate language?
Will he or she feel comfortable finishing the transaction in the nonnative language? Does the Web
site support the local currency?

Dealing with Text Expansion and Shrinkage

A phenomenon called “text expansion” takes place when a piece of text is translated from English
to most European languages. On average, an English sentence, when translated, can be 30-40%
larger in a foreign language (actually could be as much as 200% for a particular word). For Asian
languages, the opposite effect takes place, and the text may shrink 30-50%.

That can directly and negatively impact the user interface, if care is not taken to allow for “elastic”
scaling of the menu items containing text, icon names and the like. This issue plagues a lot of
companies’ Web sites, but can be avoided by defining the global requirements and standards early
on with the user experience team.

Is Your Content Good for a Global Audience?
When reviewing companies’ content, we find that it often is written with one audience in mind —
a corporate single-market one. It suffers from not being written for a global audience:

• Not written with a “translator” in mind

• Use of culture-specific examples (e.g., referring to ATMs or the NHL in the U.S.) or
references (holidays, seasons)

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• No terminology standardization, which leads to multiplicity in translation, contributing
to higher costs and greater confusion

Global, Regional and Local Content are Mixed and Need to be Un-Entangled
Companies do not formally separate different levels of content scope. We define content scope as
an area (geographical or business) to which this particular content applies. The typical areas of
scope are:

• Corporate — content that applies to the company as a whole in all regions

• Regional — content that is specific to a region (for example, North America, Europe, Asia)
• Local — content specific to a particular country (France, Japan, United States, etc.)

By formally identifying the scope, a company can begin to develop a global content model. The
content scope will govern the processes around global content creation and management — for
authoring, reviewing, approvals, as well as costs and scope for localization.

Content Synchronization May Be an Issue Among Global Sites

Timeliness of updates can be important if they relate to simultaneous shipment of product, are
related to key corporate announcements, or have legal or compliance implications.

We have observed that companies have a hard time keeping content in sync across their global
markets. Synchronization refers to the requirement of having global content updated at the same
time (or nearly the same time). Typically, a relationship between source content and localized
content should be identified to ensure synchronization requirements.

Managing Global Content Will Require a Team Effort

Typically, most content is owned by the marketing department, with the content management
process having three steps:

• Creation/content development — content is created or updated

• Review — multiple levels of review, depending on the type of content change (may
include marketing, sales and legal)
• Approval and publishing — once the content is approved, it is published to a live site

In the global scenario, with content modeling being done at a finer (corporate, regional, local)
level of granularity, the steps of Create->Review->Approve may need to become more tailored to
the specifics of the content update, with processes becoming “chained” — where a change in one
area may trigger other changes (as in the case of translated content). Ultimately, it means that
from the content production and update perspective, each of the team members on the extended
“content team” — whether it’s marketing or technology — needs to be aware of the impact of
global content on their area.

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Is Your Infrastructure Global Ready?
The first hurdle that companies moving toward a global Web solution need to clear is getting the
infrastructure internationalized. Internationalization (or “i18n” — because there are 18 letters
between “I” and “n”) has two goals:

• Ensure that the product (solution, site, etc.) is functional and accepted in international
• Ensure that the product (solution, site, etc.) is localizable

If the necessary steps to get your infrastructure internationalized are not taken, the Web solution
can be subject to delays, rework, and painful extra-work to localize the solution at the proverbial
“eleventh hour” of the project.

Code May Be an Issue — Must Look under the Hood

While the specific components of standard development tools and languages (Java, .NET) for the
most part provide capabilities to facilitate working with global content, specific code samples and
programming tactics have not been reviewed. This is important because the availability of global
functionality does not guarantee successful internationalization.

To ensure this requires implementing global functionality in accordance with general and
framework-specific best practices, coupled with a clear, logical global strategy that addresses a
specific international business case.

Content Management is Key for Global Sites

Most companies either have or are migrating to a content management system (CMS), whether
it’s home-grown or a third-party software package.

Content management is a key process in maintaining and evolving the site. A CMS is a foundation
for a site where global content is created, managed, and delivered. If you have issues with the
current content management process today, they will grow exponentially in the global scenario,
due to a greater number of content modules, with more relationships between them, managed by
more people in more languages, more often.

Linking Content Creation and Localization is Needed and Possible

Given the dynamic, fast-changing nature of most sites in today’s business climate, the link
between content creation and content localization processes must be as friction-free as possible.
Lionbridge typically sees these four models of linking content management and localization

• Translation within a CMS: This method is best for environments with third-party
content management systems, where translation is done in house, with no reliance on
best practices such as translation memory or terminology management.

