Many drug and medical device companies have already translated their web sites into one or more non-English languages. However, many more companies have yet to begin this process.

Asking the right questions during the planning and budgeting stages help ensure that the final product is as usable and effective abroad as it is in the domestic market.

Questions to consider

To avoid the frustration and expense of an incorrectly planned web localization effort, include the following 11 questions in your process:

1. What is the return on investment?

Asked differently: Why are we doing this and how do we expect this effort to benefit us? Don’t proceed until you have a convincing answer to this question.

2. Who will pay for globalization?

Web translation work is not cheap (you can budget from $50 to $100 per page per language, depending on the amount of text, the services, and the number of graphics included). View every web page on a cost-benefit basis — you may not need to translate every page on your site at once.

3. How will you manage the work?

The responsibilities of maintaining a multilingual site extend beyond the initial translation effort. Most web sites are updated two to three times per year and require an ongoing management effort from one or more of the following:

  • Translation vendor
  • Globalization technology vendor
  • In-house web team
  • In-country offices
  • International marketing agency

4. Will in-country offices be involved?

Depending on the objectives of the multilingual web site, it may be imperative that in-country offices be involved in the creation and/or translation of market-specific content. Be sure to consider added expenses for staffing, computer resources, training, and communications.

5. Which elements of the web site will change?

You may find that you only need a few minor design changes or an entirely new design – for each target market! For instance, because Asian users often share terminals, they prefer shallow sites with long, easily printable pages to graphics-heavy sites with lots of sub-pages.

6. Which elements will not change?

After testing the suitability of your color scheme, product names, and site layout for each of your target markets, you may find that you should not alter some elements of your site, including company logo, colors, and trademark names.

7. Where will the site be hosted?

You will gain better response times if the site is hosted in-country. On the other hand, a distributed hosting model is more complex and expensive. In addressing this issue, be sure to consider navigational issues such as how the translated sites will be linked to the main site.

8. Will translated sites have their own domains?

There are no hard-and-fast rules here. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies usually rely on local domains (e.g., or but there are plenty of companies that include them as a subset of the parent URL (e.g., or

9. How will the globalized sites be promoted abroad?

To meet stated objectives, globalized sites usually need to be supported by marketing budgets. Some of the expenses included are site registration efforts, direct marketing, print advertising, public relations, and the updating of already-printed marketing collateral.

10. Who will test the site?

Hint: “nobody” is not an acceptable answer. Some organizations rely on their in-country for this work while others will outsource the task to their translation vendor, marketing agency, or to a specialized testing services. Either way, be sure to allocate resources for the development of a robust testing plan.

11. How will you support overseas users?

International customers typically require assistance in their native language, during local business hours. Be sure to budget for an enhanced email and customer support infrastructures and to prepare for support requests in non-English languages.