Global gateways to multilingual web sites are difficult. John Yunker has built a whole business around giving advice to corporations around this and related issues. (As an aside, if you haven't yet subscribed to his Blog, Global by Design, you should!)
Thanks to efforts by John and orthers, global companies are generally doing a good job with this. But even the mightiest global titans struggle when it comes to keeping online and offline materials in sync.
On a recent trip to Switzerland, I noticed the following flyer when returning my rental car (click for larger version):
Intrigued by the unusual domain I started up a browser and entered the domain:
Sporting a multilingual web site since 1999 Hertz clearly understand the global nature of its business. Their online presence features a clear way to navigate countries and languages but it got tripped up in the real world when whoever designed the leaflet thought something like "Oh, a web site. They all start with 'www'."
But the problems continue: Notice how the flyer invites clients who want to print a receipt to click on "service consommateurs" and then to select "demander une facture". But as the following screenshot shows, a) "service consommateurs" cannot be clicked on and b) "demander une facture" doesn't exist - it's called "Duplicata de facture": (click for larger version)
Now, it's impossible to say whether or not the "www" link once worked nor whether or not the instructions printed on the leaflet matched an actual version of Hertz Switzerland's French web site. But the example shows just how hard it is to combine online with offline efforts - both at the time of creation and over time.
For more on multilingual web design and web localization, take a look at the following articles:
- Successful planning for Web localization
- 6 reasons NOT to translate your web site
- The global web is a tricky place
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services to the world's largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.