Standardizing Web sites for worldwide presence

'You can be different, yet the same'

Companies with a global presence are beginning to standardize their Web sites for a variety of reasons: look and feel, branding, technology infrastructure and content. Not only does this practice provide for consistency across the globe, but it can also result in improved time to market and ease of maintenance.

That wasnt always the case, however. In the late 1990s, large global corporations wanted to have Web sites because it was the latest fad, the thing to do. Unfortunately, there were no guidelines about which corporate divisions or affiliates could have a site, where the content would come from or how the sites would be run. This resulted in a mishmash of company representations. Some companies were not even aware that they had Web sites in certain countries.

Once word got around that there were these rogue sites out there (which werent really rogue since they werent defying any orders or standards), the quest for standards began, explains Ron Rogowski, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

Since that time, global organizations have realized that by centralizing the management of their Web sites, they can enforce a set of standards that all employees around the globe follow.

Benefits of standards

Implementing standards for global Web sites offers numerous benefits. According to Dana Poole, an online policy and standards analyst who works with Royal Dutch Shell PLCs global Web communications, some of the major benefits include cost savings, consistency and ease of maintenance, measurement, management, upgrading and support.

Standards are a very cost-effective way of managing a global Web presence, she says. Another benefit is that we can track improvements and measure across the board our progress. For example, she notes, the Active Standards tool from Magus Research allows Shell to track the progression of its online brand compliance to see if the images used are the correct size, if a page summary exists on every page and if the page title is unique. Having standards in place also helps the company track how much Web content is kept fresh and updated, and makes it possible to reduce the number of broken links and errors. Standards make our lives easier, Poole says.

Its a lot easier for customers to come to a site and achieve the goals they set out to achieve when the site has a common way of doing things, says John Rosato, director of global Web enablement at IBM.

Successful implementation

Royal Dutch Shell, which operates more than 200 Web sites consisting of 60,000 Web pages spanning 80 countries in 25 languages, is one of the companies that has succeeded in standardizing its Web sites.

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