Designing Web apps for the entire world
Want to build a Web app? Better make sure it's ready for that part of the world.
The last panel sessions for day two of the Web 2.0 Expo just wrapped up. One of my favorites was global design trends, a panel discussing the Web design around the world. In my less than two years of tracking Web apps, I've seen a huge shift in the look and feel of mainstream sites, as well as seeing a slew of services that have pushed what I thought was possible on the browser.
There can, however, be huge differences between two versions of the same site in different countries. A good deal of what's important is localizing a service to folks who are using it, which is one of the reasons the Korean version of MySpace looks different from its U.S. counterpart.
Jimmy Kim from Nexon, who was on the panel noted that Google has just a 5 percent take in Korea's search engine market, while other flashy services get more clicks because of updated looks. Kim compared it to two competing gas stations on opposite corners of the street with gas that's the same price. Kim says the one with more "bling" gets the extra customers--and it works the same way for Web apps that attempt to get into the Korean market.
Localization's not as easy as changing the language, though. Kelly Goto of Gotomedia noted that every culture uses the Web in a different way, and sometimes you need to fine tune a site to make it match whoever's viewing it. Sites like Facebook who are just now beginning to expand on foreign language support and conversion have begun to tweak small items by having users to some of the legwork to translate--making sure your motto isn't accidentally insulting the mothers of your users.
Also discussed: bandwidth, and more importantly--designing your apps with it in mind. Bandwidth has been one of the deciding factors in iPhone Web apps, with the limitations of AT&T's EDGE network keeping some richer, media-centric apps from working without a Wi-Fi connection. Likewise developers who are aiming to create sites in other markets need to not only localize their sites for the country, but also its data networks.
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