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 [2007] 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.

About the Author

Steve has spent more than a decade building global brands and helping clients succeed online in the U.S. and abroad. A seasoned online business strategist and marketer, Steve has significant experience in the technology, entertainment, health care, publishing and travel & tourism industries, among others. In addition to writing magazine articles and white papers about international marketing and technology trends, Steve addresses audiences around the country, from the Japan Society of New York to the Software Association of Oregon. Steve is a citizen of the world, with a focus on Asia, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon where he works for Connective DX, a global agency serving clients from offices in Portland and Boston.

More articles from Steve Kemper


4 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Could not agree more with "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."

    Today many Web sites are powered by Web content management systems (CMS) and many enterprises author, store, and publish content from a central CMS.

    Localization services can be provided under a multitude of client-driven workflows, from directly interacting and inputting translations into your CMS to receiving content that has been exported to XML or other formats to localize and return to you.

    Dont get too hung up on which CMS platform as long as it has the basic features for language support and managing multilingual sites.

    A partner should discuss your CMS language support capabilities and be happy to recommend workflows and/or enhancements to your CMS functionality in order to optimize multilingual content authoring and publishing.

  2. David Hobbs says:

    Unicode support is indeed important and its dominance crucial (although I believe it will be totally universally accepted soon, for some languages like Khmer, at least as of a year ago when I last worked with it, even Windows wasn’t entirely supporting it out of the box), but the *structure* of your site is also an important consideration.  For example, the structure of your site and what the relationships between languages/content needs to be worked out.  This is both a technical as well as management issue, and I would propose is an important element to review when deciding on a CMS platform.  

  3. Mark Stacey says:

    I think, that the real problem may come if you will need CMS that can handle RTL languages and the Eastern ones.  I personaly use Kentico CMS for English and Spanish language on my site, so I didn’t need to use the RTL yet, but still it’s good to know that my CMS can handle it if the time for Arabic, Hebrew or Chinese lang. may come.

  4. Suzanne Thornley says:

    Having worked on the development of  10 local language/market sites to date, this is good news. It is time that companies focused on designing local market websites with functionality that meets local market needs and uses high quality localised content.  Too often the time and budget is spent on technology fixes to the detriment of the final user experience.  Translation is not enough.  It is accepted that for face to face business we need to understand the cultural norms of each  country with which we do business and it is time to truly apply this to ecommerce.  All the tools exist to enable us to do this well and cost-effectively but too often local market sites are seen as an ‘add-on’ rather than at the core of initial planning and design.

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