Web Design Country - Jun 2007

Web design Sunshine Coast

At 12website.com - Web design Sunshine Coast we design web sites for many and varied businesses.

A current project is a world wide organisation promoting their services outside their country - the UK. Promoting to Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region. To do this we take into account the differences in buying habits and language. Wait a minute - we all speak English but do we? More on global web design.

Granted some local businesses are not looking outside our country. For example this week we completed a web site for a timber company expanding its' business outside the Sunshine Coast to the rest of Queensland and the eastern states of Australia.

However back to the worldwide web. I am amazed at the number of web sites I see that claim to target a worldwide market, yet design and write their content for a regionally-specific audience. Not sure what I mean? For example I have visited a website that is based in the U.S. and sells high quality gold chains throughout North America, Europe and Australia.

Now the owner of this site was complaining loudly in a webmaster forum that his pay-per-click campaign was having no luck converting sales from overseas visitors, particularly in the UK and Australia. He had spent a long time developing and tweaking a landing page for the campaign and he couldn't work out why hardly anyone outside the U.S. was buying. I took a look at his landing page and could see the problems straight away:

1) He used the American English spelling "jewelry" throughout the page without considering that persons who use British
English spell it "jewellery".

2) He provided a toll-free phone number for persons in the U.S. to call, but did not provide any contact phone number for persons located outside the U.S.

3) He used the word "national" throughout the page, immediately isolating anyone outside the U.S.

4) He promoted "free shipping throughout the U.S." but did not specify shipping costs for persons outside the U.S. Shipping is just one of the options that needs to be considered thoroughly when setting up an online shop.

The owner of this site had not even considered that persons outside the U.S. might search for keywords in anything other than American English. It didn't even occur to him that there may be an alternative spelling of his main keyword and he didn't think about the logistics for purchasers outside his country.

No wonder the page wasn't converting outside the U.S.! He had made the classic mistake of isolating a large chunk of his audience by sending everyone to a one-size-fits-some page.

What he could have done was to create a separate landing page using British English spelling and shipping/contact information applicable to persons overseas. He could then have set up a unique PPC campaign targeting only UK / Australian searchers with regional keywords and ads leading to the British English landing page. More on web design marketing.

I see similar problems occur quite often in the online travel industry where you not only have to deal with regional spelling options, but also regional jargon. Think about the word "accommodation". Apart from the fact the word is commonly misspelled, it is used most often in the UK, Australia and New Zealand to describe places to stay while traveling. In the U.S., the words "accommodations" and "lodging" are more commonly used.
Same goes for "holiday" and "vacation", with the latter being more common in the U.S. The word "traveling" itself is spelled "travelling" in British English! So you can imagine the minefield of problems webmasters must face promoting their travel sites online to a worldwide audience.

I don't mean to single out a particular country, but Americans seem to find it especially difficult to step outside their regional mindset. I am always receiving emails from the U.S. with helpful suggestions for fixing my "spelling mistakes".

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The funniest email exchange I ever had in relation to this was from an American web designer. She had seen our Australian-based web site (with a .com.au domain) and emailed me to tell me it was "full of errors" and that if I wanted to present a professional business to site visitors, I should correct them.

So condescending! I asked her to elaborate and she pointed me to these words she felt were spelled incorrectly:


I tactfully explained that our site was only targeting the Australian market and that we use British English spelling in Australia. Her response? Perhaps if we wanted to be taken seriously by an international audience, we should consider using the "more proper" American English. Flabbergasted, I pointed out the fact that American English was a derivative of British English and was not widely used outside her own country. More on professional web design.

And let’s not forget that although it is the most common language used on the web, English is used by less than 30 percent of the world's total Internet users with Chinese, Spanish and Japanese making up the next 3 most popular.

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The point of this story is that if you are targeting markets outside your country you should think outside your market if you are going to advertise on the web. As ignorant as she was, my email friend did make me realize that many of her compatriots might also think our site was full of errors. American English is more ommon on the web and I've since learned to cater to that trend. I try to remember that in all writing I do for the web now, whether it's in my daily blog, the syndicated articles I write regularly or web page content.

Whenever you design or write for a web site that has an international audience, make sure you address each market. It pays to undertake detailed keyword research into your markets
you are targeting so you can capture the correct regional jargon and spelling that people are searching for. Remember it's not enough to think worldwidel, you've got to do your research and act accordingly.

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