Questions to ask before a global website launch, Part 1: Strategy

Are you considering consolidating multiple regional sites into one global site? Have no fear - in this two-part series we’ll highlight the challenges and offer some guidance on how to navigate them.
If you’re currently supporting a suite of regional sites, then you know it comes with a heavy workload.
Cutting this workload and the associated costs is usually the reason why project leaders decide to consolidate all of their content into one global site. It also offers better brand consistency and the chance to run more joined-up marketing campaigns.
However, while it’s often the best path forward, it’s a huge undertaking and it’s important to be aware of the challenges at the outset.
In part one of this two-part series, I’m going to be sharing what you need to think about from a business perspective. In part two, Andy, our technical director, will drill down into the technical aspects.
First up – does a global site align with your wider strategy?

What’s our global strategy?

Every enterprise needs to find that balance of engaging different customers around the world with having one global site that articulates what the business stands for and what it does.
It won’t make sense to ‘lift and shift’ all your existing regional content to the new site so you’ll have to make decisions – often difficult ones – about what to feature and where.
Having clear goals or a ’North Star Metric’ for the website that relates back to your wider global strategy will help guide this decision-making.
It will also help you communicate your strategy to stakeholders if they’re unhappy with the route you’ve taken. In order to do that, you first need to understand what matters to them.

What do our stakeholders need?

As Caroline said in her article on raising the bar for your next agency, in a global project like this one, “you must make time to take everyone’s needs into account at the start, otherwise the entire project can fall apart.”
Lending an ear to what is important in specific markets, or regions or sectors, will give you a more holistic view of exactly how your business operates and the importance it has for certain kinds of customers or products in each region.
Giving everyone an opportunity to have a voice in what this new global site will look like, also helps with buy-in for later.
However, you have to be prepared for the fact that many people will be concerned about the change. Inevitably there will be people who won’t want to lose control of their regional site or have their social media feed wrapped into the global feed.
In understanding their point of view, you can then accommodate their legitimate concerns into your strategy.

How will we localise content on a global site?

As we’ve touched on, one of the main struggles for any large global enterprise is that everybody feels their local content is important – and that might be true. Customers may be looking for things that are relevant to their own market.
All regions have their particularities and unique differences. So you’ll want there to be local flexibility to adapt content to their own customers and market.
However, you must provide limits around this to prevent your site becoming unwieldy, hard to manage and update. You’ll also need to decide how to tag content at a global level with content that’s more relevant to local markets.

Should we connect local social presences to a global site?

When you’re trying to consolidate different sites in different markets into one global site, you’ll also have to decide what happens with different regional presences on social media.
Bringing that together, or streamlining, can become very difficult as there may be dozens of different existing channels and there might also be value in having local or specialist social feeds.
Your strategy will depend on evaluating how strong those social presences are, and what value those local feeds are providing to a local market.
Let’s say you have a Twitter feed in Italy, in Italian, focused on what you're doing in that region, then it makes sense to maintain the presence. You might also want to connect it with that regional space on the site.
However, if you find that your local feeds have no identity of their own, there’s an opportunity with this exercise to start consolidating things that no longer have a place.
Ultimately, it’s better to centralise people around one feed with one clear message instead of having to repeat content twenty-five times.

How do we achieve brand consistency across assets on a global scale?

Don’t underestimate the effort it takes to achieve consistent branding across a new global site. This is something you need to manage with a magnifying glass.
Most large enterprises have strict brand guidelines with all of the do's and don'ts on how to use colours or logos, but inevitably regions will have done their own things and be misusing the brand.
This is particularly true for photography. One client we’re currently working with has wildly different employee headshots from region to region; some taken with iPhones and others clearly posed in photography studio conditions.
This was a big exercise on our rebrand and website launch for Taylor Wessing. As people are central to their brand, the ‘people finder’ was a key feature of the new global site. We had to apply a tight photography brief and make sure teams in the different markets hired photographers able to deliver to that spec.

Do we need different languages and translations?

Whether to translate your site will depend on who your clients are. Perhaps you want to have content in Portuguese because you have clients in Brazil, but do you need to translate the whole website or just the key pages they might come across?
The impact of multiple translations is easy to underestimate and every language you add, adds complexity.
It frequently surprises internal teams just how much cost and effort it takes to translate content in multiple languages.
This isn’t just the cost of paying for translations but also the cost of making sure your designs will still work across different languages with different character counts. Andy will go into more detail of what’s involved from a technical perspective in Part 2 of this series.
Remember, you don't have to do everything. You can be strategic with what you choose to translate, or not.

How do you manage your editorial process on a global scale?

Alongside your social strategy, your content strategy needs to represent what your business stands for, with clear guidance about what you're going to be creating:
  • What are your content pillars?
  • What does that mean for what you'll be posting on social?
  • Which parts of the site will you drive visitors to?
Taking a global view gives you a real opportunity to have a step change, look at what has been done in different markets and establish strong editorial guidelines around what it is that you want to be known for, going forward.
A company that does this well is Arup. When they share case studies on their site and social feed they don’t simply share basic project details, they make sure they communicate the environmental and social impact of their work, which relates to their bigger brand message.

Ready for Part 2?

Whether you go down the route of one global site rather than multiple regional sites all depends on your business.
Along with making sure it makes sense from a business perspective, you’ll also need to consider the technical complexities of a consolidated global site.
In the second instalment of this two-part series, Andy looks at how to navigate the technical challenges.

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