Critical features and functionality tend to vary by company and by online initiative. For an online retailer, for instance, a shopping cart is a critical feature; for an airline, a booking engine is key. Regardless of the objective of your Website, you need to identify the most important features and functionality and develop a plan for making them available on your Hispanic site. This entails understanding costs, resources, technology requirements, integration with other online programs, and maintenance.
At times the integration of critical features and functionality may not be possible in the first phase of a Hispanic online program. In that case, you should manage the difference in the user experience between your standard and Hispanic Website through notification.
For example, most financial services Websites do not provide transactional capabilities in Spanish but rather provide notification that these features are available in English only. Some may then link off to the English-language Website, while others may provide the English features on the Spanish site. Regardless of execution, ongoing management of the user experience is critical through clear and prominent notification.
In addition to providing critical features and functionality as part of your Hispanic Website, simple functionality such as “print this page,” “e-mail this page,” and “save this page” can be very beneficial to online Hispanics. Hispanics tend to make decisions collectively, and this cultural truth is manifested online.
Consider the scenario of a new car purchase. It is likely that a Hispanic mother will be tasked with doing the online research that will be used by the family group to make the final purchase decision. The Hispanic mom, who may prefer Spanish to English, might ask her teenaged son to help her navigate various automotive brand sites that are available only in English. As they surf these sites together, toggle functionality and the comparability between Spanish and English sites become critical. It is likely that during the online shopping process, Hispanic users will want to print, e-mail, or save certain pages for use later as the family gets closer to a purchase decision. By adding print, e-mail, and save functionalities to your Hispanic Website, you can facilitate the communal decision making of Hispanics and provide value to this audience.
As online Hispanics become more-experienced Internet users, their usage of search, both on search engines and on other sites, is increasing. So as you plan for your Hispanic online program, be sure to research your search utility to ensure that it can support your Hispanic site. A common pitfall around site-based search is the inability for a search utility to handle accent marks. Research has shown that Hispanics may or may not use accents when they search; search utilities should therefore be able to accept queries with or without accents and return results regardless of the accent.
Here are a few examples of Hispanic Websites with critical features and functionality:
• Office Depot (espanol.officedepot.com) has an integrated Spanish-language shopping cart.
• Continental Airlines (www.continental.com/web/es/) offers an integrated Spanish booking engine.
• The Navy (www.elnavy.com) has print and e-mail page functionality on its Hispanic site.
While providing access to critical features and functionality is recommended, we realize that this is often not possible due to technical, operational, or budget constraints. In that case, you should consider ways to notify users about gaps in the experience and develop evolution plans for continuously enhancing Hispanics’ online experience through access to valuable features and functionality.
Lee Vann is the cofounder of Captura Group (www.capturagroup.com), a leading Hispanic interactive services firm. He was recently recognized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau as one of the top 10 Hispanic online pioneers.