Localisation: Managing Global Websites

White Paper

Organizations face many challenges when creating a network of global Web sites. They need to maintain brand consistency while allowing for variations that reflect local cultures. Creating truly localized Web sites can be a daunting process in which corporate and local marketing teams need to collaborate to provide relevant information to different target audiences. This white paper provides examples of how organizations can use BluePrinting technology to achieve a smooth, global Web operation—and explains how organizations can combine Content Management technology with translation technologies for even greater efficiency.

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1. Global websites

“Without telling us, our French subsidiary had been working nights and weekends to completely translate our corporate website to French. Therefore, when they finished and proudly gave us the CD-ROM with the translated HTML files, we were both greatly disappointed. The corporate office had been working on changing the graphic design of the site, so their HTML files were unusable. All their work was in vain.”

This customer anecdote illustrates the frustrations that organizations can experience when creating and managing global websites. Organizations are beginning to understand that to sell a product or persuade an audience, websites must reflect the languages and cultures of their local target audiences. Localized websites build brand loyalty, help retain customers and facilitate access to new markets.

For example, non-English content on the Internet has increased from around 20 percent in 1998 to 50 percent (is this still accurate since the number has remained the same since the original piece in 2007) today, and the number of non-English website visitors is growing even faster. Current estimates state that only 30 percent (is this an accurate figure since this was the figure from 2007) of today’s website visitors are native English speakers. Furthermore, many organizations operate in diverse cultures where attitudes, values and beliefs, markets, and institutional structures require culturally sensitive localization of content.

Rising to the challenge

It’s puzzling that many organizations lack great, localized websites when there is money to be made in localization. As the above anecdote illustrates, coordinating website localization is not trivial. Organizations must overcome many challenges to localize website content.

This white paper describes some of the challenges that your organization can face when localizing your corporate website. It also describes how you can use SDL Tridion BluePrinting technology and workflow to create a localized, multilingual website.

The goals

Some of the issues that your organization needs to address when localizing a website are:

  • Brand management
  • Central control vs. local empowerment
  • Different depth of content for different country needs
  • Translation and localization management
  • Content life cycle

Brand management

Many organizations’ initial attempts to globalize their websites result in locally created sites that look completely different from the central corporate website. The local websites of some car manufacturers provide some striking examples. A 2006 survey indicates that global corporations incorrectly implement more than 80 percent of their own brand guidelines.

Organizations need to develop websites that maintain a consistent, corporate brand image, while acknowledging local, cultural and linguistic differences. Figure 2 illustrates consistent branding within the context of a website designed specifically to capture the needs of a niche market. FlySN, a Belgian airline, discovered a niche market of Russian Jews that fly between Russia and Israel. To target this market, FlySN made its website available in Hebrew and Russian. This niche market would have been impossible to capture without the advantages of the Internet. The Hebrew and Russian websites provided FlySN with a competitive market to reach a specific audience.

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Central control vs. local empowerment

Although no one knows local audiences better than local staff, you may want to centrally administer your corporate brand. Web masters need central control over some branding elements of your website to ensure consistency, while allowing local offices to address the needs of local customers by providing localized content.

Different depth of content for different country needs

The extent to which you localize content can vary in scope depending on the size of your website. You need to control translation costs and investment in local/regional content management. As illustrated in Figure 3, organizations can use a multi-tier approach to manage global website content to keep costs and coordination manageable. Organizations can design each tier for different markets and base localization and translation strategies on the size and characteristics of these markets:

  • The first tier provides the foundation, with corporate, marketing and service information that applies most visitors
  • The second tier contains content for smaller markets and provides the basis of localized content. A second tier website may limit translation to archived press releases and product support documents.
  • A third tier website for new markets may include only basic, local contact information, new product information, and a link to the international website for all other support information. The purpose of a third tier website may be to supply a local market presence for emerging markets. Organizations do not have to spend unnecessary time and effort to translate all available content.

Organizations can prioritize content needs by assessing market opportunities. The information architecture can then reflect the business and user needs of different markets.

Translation management

Website localization can be costly. Organizations need to decide what content to translate and offer alternatives to the translated content. Organizations can sometimes use translated content in multiple sites; however, this may not eliminate the need or desire to present localized content that addresses cultural differences. Organizations need to make cost-effective translation choices based on their market strategies.

Content life-cycle

Organizations produce both time-critical and general content. As a result, some content needs immediate translation into multiple languages, while other content can wait for translation. Content creation, translation, and localization needs to be in sync, yet flexible.

2. What is needed?

To meet the demands of an increasingly global economy, international organizations need efficient, manageable processes. Organizations need to maintain consistent branding across multiple websites, while managing translation and localization requirements. Considering the cost and frequency of changes to most websites, these processes need to offer both structure and flexibility. Website architecture needs to be able to distinguish between global content and layout and content and layout that have been modified for local or regional websites. This type of architecture is only possible using a single, centralized, Web content management (WCM) system throughout the enterprise.


