As you develop a multilingual Web site, remember that not all countries use the same equipment or standards. In many countries, time is billed by the minute, which means a site that is slow to download or difficult to navigate will cost your clients money. To avoid problems--and to increase your site's international accessibility--try the following:
*Keep images to a minimum. They increase download time--and images that are effective in the U.S. marketplace may be misunderstood or considered offensive in other countries. Also, offer a link to a text-only version of your site.
*Make sure your site can be navigated easily. "Don't try to dazzle the user with your cleverness," warns Gerry Carson, senior vice president of Pan-American Access Inc., a full-service translation and localization company in Atlanta. Provide clear instructions, and don't bury those instructions within images; provide text guidelines as well.
*Use international formats for dates, times and currencies. In most European countries, for example, "3:30 p.m." would be written as 15:30, while "July 4, 1776," would be written as 4.7.76.
*Develop an e-mail response form that includes automated options (such as radio buttons, where users can click on their choices from a list of options), thus minimizing the amount of translation required.
*Instead of displaying all your material on your Web site, make it easy for customers to request information via e---mail.
AramediA Group, 761 Adam St., Boston, MA 02122-1919, http://members.aol.com/gnhbos/aramedia.htm
Pan-American Access Inc., (404) 239-0595, fax: (404) 239-1858
Twin Dragons Software Inc., (800) 453-2277, firstname.lastname@example.org