When I was fifteen I had the opportunity to go on a missions trip to Hermosillo, Mexico. As we spent the week helping a small church build a new building, we got to experience a great number of really neat things. Having only taken a small amount of high school Spanish, I found it really different to hear it all around and only be able to catch certain words or phrases. One night in particular we were out visiting the city and sharing brochures with information about the church with anyone who would listen to us. One street vendor became very agitated and began to rant and rave in Spanish. Of course, my extremely limited Spanish was no match for the torrent of words flowing from this man, but suddenly in the middle of his tirade, he burst out with “I don’t speak any English.” My world was completely rocked by this revelation. For days I had been saying, “No hablo español,” and then suddenly I was hearing back exactly what it sounded like to people who only spoke Spanish when I parroted my phrase to them.
I believe that many times when we’re designing, sharing, or selling ourselves and our businesses, we often forget that our customers speak a different language than we do. When they visit your website, do they see a torrent of information that doesn’t make sense juxtaposed against tiny bits of information that they probably already knew. Are you using usability testing and other metrics to measure these kinds of things and to minimize the language barrier between you and your clients? Are you certain that the folks that you think are your clients are actually your target market? Are you learning your customer’s language on an on going basis? If you’re not, you should probably save yourself some money and just get rid of your site. Not everyone should have a website.