SDL Tridion bases BluePrinting on the separation of content, layout, pages and website structure into different items, which are the building blocks of a website. These building blocks can be combined in various ways and enable organizations to assemble and deploy multiple websites and online portals.

Using the anecdote described at the beginning of this paper, the French subsidiary combined the content and layout in its translation. As a result, modifying content and ensuring consistency proved impossible.

In contrast, if the organization had managed this process using a content management system, the French subsidiary could have provided layout-independent, translated XML. The parent company could have easily assembled the new website by reusing the corporate template. By separating content and layout, this organization could have rolled out the translated website within a day.

Sharing building blocks in multiple websites

A BluePrint organizes the building blocks within the publications. A publication groups content and layout items. These items are often the building blocks of a website. A publication provides an organizational structure, a security model and content creation functionality.

Within the BluePrinting model, parent publications can share all items with other publications, called child publications. A BluePrint establishes relationships between publications and enables your organization to share and manage items within multiple publications. The parent-child publication relationship enables the reuse of building blocks in multiple websites. Figure 4 depicts a parent publication that shares content with several local child publications. The relationship between publications creates a BluePrinting hierarchy.

Creating local publications

In a BluePrinting hierarchy, child publications can contain a combination of the following:

  • Shared items — items shared from parent publications that are read-only (light blue in Figure 4)
  • Local copies of shared items — editable copies of shared items (blue in Figure 4)
  • Local items — items that exist in the child publication but not in the parent (navy blue in Figure 4)

A publication can use any combination of shared items, local copies and local items. For example, a local copy of a page that requires localized content can contain shared items, local copies and local items. By creating local copies and translating content, organizations can easily create a translated website using the same structure, pages and layout. website authors do not require any special knowledge to create translated pages.

Child publications automatically use local copies of any shared items BluePrinting maintains the relationship between the original content (i.e., the shared item) and the translated or localized version (i.e., the local copy).

Synchronizing content

One of the key benefits of using a BluePrint model to ensure that content is shared among publications is that you can ensure that content is synchronized between various websites. This enables message consistency and allows content contributors in different locations to coordinate their efforts.

BluePrinting scenarios

Depending on organizational needs, each of the building blocks within a BluePrinting hierarchy is managed either on a central or local level. The design of the BluePrinting hierarchy reflects the needs of an organization. This paper describes BluePrinting in the context of a localized or translated website. However, organizations can use BluePrinting to fulfill other business objectives, such as brand management and multi-channel publishing.

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Localized multilingual websites

This section provides a scenario where BluePrinting is used to create localized, multilingual Web sites for a fictional manufacturing company called Matrafa Inc. Matrafa has markets in 80 countries. The Matrafa brand is strong, and the organization wants to ensure that all 80 countries are using the brand in the same way. The organization decides to create separate websites for 75 of the 80 countries. Matrafa analyzes the languages used in these 75 countries and decides to translate content into 15 different languages. All translation work is outsourced to a translation vendor.

The level of business in some countries justifies full website localization while other countries will only get translation or partial translation of their content — the rest of the content will remain in the language of the parent corporate website. Some centrally managed content is regularly updated and needs to be translated quickly. This includes product information and press releases. In addition, some of the local offices will contribute articles for local target groups.

The proposed solution

A three-level BluePrinting hierarchy addresses these website requirements:

  • Parent publication (first level) — the parent publication contains the website structure, layout templates, pages and content. These building blocks will be present in all local websites. All content is in English, which is the Matrafa corporate language.
  • Child publications (second level) — 15 publications act as language repositories. These are child publications of the first level publication and only contain shared items and local copies. A local copy is created for all content that needs to be translated. Pages, layout and structure are shared since the organization wants to ensure that these remain the same throughout the organization.
  • Child publications (third level) — 75 publications are created for each targeted country. Each of these publications can contain multiple languages. As a result, these publications can have more than one parent publication. These publications contain shared items from the first and second levels.

The third level publications contain the published pages that are viewed by the Matrafa website visitors. Each of the third level publications is created for a specific group of visitors, taking into account country, cultural or local needs. According to the needs of the local markets, the local publications can assemble a website using the building blocks shared from the first and second levels. Figure 6 shows part of the resulting BluePrinting hierarchy.

In this example, the amount of localized and translated content varies. Portugal is a small market; as a result, the Portuguese site uses only translated content. In contrast, the Brazilian site has localized content, structure and pages, and local content and pages.

For both the Portuguese and Brazilian sites, Spanish is defined as a fallback language (indicated by 1 and 2). The website only displays English content if neither a Portuguese translation nor a Spanish translation is available. Canada, a bilingual country, has both an English site and a French site. The Canadian French website falls back to French content if a localized version is not available. If a French translation is not available, it falls back to English. Both sites contain some localized content and pages, and contain their own content and pages (i.e., local content).