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• Manual exchange of files: This is the most widely used method for exchanging assets
with a localization vendor, where an FTP or an email is used. It is best for larger, less
frequent updates, given the overhead, and the need for manual process.

• Use of Globalization Management System: There are third party systems that allow
companies to manage the full localization life-cycle. These are very costly systems that are
best for companies that want to make translation management their core competency.

• Direct CMS/Localization Link: By relying on emerging standards in the localization

industry (XML, Web Services), programmatically set up a frictionless content exchange,
automatically sending assets for localization, receiving localized assets and importing
them into a CMS. This approach works for any company that is interested in connecting
their content repository (whether third party or homegrown) directly with their vendors’
localization infrastructure, maximally leveraging their investment in a CMS.

When selecting the appropriate approach, a number of factors come into play, like the type of
CMS involved, rate of change of content, budget, workflow desired, and overall localization

Web Globalization — Best Practices

The following represents key best practices Lionbridge has developed and observed when working
with companies that globalize and evolve their online solutions.

Creating International Market Business Case
Create a Market Entry Checklist and Kit — Once a market has been identified, create a checklist
and market “kit” for how that market will be handled from an online perspective. This kit would

• Required content
• Online standards
• Rules of engagement

Define Support and Resource Plan — Critical to market entry is identifying the resource plan to
handle the various tasks associated with entering a market. These tasks may include:

• Management of the globalization/localization process

• Review cycles of translations
• Global customer sales
• Global customer support

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Formally Build International User Profiles and Scenarios
In line with building knowledge of international users, Lionbridge recommends formally profiling
international users and defining applicable use cases. Cultural biases and expectations should be
examined in user profiling to better understand needs and expectations.

Define Key Globalization and Localization Metrics

Companies must establish success metrics for both globalization and localization.
Tracking these will allow you to evolve and correct these practices as needed. Sample
globalization metrics are as follows and can be used as a starting point:

• Number of visitors per international sites

• Number of page views
• New users to online sales

Localization metrics include:

• Cost
• Number of words
• Number of errors
• Translation memory leverage percentage
• Translation memory savings percentage

User Experience
Define Global User Experience Strategy
Companies must define their global online strategy as an extension of their overall marketing and
sales strategy. It is important to methodically define and control the key elements such as brand,
content, look-and-feel, and control.

Define unified user experience components for online sites — Defining a unified experience may
incorporate things related to content, navigation, look-and-feel, or functionality. Standards
should be defined for each of these areas. A single standard does not have to exist, but
maintenance of some standards will drive consistency and brand.

Publish a brand and style guide — Companies should consider the creation and implementation
of an online style guide that will define areas such as imagery, logos, tone, content, and colors
with regards to its online assets. While potentially a large undertaking, the importance of this is
heightened, especially if multiple web teams (inside the company and partners) are involved.

If the outside partners (such as distributors) are involved, Lionbridge recommends bringing them
into this process as well. Having them provide in-country information and perspective can be very
useful and provide cost savings in this process.

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Implement an Appropriate Language Selection Framework
Language selection is a particularly important part of the navigation framework. The user’s
preferred language may drive content, functionality, and other online features.

While there are a number of adequate ways to address language selection, the following are often
considered best practice guidelines when establishing language selection:

• Allow users to select their preferred language

• Provide list of locales and languages in users’ language
• Provide a simple user friendly mechanism from the home page

Implement an Appropriate Country Selection Process

It is important to consider the ramifications of a user selecting a country. The selection of a
country may be coupled or decoupled from the language selection process depending on the
business rules on the back end. Country selection may drive functionality and content as well.

Create a Unified Global User Experience

It is important to work toward a unified experience between multiple global Web sites.
Unified does not mean “the same” — everything is done in context, and in accordance to your
global brand strategy. What is critical is to define the “global space” for users and to stick to it.
Shifting between localized and non-localized content and functionality can be both jarring and
considered poor from a user experience perspective. One of the key tenets of Web site localization
is to honor the user’s selection of locale by providing him a coherent and self-contained
experience in the locale (or language) of his choice. Expressed another way — “Once they chose a
language or country, keep them there.”

Define Content Publishing Plan for Markets
Once the key markets have been selected and tiered, companies must create a content publishing
plan for each. This publishing plan will dictate what content gets published, where and how. The
content localization plan should be based on market requirements and expectations. Ideally each
target locale should be assessed to validate market needs and constraints. Additionally,
competitive position should be taken into consideration, i.e., if your competitor is providing a
fully localized Web site, then it may be in your interest to provide this as well.

