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Chapter 34 -- International Considerations

Chapter 34

International Considerations

by Mark Bishop


The news today is filled with mind-boggling statistics about the Internet. Visit any Usenet newsgroup and you'll read that 30 million people or more use the Internet regularly, and 2.5 million people have made a purchase over the Internet! In its October 1, 1996, edition, PC Week Online says that advertising revenues alone, estimated at $12 million for 1995, could jump up to $300 million for 1996 and reach as high as $3.8 billion by the year 2000. Almost everyone who surfs the Net already knows that the Internet is blowing up exponentially in size. Although the actual number of people using the Internet might be unknown, the fact remains that business-related Web sites are dominating the growth of the Internet and that the Internet is doubling in size each year. Suddenly this big world we live in becomes small and connected. So where does that leave you?

If you already have a Web site or your own Web pages, being on the Internet can be busy work-especially if you are trying to make a business out of your cyberspace presence. Doing business on the Internet means confronting all types of Internet issues, ranging from making cool Web pages and maintaining them, to learning the myriad of ongoing tricks and tags, to making your pages hot. And, if you're selling or promoting a corporate image through your Web pages, the job is even harder because you have to stay on top of much more. Now imagine adding an international presence, having Web pages and information in a language other than English.

Taking into consideration the growth of the Internet, how could any sensible business person not have an international Web site? For example, how can anyone with something to sell ignore the Chinese market, with 800 million people and computer sales that are doubling every year?

Don't forget the 70 million people who speak Cantonese. With the takeover of Hong Kong by mainland China imminent, almost half a million Chinese alone have already immigrated to Canada. The market is there! There are also 78 million in this world who speak French, as well as 98 million people who speak German (in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria). In addition, 300 million people in Spain, Central and South America, and the Philippines speak Spanish. Internet experts tell us that by the year 2010 everyone between the ages of 25 and 55 will have an Internet connection.

Marketing Today

True, you might already know how to market and promote your Web pages via the various search engines. You also know that if you don't register your URLs, no one will know your pages exist. But, what if you wanted to promote or sell products and services to customers beyond the United States and Canada? What if you want to reach billions of people in China, Europe, or Mexico? What if you want to sell a product or service to a specific group of people-how would you market your site? These are tough questions, indeed.

Marketing Changes

Since the explosion of the Internet, many businesses are coming to grips with the fact that many of the traditional marketing approaches used outside the Internet don't necessarily always work on the Internet or one's Web site. Today, the audiences and marketing are different. People are online in more than 100 countries, and they speak many different languages. What was once a tradition-driven market is now an information-driven market.

Not long ago, businesses used demographics and psychological profiles to help identify their customers. Now on the Internet, almost anything goes! In fact, innovation is sometimes the factor that distinguishes a heavily trafficked site from one that is dead. However, to compete in an international market, you need to know more than how to write HTML pages.

A competent Web site needs at least someone who understands the basics of Internet technology, communication, advertising, and marketing. And for a truly global Internet presence, you need to think about other issues, too.

International Concerns

What do you need to develop an international Web site that will be visited by people who speak a variety of languages? Assuming that your Web site is already functional, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Defining an International Web Site

An international Web site is largely about displaying your HTML page in more than one language. An international Web site is, at least, bilingual and allows for some type of non-English response or input. The nature of the global audience that you are targeting will also dictate how you should think about and create your page. For example, if you are aiming for an Hispanic market, you surely want to be aware of Hispanic customs, culture, and business practices.

Who's Speaking What?

The Internet is surely a worldwide network, and English (the prevailing language on the Internet) is not the native language of many people who access the Internet! English is actually a second language for many Internet users. And, according to the 1996 edition of Almanac and World Facts, of the almost 6 billion people in the world, only about 326 million learn English as their native language. Consequently, millions of people cannot read the millions of English-only Web pages.

True, not everyone in this world has access to a computer, let alone the Internet. However, many industrialized nations do have access and will continue to grow in their number of connections. Along those lines, universities will always connect students and others to the Internet.

Your Competitive Advantages

If you look at the foundation of successful Web sites, you'll notice that they all have what I call GIGSGD. Don't even try to pronounce it! GIGSGD stands for Good Information, Good Shift, and Good Delivery, and in dealing with a truly global Web community, these points take on an important meaning. Following these principles will put you in the same league as other successful Web site owners.

Good Information

Having a successful Web presence is like baking a cake, and your content is the most important ingredient. If you don't have quality information, you cannot expect return visitors. A charismatic site, on the other hand, builds enthusiasm and brings people back for more. A good site covers everything from what a user clicks to navigate through your site to your content, and even your advertisements-if you have any. And it can be as simple as changing the poem you have on your home page to keeping the company Web site up-to-date with the latest products and services you offer. And for an international site with multiple languages, this means translating any changes in your English Web pages to the foreign language pages you're displaying. You need to keep your Web site fresh and exciting!

