Throughout most of the world it does not matter when driving if you speak the language or not. A red octagonal sign means stop, a yellow triangle means yield, and so forth. The same is true for website development. This morning I needed to place an order for more toner. I was brought to a Japanese website. Not an English word in site. However in the upper right hand corner was a small world icon and when click opened an interface that allowed me to select English and complete my order.
Why did I look in the upper right-hand corner? I don’t know, however that is where I expected that type of info. Visitors have expectations where to find various bits of info; navigation should be located on the top or left side; search fields are usually near the upper right; logos placed in the upper left; ads tend to be placed on the top or right side, etc.
An interesting test (Provided by Human Factors International) is to draw a 5x4 grid on a sheet of paper. Give an ideal customer a list of items that you wish to include on your site and ask them to indicate which box each should go (more than one can be in a box). Repeat with several others. Look for consistencies and design or adjust your website accordingly.
Lastly sprinkle a few icons throughout your website. The use of icons and color will help a person understand what a page is about long before they will read the content. If it wasn’t for the small world icon, I would have been lost.