The global CMS reality
The world is more interconnected every day — a fact that has important implications for web content management.
Almost a quarter of the world's population-1.5bn people-will use the internet regularly in 2009. Half of them will make online purchases. A further 400m people will join the online world by 2012. – The World in 2009, The Economist
Of the 1.5 billion people who will use the Internet regularly in 2009, only fifteen percent live in the United States. Only thirty percent speak English as their first language. No wonder it seems every week brings at least one announcement of a U.S. company launching a new international website.
The current economic turmoil is almost certain to spur this trend as companies seek to broaden and diversify their revenue bases internationally, leveraging the relative economy and ease of the web as their primary channel for doing so. Additionally, companies face the need to establish themselves in key international markets or be beaten to the punch by local or international rivals. There are also an increasing number of companies, like Home Depot and the Florida Marlins Major League Baseball team, who are launching Spanish-language sites targeting U.S. Hispanic customers.
So what does all this mean for CMS planning?
If you're just undertaking your first multilingual website development or localization project, consider yourself extremely lucky. Industry adoption of Unicode as the standard for encoding online content is one of a number of developments that have made developing and maintaining multilingual websites much easier.
Just last December  there was an interesting milestone on the web. For the first time, we found that Unicode was the most frequent encoding found on web pages, overtaking both ASCII and Western European encodings—and by coincidence, within 10 days of one another. – The Official Google Blog
Tools to support web localization have come a long way, as well. There are far more multilingual website development, localization and management tools to choose from today. They have also all had to innovate aggressively to compete in an increasingly crowded field and stay relevant. More and more content management systems are trying to handle multilingual website management end to end and, for those that don't, there are more translation management systems (TMS) than ever designed to work with your CMS of choice.
What all of that means to you and me is simply this: We can spend much less time on the technological challenges of establishing a multilingual web presence and much more time focusing on our business and customers. Rather than worrying about whether or not characters are going to render properly in various platform and browser configurations, we can focus on the quality of the content and overall user experience. After all, the biggest challenge of managing a global web presence is balancing worldwide brand integrity and business goals with local effectiveness and compliance.
We’ll be exploring the global content management landscape in more detail this year on the CMS Myth. If you have any experiences with global CMS (good or bad), we’d love to hear about them.