Good Shift

If you work in a large company, you know that paper is information: tons and tons of pages and information. The world is made up of information from the entertainment community, businesses, government, and individuals. What does one do with all the data? You'll have to shift the information from a non-digital paper format to a digital one as displayed through a given Web page. But, how do you do that?

Your first job is to know about the programs and technology that can take you from a world of hard copy to a world of digital information, such as converting printed items to HTML; learning how to convert standard audio sources such as tapes to digital audio formats using programs such as RealAudio and TrueSpeech; or learning how to convert large-scale word-processing documents into HTML pages, using HTML Transit from InfoAccess. To create multilingual Web pages for your international site, you will need more specialized programs and utilities, such as word-processing software for other languages, translation programs that convert one language into another, and Web browsers that support different languages and their respective fonts. These products are just a few of the tools you can use to get your data ready for the Internet.

Good Delivery

Good delivery is having the required working parts of your Web site to present your information in a pleasant and efficient manner to your viewing audience. For an international site, good delivery could mean informing your users ahead of time that they need, for example, an international Web browser or special viewing software.

If you have good digital information, people from all parts of the world, speaking all types of languages, will come to it. Your content can be compelling information, games, or connections to powerful relational databases, using products such as WebDBC, R:WEB, or CGI Perform. You will have to work hard to make your online information suitable for an international market.

To help put into perspective which applications work nicely in creating an international Web site (defined as using a language other then English), I visited Sprint's Asian division Web site,, and learned how its Webmasters create a Chinese Web page. This scenario helps you to see the steps and tools used to make a multilingual page.

First, according to Wendy Hsu, Webmaster, she first develops her graphic, using professional graphic software such as Paint Shop Pro 4.0 and Photoshop. Second, if text is involved in either the HTML document or the graphic, she uses a Chinese word processing software called Chinese Pro that enables her to use almost any text editor and type directly as Chinese characters. She prefers not to use Microsoft Word to cut and paste because each Chinese word actually takes two spaces, and Word distorts the spacing. She is concerned that those viewing her Chinese Web page have a browser that supports these Chinese characters she has created. Although any browser can display a graphic, the text portion of the HTML document must be displayed correctly via a Web browser that supports multiple languages.

Multilingual Web Browsers and Other Tools

The big names in the universe of Web browsers-Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0 and Netscape's Navigator 2.0 International version-support multiple languages. Microsoft promises that its browser will soon be available in 23 languages, enabling users to select the character set of the language they want and thereby enabling the browser to display the page correctly. Netscape's Navigator International version enables customers to use e-mail and join threaded discussion groups.

The Power Players of Multilingual Helper Software

A growing market of software companies is scuttling to write helper programs for non-native English speakers so that they too can surf the Net and see pages in multiple languages. Some of these new programs not only support foreign languages on the Web but also work with many other software programs. Essentially, a mouse click enables a user to switch between English and other languages. Remember that Asian languages generally require helper programs; on the other hand, many of the European languages are built into the popular Web browsers. Many of the following programs support Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK), and offer fonts for these languages too. Here's a list of some of the more popular helper programs:

To get an idea of how these programs work, you might want to try out the shareware version of NJWIN. The company has a Web site with clear instructions for installing the program (and in English, too), and this program was highly rated by students on the various Chinese IRC talk channels. Figure 34.1 shows a Netscape browser using the NJWIN helper program. Notice the pull-down box that allows for the various Asian languages and their dialects.

Figure 34.1 : NJWIN multilingual Web support.

For additional information on multilingual Web browsers, visit any English search engine and type Multilingual Browsers.

Preparing a Multilingual Document

Although all Web browsers can display a GIF or JPG graphic having foreign characters in the graphic, to view the foreign text within the HTML page your browser must support that language. You can start to prepare a multilingual document by using the international language support that is probably built into your computer. Windows users can change or add keyboard properties for languages and dialects, such as Central European (Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, and so on), Cyrillic, Baltic, Greek, Spanish, and others. The Windows keyboard selection supports almost all European languages. However, Asian languages require special software, as described earlier, because the type of characters, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, are double-byte characters. This means that whereas a Spanish character occupies one space, a Chinese character will take up two spaces. This might not seem important until you begin to cut and paste from one application to another and your sentences look distorted.

To add a little confusion with an explanation, HTML publications written in Chinese don't have a unique Chinese code that all Chinese can read or understand. In fact, the Chinese language has a few popular dialects, which is one reason why even the large browsers such as Navigator and Explorer still have not supported it yet, but the two styles of Chinese code that dominate on the Internet are the BIG5 format (traditionally used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) and the GB format (used in mainland China, Singapore, and other places).

Obviously, one can almost see a fatal limitation in having a software program with so many character sets and also having to support them. This enormous diversity is one reason why there is not a universal Web browser that supports all foreign languages. However, the major Web browsers such as Netscape and Microsoft are slowly making support for all languages into reality.

However, don't blame the Asian languages for this technical glitch. After all, HTML and the Web were developed at CERN in Europe, which explains why they have provisions for European languages that use standard escape sequences and existing 8-bit character sets.