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Lionbridge Best Practice: Define “global space” for international users and stick to it as much as
possible. Warn in language when linking to content that is in a different language.

An effective content publishing plan should have the following two items accounted for:

• Determine what will be published and where. This is a function of business goals and
local marketing plans and strategies; e.g., what products/services are offered in specific
• Determine what will be localized. This is a function of the estimation of the value of
translation and/or adaptation of the content for those specific markets.

Define Content Taxonomy

Global content needs to be classified to define the relevant dimensions of content to be published
for all locales. Formalizing these classifications in a content taxonomy can be increasingly useful
as you go global. This taxonomy will define the existing “buckets” of content and their respective
key characteristics related to source, authoring, production, and localization. The typical
“buckets” are the global, regional, local, and targeted content.

Define the Content Production Process

The next step is to define the applicable production processes and plans for the content.

Essentially, once you have identified and classified the “what,” you need to identify the “who,”
“how,” and “by when/how often” issues. Creation of both the content taxonomy and production
process are the precursors to the implementation and deployment of a content management

Internationalize Key Components and Architecture
The following is a list of typical Web internationalization best practices — the specifics will vary
depending on the technology set in use (i.e., .NET, Java, ASP, etc.)

Standardize on Unicode — Standardizing on Unicode will allow multilingual content to be stored

in a common repository without the need to track encodings with each entry. It also allows for
multilingual content display in cases where this is desirable (for example, when you have a page
that lists available languages, each name in its own language.

Implement a local detection/selection system — An international site with localized content

should implement a system to determine the appropriate locale for the visitor through a
combination of detection and user selection.

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Such a system might work like this:

• Check for a cookie containing locale information

• If a cookie is not present or does not contain locale information, detect locale from the
• Redirect to a page where the user can confirm the determined locale or select a different
• Save the selected locale information in a cookie

Use appropriate data types for content fields that can contain foreign language in the database
— There are two primary types of content that can contain foreign (extended) characters: foreign
content and translatable content. Foreign content is content that can contain extended characters
but is not typically translated; for example, a Japanese user’s name. Translatable content is
content that can be translated and will have separate entries for each supported language. This
differentiation is important because there are typically different storage requirements in terms of
database architecture, but also because the need to support Unicode-encoded foreign content is
sometimes overlooked, whereas translatable content is not.

Use locale-specific stylesheets for styles that include font definitions — Font definitions,
including size, family/face, and format (bold/italic/oblique), are locale-sensitive.
For example, smaller font sizes can be harder to read for Asian languages, and some Asian
languages use formatting such as bold and italic very sparingly or not at all. Therefore, it is
considered a best practice to define styles on a per-locale basis, which makes it possible to have
different font sizes and turn bold or italic on or off depending on the locale. The style sheet
determination mechanism could also fall back to a default style sheet in cases where a style sheet
for a specific locale does not exist.

Determine browser support requirement — Microsoft Internet Explorer is often considered “the”
browser to support, which reflects the fact that a majority of users use this browser by default.
However, some support for other browsers should be considered. The Mozilla browser family,
particularly Firefox, has gained in popularity, and the Opera browser has a larger user base in
Europe than in the U.S.

Invest in a Good Multi-Lingual Search

You need to ensure your site search supports the locales and the content necessary. There are a
number of good search packages on the market, and finding out how well your search engine
supports multilingual searches is important as you embark on the Web globalization journey.

Deploy a Strong Content Management System to Enable Global Content Lifecycle

Companies considering global Web solutions for sites with reasonably fast-changing content must
evolve their home-grown system, or invest in a third-party CMS to support the needs of global
content creation and publishing. Many factors go into selection of a CMS (there are number of
good resources on the Internet), but here are a few factors to consider:

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• Creating Content Ownership Areas: Users “own” different parts of content, and it needs
to be embodied in the system, to support content creation workflow.

• Workflow: Setting up customized workflows, and keeping track of where the documents
are is critical to ensuring that the right content will get published in the right place at the
right time. From a globalization point of view, having a formal way of determining
document readiness for translation into another language as well as Export/Import
capabilities are very important to minimize overhead in managing of translations, and to
improve the time it takes for global content to be created.

• Content Granularity and Templating: Allowing for modeling your site in terms of
content modules, rather than pages, is going to be an important capability to maintain
and “institutionalize” through technology. Also, using content templates will allow
content contributors to manage their content in a more user-friendly, controlled way.

