Multilingual Sites – The impact of Information Architecture (and the other way round)
Where do you make the difference between different languages or different localizations of your site?
I think we can assume that there ist actually very little information that is really the same and will be reused all over; most of the contents will have some local variations.
If you think of a site containing product information, the products may be similar in different countries, but they will have different names (what requires different pictures), different selling propositions and different terms and conditions. That reduces the reuse quite a lot.
Company information on the other hand should not allow any variations: If an international company is addressing it’s audience – no matter if customers, employees or investors – the message must be consistent and uniformous. There should be no local influence and no chance for local stakeholders to change or delay that information.
Nevertheless, this information should find it’s way to the audience like any other information, it should not be published in specific exile-sections.
So where to make the difference between local and international contents, between translated and native, between local-language-only and mandatory to be translated contents, how to display that so that the user does not get confused?
Actually,it’s easy: the user should not notice any difference.
So the difference should not be named, it should not be part of the menu,it should not make the user think about local or international contents – all contents should just be there.
Having a menu entry labeled “International” would require to translate everything in there – that means you have to enter enough content to make it an entry of it’s own, to translate everything and to think about reasons why certain contents are part of the international section and not of the other local channels. Maybe you will end up with having the contents in both places – that’s the best way to kill your international section.
So be careful with emphasizing multilingual features and translations, don’t make the user think about it – but invest a lot of thought in what and how to translate.