Companies Find Multilingual Web Sites a Challenge

By Molly Upton, ITworld |  News

The good news is U.S. organizations are realizing they need to provide
multiple languages on their Web sites. The bad news is they rate
support of multiple languages one of the top 2 challenges of operating
a Web site along with finding and retaining IT talent, according to
IDC's eWorld, 2001 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Biggest Problems with Operating eCommerce Site

The United States lags behind several other countries in terms of
percentage of Web sites that have more than one language (see Figure
2). In the United States, less than 12% of Web sites offer more than
one language, about even with the percentage in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, more than two-fifths (42.5%) of eWorld
respondents said supporting multiple languages on a Web site was
difficult or very difficult, giving the item a 4 or 5 on a 1-to-5-point
scale. The mean score among all respondents for multiple language
support was 3.2.

Large Organizations Feel the Pain
Not surprisingly, large U.S. organizations (with more than 500
employees) gave the language issue a higher score of difficulty (3.4),
because more of them have tried to provide multilingual Web sites.

The same is true worldwide -- multilingual support increases with
organization size. Large organizations are the most multilingual (41.2%
of large sites worldwide), and small sites are the least multilingual

Three out of four sites worldwide support English, but midsize
companies have the highest percentage (82.1%), according to
Multilingual Web Sites: Characterizing Organizations That Post
Multilingual Web Content (IDC # 25462, September 2001)

In the United States, the sector consisting of health, education, and
government has a large need for multiple languages to serve the diverse
U.S. population, and half of the respondents rated this a difficult or
very difficult challenge. The mean score accorded by this group was 3.6.

Money Talks
But when it comes to money, a higher percentage of U.S. sites accept or
plan to accept foreign currency (21%) than support multiple languages.
Interestingly, there's not much correlation between countries with a
relatively high percentage of multilingual Web sites and those that
take foreign currencies (see Figure 3).

Figure 2
The Language Barrier

Figure 3
Localization: Accept Foreign Currency -- Now or Planned

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