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Best Practices for Global Website Design

Many companies do business online, but very few display the best practices for global website design. What does it mean to build a global online presence, and what do the world’s top websites do in order to accomplish this feat? New research from Common Sense Advisory, “Gaining Global Web Presence,” details the best (and worst) practices for the top 1,000 global websites, including eBay, Porsche, Avon, and Dell.

To conduct the research, the firm compiled 40,000 datapoints from the 1,000 top global websites culled from three separate listings of companies, brands, and websites: the Forbes Global 2000, Interbrand Best Global Brands, and Alexa Top Sites. The team looked at each site’s purpose, the number of languages and countries targeted, how social media and video content were incorporated, and many other multilingual, global web development factors.

Adds lead report analyst Ben Sargent, “The best global websites have certain things in common – most importantly, they’re well-rounded, with a diverse mix of possibilities for interactivity, the option to get content in multiple forms (text, audio, and video), and they take advantage of social media platforms. The report allows for companies across a multitude of industries and countries to benchmark their website’s multilingual properties against the top online brands and set a path for the site’s global future.”


Key datapoints include:

  • Average number of languages per website grew in 2010. In 2009, 41% of Alexa’s top sites supported more than one language. In 2010, Common Sense Advisory research found multiple languages on 46% – a year-on-year growth rate of 12%.
  • Fewer than half the top sites offer only one language. 433 websites addressed a single market in a single language with no attempt to address the needs of geo-lingual visitors. Another 21 sites used a single language but included navigation to country-specific content or sites.
  • Twitter rules in the new social reality. Among the 1000 sites visited, 279 (28%) offered links to social media sites. Favored social media links across all sites in all countries include, in order of popularity: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Number of languages offered depends on industry. The study identified a high degree of variability from one industry to another. For example, multilingual websites in the software and computers industry offered an average of 22.4 languages, while social media sites offered 14.7. Companies in the retail and apparel industry offered just 6.3 languages on average.


The report contains helpful benchmarks, tools, tips, case studies, and screen shots that enable web developers, international marketers, and business development specialists to successful expand a global web presence, including:

·    How to orient visitors within your global web presence. The report details via statistics and screen shots how the top brands present their multilingual properties and guide visitors to language and country appropriate content, examples of best and worst practices.

·    Simpler is better for site configuration. Web teams have moved away from use of country code top-level domains, but still only half of multilingual sites offer all countries or languages on a single domain. Meanwhile, ad-driven destination sites still favor subdomains. Learn the best strategies to employ for searchability, content management, and international usability.

·    Trends for use of video and interactive elements, user forums for customer engagement, and links to social networks. Should you translate and localize your videos? Just more than half (57%) of the top 1,000 global websites provided “unique” content, meaning original video was produced for the target market. Only a single example was found of adapting a source language video for a new audience.

“Website localization is already a mainline business activity practiced in every industry. The best global brands, whether ranked on the Interbrand list or in the minds of the in-house marketing department, compete for attention in multiple languages from a global audience. Following the guidance outlined our recent report will reduce the cost and effort of managing a global web presence, while improving results,” concludes Sargent.

The firm will publish its rankings of the leading global websites in early 2011. For more on the firm’s research, visit www.commonsenseadvisory.com.

About Common Sense Advisory

Common Sense Advisory, Inc. is an independent research and analysis firm specializing in the on- and offline operations driving business globalization, internationalization, localization, translation, and interpretation. Its research, consulting, and training help organizations improve the quality of their global business operations. For more information, visit: www.commonsenseadvisory.com or www.twitter.com/CSA_Research.

Submitted On: 1/7/2011

Common Sense Advisory research and analysts are frequently cited in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Fortune Magazine, Inc Magazine, and BusinessWeek.
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