Before you begin to develop a Hispanic online initiative, consider very carefully comparability—how similar your Hispanic online program is to your corresponding general-market program–and maintenance. They can mean the difference between success and failure, in both the short and the long term. And while it may seem that comparability and maintenance are quite disparate, they are in fact inextricably interconnected. Companies that recognize this interdependence will be the ones if the best position to ensure the ongoing success of their Hispanic online initiative.
Defining comparability for the Hispanic online audience
Hispanic online users, regardless of language preference, will likely access both the English and Spanish versions of your Website. Hispanics exhibit this online behavior for several reasons:
• wanting to ensure that the Spanish and English sites offer a similar experience
• a desire to learn English; navigating between comparable English-language and Spanish-language sites is a great way to learn the language
• family bilingualism; members of a Hispanic household might access the Internet together, but each might have different language preferences.
As online Hispanics move between your general-market and Spanish-language sites, they may judge their relative worth to your organization based on the perceived value of the experience that they are getting in Spanish. As such, it is important to consider comparability between Hispanic and general market sites in terms of
• information architecture
• visual design
• features and functionality
• depth and breadth of content.
It is important to note that executing on the best practice principle of comparability does not necessarily mean you have to provide identical, one-to-one Hispanic and general-market online experiences. Rather it means offering experiences that are perceived to be of equal value to your audiences.
To define what is valuable for your Hispanic users, you must understand their user needs and how they might differ from those of their general-market counterparts. You can effectively do this through user research, which you can then validate through usability testing once you’ve launched your Hispanic online program.
And remember, it’s not all or nothing. It’s okay to execute a Hispanic online program in phases and evolve it over time, as long as the experience provides value to your users.
Hispanics feel loyalty to companies and organizations who demonstrate loyalty to them. One way you can demonstrate your loyalty to the Hispanic segment is by providing comparable Hispanic and general-market experiences. For comparability to remain effective, you have to be able to consistently deliver on it over time. The best way to achieve this is by developing a maintenance plan prior to implementing your online program.
Maintaining a Hispanic online program
When developing a maintenance plan during the early stages of a Hispanic online program, you need to outline the appropriate budget and resources necessary to properly support and evolve your Hispanic online presence. As part of the maintenance plan consider
• content updates
• technology requirements
• enhanced features and functionality
• legal reviews and approval processes.
It is also important to develop maintenance plans that address the interdependencies among the Hispanic site, the general-market site, and other ongoing marketing efforts. If, for example, a general-market site is updated, how will those updates be reflected on the Hispanic site? From a marketing perspective, it is important that the Hispanic site be kept in sync with both online and offline Hispanic marketing efforts.
To help automate the workflow of managing multilingual Websites and maximize content reuse, consider implementing a globalization management system (GMS) such as Idiom’s WorldServer. A GMS integrates with a content management system (CMS) and can be used to efficiently manage gaps in the user experience that can arise from the maintenance of multilingual Websites.
How comparability and maintenance are connected
The notion of comparability is fixed in time. A general-market Website and a Hispanic Website may be comparable one day, but as one site evolves, the other site will quickly lose its comparability without a proper maintenance plan in place. As such, the best-practice principles of comparability and maintenance are entwined, as it is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a comparable Hispanic Web experience without a proper maintenance plan in place. By understanding the comparability and maintenance principles in supporting the short-term and long-term success of your Hispanic online initiatives, you will have several of the critical components for succeeding in delivering long-term value to the Hispanic online market.
Lee Vann is the cofounder of Captura Group, a leading Hispanic interactive services firm. He was recently recognized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau as one of the top 10 Hispanic online pioneers.