• Content Reuse: Similar to the previous item, by “chunking” content, you can create
powerful reuse models, with components needing to be created once, and used in
multiple ways. This can help streamline content creation and the localization process.

Implement Automated Link between Content Management and Content

Creating multi-lingual Web sites is hard enough, but maintaining all the content across languages
in sync is much harder. Companies must establish a “frictionless content exchange” process,
where content update and content localization are seamlessly integrated, and no unnecessary
cycles are wasted on manual processes. To achieve that, an automated link can be established
between your CMS and your localization infrastructure, using the localization industry standards
of Translation Web Services and XLIFF.

Which content to send through automated link for translation — All content can be sent through
the automated link, but certain content modules lend themselves more naturally to that process
than others. For example, the logo, icons, and imagery are not likely to change too often, and can
be sent for localization in a manual mode (using FTP, or a portal) as part of bulk localization. On
the other hand, product descriptions, services descriptions, e-learning materials, and marketing
campaigns change more often, and may require a quick turnaround. These are natural candidates
to be put on a “fast track” through an automated link.

Lionbridge Translation Web Service — Lionbridge is proud to be the first vendor in the
localization industry who implemented a full Web Services server to allow third parties to
integrate translation into their content repositories automatically.

Lionbridge Best Practice: A strong Content Management System is a foundation of your global
web site. It will ultimately determine the ease, and in some cases, the very possibility of creating

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certain global content models. It will also directly impact efficiency and effectiveness of your
content contributors and time to market for your content globally.

The basis of the Lionbridge Translation Web Services is a SOAP server that interprets and
services requests to the set of functions described in the WSDL file. This is done using SOAP calls
over HTTP. The functionality exposed by Web Services allows for a full lifecycle of submission,
monitoring and retrieving of translation jobs and quotes, along with house-keeping calls of
getting a list of languages, users, etc. The functions of translation Web Services include:

• Send content for translation

• Monitor job status
• Get translated content
• Get quotes
• Get list of available source/target languages
• Get list of users

With this set of functions, translation services can be seamlessly integrated with any repository,
workflow, application, or process. This set can be scaled to whatever solution is required to meet
project needs.

Lionbridge Translation Web Services supports the XLIFF format that has gained wide acceptance
in the industry. XLIFF stands for XML Localization Interchange File Format and is developed
under the auspices of OASIS. XLIFF usage allows for a safer and potentially more efficient
translation process. The independence of tools is another invaluable advantage of using XLIFF.
Any type of content can be embedded into it. XLIFF data is embedded in a SOAP envelope that is
exchanged between the repository and the Web Services.

Ultimately, a successful Web globalization project is built on a comprehensive strategy that fuses
globalization best practices with your specific branding and technology needs. The “governance”
element is also critical, as the issues of ownership and control (of budgets, content, and
technology) can manifest into a tug-of-war between corporate and in-country influences, and will
come back to haunt you if not dealt with early in the process.

Creating an inclusive, open process, and bringing the right parties — marketing, business,
technology and in-country representatives — to the table is paramount to the success of your Web
globalization effort. Getting buy-in from the stakeholders early will pave the way to success.

Lionbridge Best Practice: Implement an automated link between content management and
content localization. Establish a “frictionless content exchange” process, where content update
and content localization are seamlessly integrated, and no unnecessary cycles are wasted on
manual processes.

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Finally, to be successful at Web globalization, one must have the resources, support of the
executive management, a budget, and a plan. A good place to start is to define a Web globalization
strategy. We hope this paper has given you a glimpse of the issues, challenges, and best practices
to start formulating your own Web globalization strategy.

Lionbridge would welcome the opportunity to explore the value our enterprise-class solutions can
bring to your organization and would invite you to contact us for an initial discussion about your
global objectives and how we might be able to help you achieve them. Visit us at

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Contact Information

About Lionbridge
Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq:
LIOX) is a leading provider of globalization
and testing services. Lionbridge combines
global resources with proven program
management methodologies to serve as an
outsource partner throughout a client's
product and content lifecycle — from
development to globalization, testing and
maintenance. Global organizations in all
industries rely on Lionbridge services to
increase international market share, speed
adoption of global products and content,
and enhance their return on enterprise
applications and IT system investments.
Based in Waltham, Mass., Lionbridge now
maintains more than 50 solution centers in
25 countries and provides services under the
Lionbridge® and VeriTest® brands

Corporate Headquarters
1050 Winter Street
Waltham, MA 02451