Making a Multilingual Web Page

Webmasters who maintain international Web sites tend to use the same tools that any Web person would use to create a hot HTML page, for example, Adobe's Photoshop, CorelDRAW!, and Paint Shop Pro. The difference is in how you turn your multilingual characters into a real Web document for everyone to be able to view.

Cut and Paste! You thought there was an easier way? Actually, cut and paste is a popular and relatively simple method for taking a word or sentence from your multilingual word processor and capturing the text from its original source. An example might be inserting a Chinese Word file into your Adobe Photoshop file, resizing it, and adding your special effects. This method works fine when you are making a GIF file and inserting it into your Web page. In fact, because most browsers can support the GIF and JPG file formats, most of your users won't need any special software to read your non-English text.

Making the multilingual text can be as easy as using a multilingual editor and typing directly into the text or HTML editor. This area is not so difficult as making a multilingual graphic file, because several programs enable your keyboard input to display the foreign letters you've selected. For example, to produce a Microsoft Word document in Chinese, you need the Chinese version of Word for Windows 95, which sells for about $240.

One company that has done an amazing job of converting Chinese text files into regular GIF files is SINANET. In fact, it can convert an entire page of Chinese characters from a major Taiwanese newspaper into an 8-bit GIF file smaller than 15KB. This size means that any Web browser at even a modest connection speed could view multiple pages easily. The idea of having your multilingual text saved as a graphic itself is not a bad idea. It solves for now the difficulty in worrying who can see your page or who can't. And although the folks at SINANET won't say exactly what their process is, one can achieve the same effect scanning a document and saving it as a GIF or JPG file. The trick is to minimize the colors used (black and white), making the scanned page small in size. Visit the SINANET site and see how a nicely laid out multilingual Web page looks. When you're there, click the News Center.

Probably the same graphics programs you use for your Web pages were the ones used at this site. Programs such as Paint Shop Pro with Kai Power Tools, Photoshop, and CorelDRAW! were all used to make this multilingual Chinese site (English version, too). Visit the site at

Visit for more information on obtaining Chinese-oriented computer products. This site is extremely popular in the Chinese community

In addition, Windows 3.x and Windows 95 already offer character sets in many other languages that you can access with a click. Check Keyboard properties in the Control Panel for more information.

However, be careful not to confuse the making of a foreign language document with building an HTML page. You can use the <PRE> </PRE> tag to insert your text, but the browser still needs to be in the language you're writing in to view your page correctly. Keep in mind that word wrapping often doesn't recognize foreign characters, so use the PRE command often.

Key Components: Translation and Promotion

Delivering your international Web pages to an international audience takes the following:

  1. Writing your Web pages in, or having your original page translated to, the language of your choice.
  2. Promoting your translated Web page(s) to the world. This type of marketing means thinking globally, because much of the world speaks a language other than English.

Web Translation Services

If your business is too strapped for funds (or time) to take on an international Web venture of designing, making, and delivering multilingual Web pages, or if you want to ease into this project gradually, a Web translation service might be in order. These companies specialize in transforming your English-version Web page(s) into any language(s) you choose.

Fees for Web translation services start around $75 per hour. (You can figure on about an hour per page.) If you use search words such as multilingual and Web or International Web Sites, a search engine will return a decent listing of businesses that can assist you with an international Web look. Here are a few Web translation services. (Most of these companies offer free quotations.)

For an excellent example of how to handle multiple languages, multilingual sites, launching from a single site, and branching off to other foreign sites, check out

Web translation services are also doing a good business in translating foreign-language HTML into English, which tells me that Europeans, and soon Asians, are also tuned into the possibilities of doing international business on the Internet. I hope this chapter is a wake-up call to readers who want to reach the millions around the world in their own languages.

Apple and IBM sites offer a language-selection drop-down box that takes you to their page in the language of your choice. A good international landing page should have languages in some type of graphic that all browsers can read, followed by a selection of other languages that the user can shoot to quickly. Figure 34.2 shows how a simple point-and-click feature can help navigate to a site with international pages.

Figure 34.2 : The international site.

Beyond Web Translating: Promoting Your Site

The other key component in a successful international site is promotion. The minimum effort required is that you register your multilingual Web pages with the major search engines on the Internet; you should also register with various foreign search engines and indexes.

The following are some suggestions that will assist you in promoting your site worldwide:

The Open Text search engine will also be the basis of other non-English search engines. In your travels to other multilingual sites, you'll find other smaller search engines and Yellow Pages. Expect to see many non-English search engines and indexes soon. Figure 34.3 shows the landing page for Open Text

Figure 34.3 : The Open Text multilingual search engine on the Internet.


All the signs point to a lot of people cascading onto the Internet. People everywhere, speaking many different languages, want to visit you on the Internet. Think of these international considerations as a business opportunity that you can't afford to miss. Remember that not all of your business will come from obvious sources; some will show up from places you don't expect. Be prepared to meet these new opportunities and challenges and become a truly international Web person.