Right Content, Wrong Context?

Posted on 01. Jun, 2011 by in Digital Marketing

Last week was the International Search Summit London; a conference dedicated to international search marketing, playing host to some of the leading SEO and Paid Search experts from around the globe.

The day included eleven hotly debated topics including advanced geo-targeting, behavioural patterns within markets, and even the complex conundrum that is tackling the Chinese market. A full blog summary of each presentation can be found here:  http://www.stateofsearch.com/events/international-search-summit/international-search-summit-london-2011/

Michael Bonfil's 7 Step Approach

International Search Summit London 2011 - Michael Bonfils

I wanted to share some fascinating information on how to identify the best market opportunities for your client’s global website. Having first-hand experience with helping to develop international multilingual campaigns for global brands, I can honestly say that the ‘one size fit all’ approach can never be applied.

Michael Bonfils, one of the presenters, proposed a seven step approach to identify the best markets for opportunities and potential. Although this is valid concept, I believe that the most overlooked factor is cultural usability of the sites within various markets. Let me divulge a little on the concept…

Back in 2008, bigmouthmedia created a Usability department based on the demand and need to support user requirements and meet business goals. This department has grown tenfold since then and represents the increasing importance of the different Usability services within the expansive realms of digital marketing. Now that many brands have woken up to the concept of usability as a key ingredient for online marketing success, it is time for the rest to understand that culture will have serious implications to the success and performance of their global online marketing campaigns.

If we take Europe as an example, bigmouthmedia have already taken one step to include such cultural user experience: we have identified design guidelines that vary between different markets, and have proven it can help user engagement and conversion.

Taking one snippet of those findings, we discovered it is important for brands to understand international address and postcode variations.

Different countries have different entry fields for names and addresses, and while numerous approaches attempt to tackle this, choosing the right strategy is paramount. This is illustrated in an article by Luke Wroblewski in UX matters.

Let’s take a closer look at two potential solutions – Changing Formats and Generic Formats.

Changing Formats

Changing formats allows country specific address fields. This option is utilized by Moonpig.com, with users selecting the country, which in turn produces a country specific template.

Moonpig's Changing Address Format

Moonpig's Changing Address Format

An important consideration in the presentation of this solution is the positioning of the country selection field, as it may cause frustration or confusion if the user begins to fill in the form before seeing the country selector.

Generic Formats

Another option is a generic format, which offers an alternative to dynamically loaded variable addresses by presenting a singular data entry field for each address element. This option is favoured by many etailers, including Amazon.

Generic formats must allow for variation in data entry to accommodate different cultural practices and methods of displaying information, such as the various lengths, spaces and characters used in postcode entry.

When shipping to multiple countries, businesses need to consider many different variables, not least non-Latin character sets. Languages such as Arabic read from right to left, and as such this will affect the visual design and layout of your address forms both vertically or horizontally across your web page.


Localised content has now become an accepted rule of successful international search campaigns, but why stop there? You have done the hard work by localising the content to suit your customers, so go one stage further and engage with them by improving their user experience. It is one thing getting the content right, but another getting the context right.

Fields for names and addresses may be a small link in the bigger Usability chain, but it’s a good place to start nonetheless.

What other cultural usability conundrums have you encountered?

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