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Content Without Borders: Writing for a Global Audience

Content Strategy

In today’s global economy, companies need to deliver HR information and services to all their employees, no matter where they are located.

But making sure that employees can find and understand what they read is not always easy. Translating content from English into multiple languages can be costly and time consuming.

If your site has hundreds or thousands of pages and resources, where do you begin?

Develop a content strategy

You need to start by planning your global content strategy long before you write any content. International sites usually require local variations to accommodate cultural and language differences.

Understanding the difference between localization and internationalization is an important first step.

  • Localization is the process of adapting or changing site content for different countries or regions. The process of localization can be as basic as translating text to the local language, or can require unique design, text, and images for each location.
  • Internationalization is the process of preparing your site for localization. Internationalization may require changes to the design and technical structure of the site, such as font support, site architecture, layout, and other elements.

By making changes for internationalism in the initial stages of the project, it will be easier to localize your site later.

Plan for translated content

For many companies, HR content is a mix of global information intended for all employees, and local information that is specific to a country, region, or group.

Decisions about which content to localize will depend on the company and employee needs.

  • Key resources such as the main navigation, company-wide programs, global policies, and leadership messages are likely candidates for localization and translation as these are used by all employees.
  • Legal requirements may also play a role in decisions to translate, as is the case for companies with employees in Canada that need to provide content in both French and English.
  • Local policies and benefits information targeted to specific countries are frequently available in the local language only. However, if your global HR resources are located in the U.S., you might consider publishing content in both the local language and English.

Time, resources, costs, and business requirements may determine whether or not you translate other types of content, such as data pulled from external sources, or policies with a limited audience.

Prepare for localization

To prepare your content for internationalization and localization, and to improve the quality of your translated content, focus on changes that result in clear, concise, and unambiguous content.

Some guidelines are as follows:

Add extra space. One of the challenges for global sites is to make sure that translated content fits into the design and layout, no matter what language. Asian fonts, such as Chinese and Japanese, may also require more vertical space. By allowing for text expansion, your designs can more easily support other languages.

Keep it simple. Your content is easier to translate and can better accommodate cultural differences in style and tone when you write using simple language. Short sentences, common words, and strong verbs can also result in lower translation costs as there are fewer words.

Avoid ambiguity. Even if your content is clear and concise, be aware that some common words, phrases and sentence structures don’t translate well to other languages. For example, partial sentences used to introduce lists can be difficult to translate as the order of words may be different in other languages.

Recognize cultural differences. Jargon, slang, and idioms are especially difficult to translate, and local or regional references may have different meanings in other countries. Images and color are important elements of design and communications, but can be perceived very differently in other cultures. For example, red means life in some countries, and death or danger in others.

At Logical Design Solutions, we understand the added complexity of creating content for a global site that is meaningful to local audiences. We consider that a critical reason why our enterprise clients need to have a well-considered global content strategy.

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