Content should not be an obvious tourist

Alan Pringle / Content strategy, Opinion5 Comments

When you travel, do people ask you for directions and address you as if you live in the area? I’ve had that happen a few times, and friends and colleagues have shared similar experiences.

You may not stand out as an obvious tourist on your travels. But does the content you distribute fit in as well across different environs?

No, not everyone speaks English

The world is now a global economy. If you expect to reach the widest audience possible for your products and services, localizing your content is a must—and in some cases, it’s a legal requirement to sell in other countries.

Also, making assumptions that everyone speaks a particular language (cough, English, cough) is a really bad idea when traveling, and it’s really, really bad idea in business. Don’t be one of those arrogant tourists (or companies!) who thinks everyone will adapt to them.

Dress for your location

tourist looking at map

Jean-François Gornet

When traveling, it’s a good idea to bring clothes that are a good match for the location’s climate and attitude. Wearing the wrong clothing makes you really stand out, and not in a good way. It’s also downright uncomfortable.

The formats in which you present your content require similar thought. If your customers are using tablets and phones to access information, distributing your content just as PDF documents is not the right fit. Also, does your web content display well in both desktop and mobile browsers?

Get feedback from your customers on how they want to consume your content, and adapt your formats accordingly. Otherwise, users will go elsewhere.

How else can companies make sure their content isn’t an obvious tourist? Leave your tips in the comments.

About the Author

Alan Pringle


Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

5 Comments on “Content should not be an obvious tourist”

  1. Language. Check. Data formats. Check. Then there’s the whole issue of localization. If you label a text field “ZIP code” instead of “Postal code” and if it accepts only 5 digits, you’ll show yourself to be the worst kind of American. If you sell in Europe and your product (or your documentation) suggests that you accept payment only in euros, you’ll repel a lot of customers.

    It’s just like when you’re traveling: show that your knowledge extends beyond the borders of your own country, and above all show respect for your hosts.

    1. I was on a site recently and selected US as my country, yet the dialog boxes for entering my address still showed “Postal code.” I understood what it meant, but I’m more accustomed to “Zip code.”

  2. I was proofreading documentation that was intended for the US once, and I found that the (Australian) development team had put “Suburb” instead of “City/Town” in an address field. I tried to warn them that Americans don’t display addresses the same as Australians, but no one was hearing it. Well, not until they got a call from an angry local product manager!

      1. Then, going the other way, so many Australians wonder why Americans check their cash and worry so much instead of just using a cheque.

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