Blogger: Craig Roth
The Global Watchtower reported on companies that had localized their websites changing their minds:
Recently, we’ve noticed two reports of companies claiming that “it just isn’t worth it” to have websites in other languages. Last week, the New York Times profiled several web-based businesses that elected to decrease or eliminate their web presence in some parts of the world, in spite of popularity in the local markets. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Home Depot is shutting down its Spanish-language site. This begs the question, “Is it ever a bad idea to localize?”
I have heard such questions from clients as well. One client asked yesterday in which countries they can get away with just using English content inside the company for companywide policy information. I pointed the client to the Ethnologue, a great source of information on the 7,299 languages they cover and where they are spoken.
However, Global Watchtower doesn't state the reason that I suspect for this abandonment of extra localized websites: the economic downturn. It hints at cases where "the business case simply does not justify localization", but let's face it - there's one big reason that business cases have changed recently and that's the economy. As I wrote back in April ("The Hemline Index Redux"), projects that used to get approved with only "soft" benefits are now requiring "hard" proof of benefit. If your website isn't e-commerce, the cost/benefit equation for localizing is difficult to calculate. Well, actually the cost is easy to calculate. But the benefit of having, for example, a customer service website translated and localized for a country where 70% of your customers speak English at a moderate level of fluency is very difficult to determine.
If I'm right, we'll continue to see more organizations trimmed back on the number of localized versions of their websites until the economy improves, then see a reversal of interest in the languages, customs, and local differences of target audiences in other countries.