Going Global Written by Roberta Beach Jacobson
It‘s not always easy to think globally, yet many of our site‘s visitors live abroad. In fact, most of them do. This has forced us to pack a lot of learning into a short time.
We edit and publish a monthly e-zine from tiny Greek island of Karpathos. Kafenio, which premiered in March 2000, focuses on European life and culture. The first step in thinking globally was to accept our classified ads in any language using Latin letters, so French, Spanish, German - no problem for our software.
Not so hard, is it?
That was an important decision for us. Living on a remote Aegean island as we do, surrounded by goats and cats, it would be easy to get tunnel vision and forget about rest of planet.
English is English, right? The first major conflict that punched us right in nose was British vs. American English. We then had a contributing writer from Australia, another journalist from Canada.
What to do? We made it our policy that each writer would stick to his/her native usage of English. No way did I want to ruin an article by Americanizing it. That‘s not global thinking. Savvy readers in Britain or elsewhere would spot that style slip-up a mile away. (I mean a kilometer away, no better make that kilometre. See what I mean?)
There is a vast difference between editing something for accuracy and acting like language police. No, we cannot please everybody and we cannot spend every waking moment trying to. But to reach out to a global audience, we have to willing to widen our thinking.
Global excitement Recently we decided to run banner ads in languages other than English and this kicks off in July issue with one German and one Russian banner. It‘s a start of something exciting and we think we can expand on our idea as time goes on. Not every improvement to a site or e-zine has to occur overnight.
Oops! Do most sites truly think and act globally? No. I can‘t count times I have tried to sign up for free subscriptions to newsletters or zines, only to be rejected because I didn‘t fill in my state and zip code correctly. Or that my phone number did not fit (American) format. This oversight is going to turn off not just me--with a Greek address and phone number--but other potential customers around world as well.
Fix My Website: Copy is Copy is Copy?Written by Stefene Russell
Gertrude Stein insisted that a rose was a rose was a rose. And I will proclaim, right here, that boring is boring is boring. You've probably heard (ad nauseum) that writing for web is completely different than writing for print. Keep your copy as short as possible. Don't use italics. Use shorter, simpler sentences. However, this relatively sound advice won't help you if your content is a snooze, or just plain confusing.
Good writing is good writing. If a user is given choice between long and interesting, or short and dull, they will probably read half of interesting piece, and skip dull content altogether. Neither is ideal, my point is that too much emphasis is placed on length these days, rather than very nature of content itself.
What keeps people reading?
1. Stories. "Story" can mean lots of different things. It can be a testimonial. It can be your first-person account as entrepreneur. You can make up a goofy little character and have him guide users through site. The fact of matter is, we respond to stories. The best TV writers know this-and so do best ad copywriters. Watch CLEO awards some year. Every award-winning commercial I've seen has a narrative. It may be overt, it may be subtle, but it's still there. Even most buttoned-down business site can use story to good effect-TV ads for swanky, expensive cars are a great example.
2. Content-in its original sense. I actually find word "content" profoundly irritating, because it gives impression that you can fill your site with anything, as long as it takes up visual space. I think original use of that word-that is, table of "content-s"-is much more helpful. No one's going to read a book full of junk text; and they won't read it on a site, either. Avoid filling your pages with "fluff" - that is, cheesy sales rhetoric that doesn't really say anything at all. Use details. Get specific. Be as accurate as you can. Think of yourself as a reporter, writing an article. A detailed, objective description is far more compelling that pie-in-the-sky Carnival barking.
3. Pay attention to language. Word choices make all difference in world. What if Buzz Aldren had said, "I'm taking a small step here, it's just a man-sized step, but I can't help but think that this is a symbol that we, humanity as a whole, we're all taking a large step, like this little step, but bigger and more symbolic." The moon landing would not have been as poignant, not by a long shot. But because he was wise with his word choices, we have "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Much nicer, don't you think?