Itâ€˜s not always easy to think globally, yet many of our siteâ€˜s visitors live abroad. In fact, most of them do. This has forced us to pack a lot of learning into a short time.
We edit and publish a monthly e-zine from the tiny Greek island of Karpathos. Kafenio, which premiered in March 2000, focuses on European life and culture. The first step in thinking globally was to accept our classified ads in any language using Latin letters, so French, Spanish, German - no problem for our software.
Not so hard, is it?
That was an important decision for us. Living on a remote Aegean
island as we do, surrounded by goats and cats, it would be easy to get tunnel vision and forget about the rest of the planet.
English is English, right? The first major conflict that punched us right in the nose was British vs. American English. We then had a contributing writer from Australia, another journalist from Canada.
What to do? We made it our policy that each writer would stick to his/her native usage of English. No way did I want to ruin an article by Americanizing it. Thatâ€˜s not global thinking. Savvy readers in Britain or elsewhere would spot that style slip-up a mile away. (I mean a kilometer away, no better make that kilometre. See what I mean?)
There is a vast difference between editing something for accuracy and acting like the language police. No, we cannot please everybody and we cannot spend every waking moment trying to. But to reach out to a global audience, we have to willing to widen our thinking.
Recently we decided to run banner ads in languages other than English and this kicks off in the July issue with one German and one Russian banner. Itâ€˜s a start of something exciting and we think we can expand on our idea as time goes on. Not every improvement to a site or e-zine has to occur overnight.
Do most sites truly think and act globally? No. I canâ€˜t count the times I have tried to sign up for free subscriptions to newsletters or zines, only to be rejected because I didnâ€˜t fill in my state and zip code correctly. Or that my phone number did not fit the (American) format. This oversight is going to turn off not just me--with a Greek address and phone number--but other potential customers around the world as well.
Another thing that urks me at many sites is when you see a button where you can click on your weather. Most of these programs turn out to offer weather for North America and North America only. What if your reader in Tokyo or Paris wants to know the weather, too?
Ditto the news. For sites offering the top news reports, Iâ€˜ll bet half offer only American news. What about visitors living in Asia or Europe, donâ€˜t we also want news? In a news story, I find it bothersome that every reference to "government" has to refer to Washington. Or that every stock quote must be from the U.S.
Folks, thereâ€˜s a whole world out here ready to visit your Website and maybe buy your products. Why shut us out?
Do you suppose Iâ€˜ll be going back to a Website that offers only weather for North America or claims my address is incorrect because I did not select a state from their listing? No, Iâ€˜ve had the door slammed in my face and once is enough. They wonâ€˜t get my business because theyâ€˜ve more or less made it clear to me at first visit that I am unimportant to them.
Iâ€˜m not suggesting we go out and hire sociologists instead of
Webmasters, but letâ€˜s not go out of our way to turn off a potential customer base from all over the planet either. Examine your own site and see what positive changes you might make in this regard.
Once we all start thinking globally, weâ€˜ll act it. As we attract new customers, our success rates are bound to go up. After all, I canâ€˜t think of a better place to go global than cyberspace.