The production cycle

This section describes the processes that organizations can use to translate and/or localize websites. In the anecdote from earlier in this paper, the French subsidiary and corporate office would have benefited from a coordinated effort, preventing delays, lost business opportunities, and loss of morale for all those involved. In the fictional example, Matrafa needs to manage a staggering 91 different publications and their mutual relationships. Without an automated process, this is impossible.

An automated workflow ties the different levels together. A workflow process handles all shared items that require translation or localization. For example, a mix of automated and manual workflow activities can move content through a process of “creation”, “spell checking”, ”review” and “translation.”

For example, a machine translation can translate a weather report using a fully automated process. A press release can follow a more complex process in which it’s sent to a localization vendor and returned in two days. In addition, an article can be translated at a lower cost within a two-week period.

Integrating with localization vendors

In the Matrafa case, content is created or modified in the first level parent publication. The 15 publications at the second level, which serve as language repositories, require a simple translation process. A workflow process in the parent publication includes a “translation” activity. This activity automatically creates local copies in all 15 second level publications. The creation of these local copies prompts a translation workflow process in the language repositories.

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The workflow process in the second level publication extracts the content and sends it to the localization vendor. Localization vendors, such as SDL, use Web-based translation services that allow customers to submit and retrieve translation jobs over HTTP. SDL Tridion content is saved as an XML based format. As a result:

  • Content can easily be extracted and sent from the Content Manager to the localization vendor
  • XSLT can transform the XML to the format used by the localization vendor
  • XSLT can add additional data to the XML, providing the localization vendor with all relevant information (e.g., the source and target languages)
  • Translated content can be retrieved using HTTP, and the translated content can be inserted in the local copies of the second level publications

In one logical process, localization vendor integrations join the Content Manager workflow with a translation vendor workflow. Organizations can create a complete solution for website globalization by combining workflow and BluePrinting.

Consistent tone of voice

The tone that organizations use in their content addresses customers in a uniform way and expresses the values of those organizations. In addition, a consistent tone and consistent wording can lower translation costs. For example, the words “online” and “check in” can be written as “online,” “on-line” or “on line” and “check-in” or “check in,” respectively. For a global airline company with online check-in, these simple phrases are important. It is likely that different authors will use all six variations of these phrases, resulting in higher translation costs, due to the need for a larger translation memory.

Organizations can integrate the translation memory technology inside the authoring environment, enabling authors to check for the correct spelling and the correct usage of commonly used phrases. This “spell checker on steroids” can provide suggestions for complete sentences if something similar has been written before, greatly increasing consistency in tone, while lowering translation costs.

Change notification

In the Matrafa case, each local office manages 75 country sites. In order to decide if further localization work is needed, each local office needs to know when content is added or modified in the first or second level. Since localization work is frequently contextually and culturally sensitive, it cannot be automated. Second level workflow is used to send an email to the third level Web masters. This email can only contain a reference to a new article or a comparison of articles if content has been modified.

Return on investment

As shown in the examples above, global websites require designs that reflect:

  • A careful consideration of the information architecture
  • A clear understanding of business processes

When initially creating a website, the design requires investment in comparison to other products. However, when rolling out additional websites in new languages, the cost is 25-50 percent lower than other products.

Figure 9 shows how the cost of setting up the initial website and subsequent websites differs among SDL Tridion and other products.

The cost savings depicted in Figure 9 shows only the initial investment and do not even consider the savings that you can achieve in ongoing website operations. The amounts for the individual cost of ownership, provided by our customers, further substantiate these benefits.

For example, the Puratos Group is a global group of more than 100 companies that provides innovative ingredients and tailor-made solutions to the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors. Puratos calculated the cost of using BluePrinting to centralize much of its content management process. As Figure 10 shows, Puratos’ return on investment was considerable when managing more than seven sites. In its prior decentralized model, each division required its own tools to build websites.

The right tools and technology

By using the right technology and methodology, organizations can operate a multilingual website efficiently and effectively. As illustrated, international organizations need an enterprise-wide, language-aware web content management system, such as SDL Tridion. Organizations need to invest in defining business requirements, BluePrint hierarchy and workflow processes for global websites. However, in light of the operational cost of maintaining a multilingual website, this investment is cost effective and enables organizations to thrive in the global marketplace.


We wish to thank all of our global customers for their cooperation and for sharing their thoughts and challenges with us. They have truly shaped our vision and software to create a useful and usable global Web Content Management solution. More specifically, we want to thank KLM, Canon and Emirates Airline for their close cooperation. In addition, we wish to thank James Douglas from Ion Global for providing invaluable feedback and input.

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