|4 Min. Read||Aaron Hakenson||September 25, 2015|
Consumers around the world are increasingly using multiple screens and devices to consume content. Cohesive, high-quality experiences across smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs and beyond aren’t just for English-language websites anymore.
This poses an interesting challenge for global-savvy brands—they must ensure their international content is localized across all screens, too.
Why is it good business to provide cohesive, localized experiences across devices?
For starters, the landscape of content consumption is radically different than in years past. Mobile website traffic blew past desktop web traffic last year, and continues to rise.
Global smartphone adoption is skyrocketing. In Vietnam alone—the third-fastest growing smartphone market in the world, with nearly 25% audience growth this year alone—nine in 10 adults now own a smartphone. Companies are responding. Global mobile ad spending is growing. For instance: mobile internet ad spends in Mexico will rise 76% to reach $391.4 million this year.
Consumers around the world are spending gobs of time on their smartphones and tablets. According to a 2014 survey of 14,000 people in 14 countries, most people spend more time consuming media on their mobile devices than they do watching TV. Sixty percent of respondents said they spend most or all of their time online on mobile devices.
The second-screen experience is also alive and well, on a global scale. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they spend time on the mobile web while watching television. (This number rises to nearly 95% in the U.S.) These folks are texting, on social networks, and shopping.
The convergence of these trends—adoption, consumption, engagement—pave a clear path for companies, especially those that have expanded into international markets.
But what’s the smartest way to ensure that a company’s localized content displays accurately across all digital channels?
The ideal foundation is responsive design—a website best practice that many companies already employ on their primary-market English sites. Responsive web design adapts to a user’s device on-the-fly, optimizing its presentation of content to the proper size, resolution and orientation of the user’s screen.
When thoughtfully executed, content looks great on desktop browsers, tablets and phones:
If your company’s primary-market site doesn’t leverage responsive design, it was probably dinged during Google’s Mobile Friendly Update back in April—aka “mobilegeddon.” This algorithmic update boosted the rankings of mobile-friendly web pages on mobile search results, and penalized those that weren’t mobile-friendly. (Preliminary data suggests some sites lost significant traffic, including Reddit (-27%), NBC Sports (-28%), and others.)
The update impacted localized sites for international markets, too. According to recent MotionPoint research, companies that didn’t deploy mobile-friendly best practices for their global sites saw a 20% decline in mobile impressions, and a 17% drop in overall impressions. Ouch. Responsive design is lauded for its flexibility. Post-launch, these sites are easy and cheap to maintain, writes Jim Robinson at digital marketing firm Clickseed. They also have fewer implementation issues. Responsive design provides “one site to rule them all”—no need for complicated annotations, device detection or redirections.
This method does require a thoughtful design approach, however, and can require more resources to launch. But the costs are relative here, explains Logan Lenz, a Global Online Strategist for MotionPoint’s Global Growth team.
“Building a responsive website requires a bit more coding up front, but it’s a lot like building the proper foundation to a house,” he says. “If you build the correct framing, you’ll be able to accommodate that ‘second story’ down the road, when you want to expand. Maintenance is a small aspect of a company’s usual and routine expenses. No extra files are needed. No more servers are required. It’s all just one website.”
Responsive sites are not mobile sites, however. Mobile sites deliver genuinely mobile-centric user experiences, which are generally superior to the responsive approach. There are trade-offs to achieve this meticulous presentation, however. Since these sites live on a separate URL, organic search traffic can be diluted. Link equity can be reduced, which also impacts search. Maintenance costs can be higher, too.
Logan points out that Google recommends responsive web design.
“Ensuring that your flagship sites reside on one single domain, and serves users across all devices, is the way to go today,” Logan says.
Companies currently operating primary-market English sites with responsive design have successfully tackled the “one site, many screens” challenge. However, these organizations often fear that launching international sites will require duplicate effort—spending even more effort and expense designing many “one-off” responsive sites for many secondary markets.
This doesn’t have to be the case. A website localization approach called the Proxy Approach (which MotionPoint pioneered 15 years ago) plays nice with all website management systems, and designs. Regardless of a company’s Content Management System or design ethos, this platform-agnostic method operates securely, but independently, of a company’s website. It makes launching and maintaining translated sites easy, fast and cost-effective.
MotionPoint’s exclusive Proxy Plus website localization approach takes the benefits even further by incorporating exclusive tools, technologies and human experts to deliver sustained business growth in international markets.
Proxy Plus-powered localized sites really move the needle. Exclusive technologies such as Language Preference Detection and User Experience Optimizations tailor experiences for visitors in different markets, and quantify the lift from these optimizations.
When combined with responsive web design, this approach delivers resonant localized content to global markets, and optimizes its presentation for any device. A company will maintain its “one site to rule them all” primary-market English site, and its international sites will effortlessly keep pace.
“Truth be told, all websites should be designed responsively these days,” Logan says. “If your company is still displaying a desktop experience to mobile visitors—no matter what language that site may be in—those visitors are undoubtedly bouncing from your website. You’re missing out on potential new customers and revenue.”