There are more than three billion people on the internet today, yet fewer than 25% speak English natively. Roughly a billion of these non-English speakers connect to the Internet via mobile device. Hence this new poster from Byte Level Research.
I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2017 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.
Here are the top-scoring websites from the report:
For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google is yet again ranked number one. But Google isn’t resting on its laurels. While many software companies are happy to support 20 or 30 languages on their websites, Google continues to add languages across its many products. Consider Gmail, with support for 72 languages and YouTube, with 75 languages. And let’s not overlook Google Translate, now at 100+ languages.
Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, though I am seeing positive signs of harmonization across its many product silos. But I do maintain the recommendation that Google present a more traditional global gateway to visitors across its sites and apps.
Other highlights from the top 25 list include:
Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
IKEA returned to the list this year after making a welcome change to its global gateway strategy.
Nissan made the top 25 list for the first time. BMW slipped off the list.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 54 languages (up from 52 last year); if we removed Wikipedia from the language counts the average would still be an impressive 44 languages.
GoDaddy, a new addition to the Report Card, wasted little time in making this list. Its global gateway is worth studying.
Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 31.
But as you can see here, the rate of language growth, on average, is slowing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Companies are telling me that they are investing more on depth and quality of localization — which is of huge importance.
The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t. Time is often the greatest indicator of best practices.
I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.
Congratulations to the top 25 companies and the people within these companies that have long championed web globalization.
Remember not very long ago when social media experts were preaching the value of a Facebook page over a website?
It was not uncommon to be told to dump your website altogether in favor of a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Why bother with HTML when you you could simply hashtag your way to global success?
My how times have changed.
I find it telling that, according to Marketing Land, Super Bowl ads displayed website URLs over hashtags for the first time in several years:
Perhaps hashtags aren’t as a sexy as they once were.
And Facebook is not the generous landlord it once was; anyone who wants to get their message out to all followers is going to have to pay to do so. Facebook and Instagram were mentioned in only 6% of those Super Bowl ads.
And what about mobile apps? Remember when everyone needed one?
According to ComScore, people only use about 25 apps a month, while they will visit 100 websites. So if you’re not among those top 25 mobile apps, you’re far better off investing in your website.
Websites continue to be the best bang for your marketing dollar. Not just in the United States but around the world.
I’m hard at work on the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card and I’ve noticed an increasing number of companies asking visitors to join their mailing list. I believe email was dead once as well not very long ago.
Email is still here. So are websites. The more things change the more things stay the same.
Xerox recently spun off its services unit into a billion-dollar global company known as Conduent.
I took a quick look at the Conduent website to see how world-ready this “global” website had become in its very first iteration. And, spoiler alert, it’s clear that Conduent is only just getting started.
Here’s an excerpt of the home page:
And a close-up of the global gateway, such as it is:
Here’s a close-up of a Twitter excerpt on the home page:
What about mobile? Here’s the home page on a smartphone:
And the mobile menu:
Where’s the global gateway menu you might ask?
So I thought I’d put together a few tips that would be useful to Conduent — and any other company that is on the verge of expanding its website globally.
5 tips for creating a more world-ready website:
Keep it lightweight. Already, Conduent is loaded with videos and large photographs that add significant “weight” in kilobytes to the web page. When thinking globally, companies need to think about slower mobile networks around the world and make sure that weight limits are in place to allow the website to display and respond quickly on these networks.
Don’t just respond to mobile devices, respond to mobile customers. It’s nice that the mobile website does not default to animation (like the desktop site) but all we’re seeing now is a scaled-down version of the desktop website. Ideally, the mobile site supports mobile-specific usage scenarios, which isn’t yet evident here. I don’t see the global gateway on the mobile site — a rookie mistake, but one that really does punish mobile users who want to navigate to local content (when that content is available).
Get your global gateway right the first time. In Conduent’s case, that means losing the American flag. I realize the circled flag is inspired by Apple, but Apple is on the wrong side of history on this one I’m afraid. Instead, Conduent should develop a text-only global gateway menu, which will scale more readily.
Bake social into the design. Conduent does a nice job of highlighting its Twitter feed on its home page. Going forward, it’s important that Conduent support local-language Twitter (and other social) feeds that can be excerpted on the home page. By doing so, website visitors are more likely to discover the localized feeds and are more likely to engage with you.
Think local by design content. Social content in the local language is a great beginning. But what about local language blogs and other content? Conduent does support a number of English-language blogs. It will be nice to see these blogs replicated in other markets, managed by local content creators.
Lululemon provides an interesting case study of a US-based retailer taking its first steps towards going global.
And, like all first steps, this one is rather awkward.
To be clear, Lululemon is only focused on shipping globally, which is a nice feature for English-speaking customers around the world. But I wish the website made this explicitly clear, so that web users who don’t speak English don’t waste their time with the tool highlighted below.
What I’m going to show here isn’t a conventional global gateway because Lululemon supports only an English-language website. But I would suspect that a fair number of international web users may think it will take them to a localized website. The flag, I think, is part of the problem. A user could see the flag and think that this is a global gateway he or she must navigate.
But it’s not an easy gateway to navigate — it’s frustratingly open ended. The gateway link is located well down the home page — not quite in the footer but close:
Clicking on the country name brings up the “Type Your Country” input box.
Here’s where things get interesting.
If I enter “China” I find that my country is supported. This is a fine if I’m an English speaker in China.
But what if I enter Chinese text? This is what I see:
Now one could argue that by only supporting Latin text input you’re doing a better job of managing language expectations because there is no translation of text available. Nevertheless, a basic text menu of supported countries would be a better solution than this open-ended input form — and certainly a less resource-intensive approach.
This gateway reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer plays the Moviefone guy:
On a very positive note, the website uses geolocation to guest the user’s preferred target country. Shown here is the message that a user in Germany sees:
It’s in English, naturally, so I’m not sure all users will find this approach user friendly.
But, like I said, this is a first step toward going global.