My fellow American friends: There are no typos in the subject of this blog post. This is British English. Having spent the past week in England (miss me much?) and having read about different ways that sites that would like to tailor themselves to British users actually end up alienating them, I notice that well, we may all speak the same language (for the most part), but there are some critical differences that should be acknowledged especially if you are looking to sell your services and products to folks overseas.
A few things I think are worth noting:
- If you are looking for an exclusive UK market, tailoring your wording to British English can only help and not hurt. I’ve noticed the obvious terms among conversations (“rubbish” for “garbage,” “flat” instead of “apartment,” “cookery books” instead of “cookbooks,” etc.) There’s a nice little conversion tool that I discovered that points out some of the more common British and American words.
- With wording comes concerns about grammar. I’ve always been confused by the way grammar is handled from my fellow English speakers with cool accents, and I noticed this particularly frequently in newspaper headlines (e.g. “Wingate end year with loss,” which sounds to the American like improper grammar). Actually, it is not, which to me was rather eye-opening.
- Consider metrics. If you are selling a product and have offered to publish the weight of the product (for shipping purposes, for instance), perhaps you might want to either specify the weight on the page in a variety of metrics, or you can easily link to a calculator that allows you to convert pounds (as in weight, not money — more on that later) to grams or kilograms. Likewise, if the dimensions are specified, it is helpful to show the length and width in centimeters and inches. The less work the user has to do off-site (such as going into Google and trying to convert themselves) and more user-friendly your site is to individuals who are out of the country, the more likely they will buy from you.
- All things considered, money abroad isn’t equal. The United Kingdom Pound is not equivalent to the United States Dollar (though it would have saved me a lot of money if it were!) If you are considering shipping abroad, either provide the prices on the product page in the different currencies abroad or link to a currency exchange calculator to let your customers know how much money they are spending in terms that they understand.
- Be accessible to your users. My husband and I had a credit card issue (we forgot to tell the company that we were going abroad; oops!) and it caused us headache after headache when we realized that we couldn’t contact the company directly: there were no telephone numbers on their website with the exception of a 1-800 number (which can’t be reached outside the US) and there was no email address on the website either. We ended up not being able to resolve the credit card issue while abroad, and I personally have a bitter taste from the totally unpleasant online experience.
Having a user-friendly site to all individuals you intend to market to is pretty important. Going the extra mile to let your customers know that you have taken extra care into attending to their habits can be a truly rewarding experience in terms of ROI.
10e20 blog readers in the UK (and I know there are quite a few of you!) — anything else you think is necessary to add? What are your tips on optimizing for America? ;)