History Lesson: Multilingual Websites No Longer Just a Thing of the Future

Remember way back when in the 1990s, at the dawn of the mainstream Internet Age, when bigger companies began launching these things called websites? Many small and mid-size companies, as well as government and non-profit organizations, were slow to joinwebsite URL graphic in. The reasons varied. Some thought it was just a costly fad peculiar to a small segment of tech-savvy geeks. Others could not envision how a website would apply to their operations, that traditional customers would never consider buying goods or receiving services online. Still more found the whole matter too intimidating and complicated, with the new languages (HTML), terminology (what’s the difference between a Home Page, a website and a URL?), and concepts (sure, this “internet” thingy is really gonna revolutionize the way we live!).
Fast forward to the modern age, our new age of enlightenment where there is a website for virtually everything (did you know there’s a website where you can just listen to rain or one to virtually pop bubblewrap?!). It’s hard to fathom a time when websites weren’t part of our social and business lives.
Unfortunately, we hear the same sorts of reservations today when talk turns to creating multilingual websites: it’s only worthwhile for big international companies; it couldn’t apply to my line of work; it’s too difficult or costly to make happen; there’s no need to change the way we’ve been doing things, etc.
Listen…you can almost hear the regretful voices of the 1990 procrastinators crying: “Adapt! Adjust! Advance! Evolve!”
If spooky voices from the past don’t convince you to offer your website in different languages, then at least consider these facts and figures:

  • About 40 percent of people around the world have an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1 percent.
  • The number of internet users has increased tenfold since 1999.Connected Globe Image
  • The first billion internet users were recorded in 2005. It took five years for the second billion to come online in 2010, but only four years for the third billion in 2014.
  • 70 percent of the world doesn’t speak English, but 57 percent of websites contain only English. (That’s a lot of customers missing your English-only message.)
  • Two-thirds of internet users are non-native English speakers, a percentage that is rapidly growing.
  • More than half of all Google searches are in languages other than English.
  • Studies show that the majority of internet users quickly leave websites that are not available in their native tongue.
  • One survey found that about 94 percent of B2B buyers and 89 percent of consumers go online to research a company before deciding to buy.

global communications imageWhat’s this all mean? As more people around the planet continue to join the ranks of internet surfers, they, by the very nature of the “WorldWide Web,” become your potential customers. They are not an ocean away; they are just a click away. So if your website doesn’t appeal to the cultural and language preferences of these new global customers, you’re missing a huge opportunity to expand your market and business opportunities.
Don’t succumb to the shortsighted notions of the ‘90s. Adapt. Adjust. Advance. Evolve.
Still have reservations about creating a multilingual website? Give us a call. We’d be happy to assist.