How To Effectively Design A Website For A Foreign Market
Every web designer strives to create an accessible and attractive website that speaks to the needs, affinities and pain points of its target audience. However, culture often dictates subtle differences in style, approach and standards. What works in one country might not work in another.
For example, visuals require caution: An image deemed “sensual” in Western countries might be “vulgar” in West and East Asia. Whenever you design a website for a foreign country, you should think and create like a local. Otherwise, you could provoke a misalignment of what your website strives to achieve and what visitors see.
Things To Keep In Mind When Designing Websites For Another Country
Collaboration with an international client requires you to dive into their culture and identify what makes it unique. Read about the tradition, culture, history and art of their country. Research websites and discover what web designers from that part of the world prioritize, how they structure landing pages and how they interact with customers.
Perhaps you’ll find out that your target audience prefers minimalism and finds colorful websites overly cluttered or confusing. On the other hand, a vibrant design or brutalist approach might be a must in some cultures.
But not understanding these differences could portray you as a web design agency that doesn’t take research seriously, deeming you unprofessional. The failure to create a website that aligns with the standards of the geographic area could also affect your client’s business outreach and success.
Discovering what would count as an inadequate web design in foreign countries gives you a deeper understanding of how to create effective websites for the international market and land more foreign clients.
For over a decade, I’ve worked with international clients from multiple countries, such as the UAE, Netherlands and the U.K., and have learned that understanding stylistic web design nuances is crucial. That knowledge will help you achieve better lead generation, conversion and customer retention.
Hence, I’m sharing my insights, hoping to help you become a more versatile web designer and develop websites that align with your international clients’ expectations.
Calendar And Date Formatting
Sunday is the first day of the week in the U.S., and the month is featured at the beginning of the date (m/d/y), but some other countries do it differently. For example, Europeans start with Monday and always use the d/m/y format. Meanwhile, the year comes first in China. Inform yourself about the date formatting across countries because how you structure the calendar could make a substantial difference and even confuse your target audience.
American and British English have different spellings, and European websites typically use the latter and the U.K. flag to indicate an internationalized version. Besides, these two have subtle linguistic differences that could change the overall context.
For example, a lingerie business should sell “underwear” or “panties” to their U.S. customers and “pants” to the British. Research the role language plays in countries sharing similar vocabulary and historical ties.
Avoid assumptions and ensure you know what wording would be most efficient for your target audience. As another example, you might think that Brazilian and European Portuguese are the same, but these two have different pronunciations and accents and spell some words differently.
The U.S. has less rigid privacy regulations than, for example, the European Union. Each state can have specific laws, but the same ones usually apply to all EU-27 countries.
The EU has an all-encompassing data protection law (GDPR) and takes a top-down approach compared to the U.S. Regulations are also considerably tighter in Southeast Asia and the UAE.
In my experience, it’s less common for U.S. websites to be multilingual. But most customers prefer to purchase a product or service from a site that provides information in their own language. It might be tempting to set English as the principal website language, but avoid that unless your client requests it. Collaborate with native speakers to create an authentic website that speaks to its target audience.
U.S. web designers typically avoid content that visitors might perceive as a distraction. Instead, they aim to send a clear message that turns them into loyal buyers. But not every country has a decluttered approach to website organization.
The minimalist design would likely fail in China, as their web design is synonymous with contrasting colors, texts and multiple columns. It’s also rarely mobile-friendly due to the poor internet connection.
U.K. websites are typically sleek and decluttered with a polite approach to customers. For example, they rarely push the conversation and prefer to show product prices only when visitors hover over the pictures.
Scandinavian countries are known for putting web design to good use by displaying relevant content, ensuring easy access and prioritizing inclusion. After all, their target audience is usually tech-savvy and has a fast internet connection.
Web design in the Netherlands focuses on providing efficient customer service and an effective methodology. Conceptual working, simplicity and clarity come before creativity, while functionality tops engaging animations.
Colors And Images
Websites in Southeast Asian countries tend to use vivid, contrasting colors and animations and GIFs. If you’re working with UAE clients, avoid pictures that include alcohol and suggestive clothing, and research what meaning different colors have.
European web design shares more similar characteristics with the U.S. Large photos and depictions of people in various activities are regular on French and Italian websites, while the U.K. and Netherlands prefer natural and moderate pictures and colors.
Consider how culture and national temperament affect websites to get a deeper understanding of what your audience wants. For example, hyperlinks and clear sales messages are unavoidable elements in Japanese and Chinese web design.
UAE websites are subtler, although they might not achieve easy-to-understand messaging every time. Europeans prefer clear CTAs and engaging suggestions that encourage visitors to take action.
Effective and accessible websites start with researching your target audience, culture and expectations. Use colors, pictures and language that resonate with them and pay attention to details—one tiny mistake could result in misunderstandings and an inability to connect with your visitors.
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