The top 25 global websites from the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card

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.

The 2017 Web Globalization Report Card

Click here to download a PDF brochure for the report.

Car companies embrace global automotive platforms but resist global website platforms

Here is Subaru’s new global automotive platform:

subaru_global_platform

Toyota also has a global platform, shown here:

toyota_global_platform

I’ve long made the case that a global auto platform is analogous to a global website or software platform.

You want a design that can be adapted to many different countries, and many different cultures and demographics within those countries. And as you see here, the global platform is skeletal in nature. A steering wheel may be positioned on either side, depending in the market. Entirely different body styles may be attached to the platform.

Similarly, a global website platform is also skeletal in nature, flexible enough to support different writing systems, visuals, network speeds and computing devices.

Ironically, although car companies value global automotive platforms they have so far largely yet failed to prioritize global website platforms.

While BMW emerged as the best global automotive website in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, this category is still very much up for grabs.

Too often, we see we designs vary dramatically by country or region. Shown here are the variations of Toyota.

toyota_global

I should note that Toyota does use a consistent European template, but this is not a global template. Now contrast Toyota with Facebook:

facebook

Global templates aren’t easy to achieve, particularly within companies that are highly decentralized. But if a company can create a global template for its core products it can also create a global template for its websites.

To learn more, check out of the Web Globalization Report Card.

The best global automotive website of 2016: BMW

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 13 automotive websites:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

I want to preface this post by saying that automotive websites have historically been strong on languages but weak on global consistency and global navigation. This year is no exception, though there are promising signs that automotive websites are making improvements in global consistency. Automotive companies are highly decentralized organizations with independent web teams and budgets, which often results in websites that share few design elements across country/region websites.

Out of those 15 websites studied, BMW emerged on top.

With support for 41 languages (excluding US English), BMW is among the leaders in this category (Nissan and Honda are tied for the lead).

BMW also does a very good job of supporting country codes, with the notable exception of its US website, located at: www.bmwusa.com.

Because BMW has an oddly separate domain for the US website, US visitors to the .com domain see this overlay:

This is not the ideal solution for this navigation challenge, but it’s better than what most other websites do in this situation, which is effectively nothing.

BMW does lack a prominent visual global gateway across all websites — a feature most automotive websites also sadly lack.

Now let’s talk about global consistency. Here are three localized BMW websites:

bmw

There are three different templates in use here, which we do not recommend. However, at least the logo elements are consistent (though not consistently positioned).

And yet, if you compare BMW to Honda, shown here you’ll even see a mix of logo elements. So BMW still has a slight advantage. Audi, Nissan, and Land Rover also are above-average in global consistency.

honda

Now let’s talk mobile. BMW is the only mobile website in this sector to weigh less than 1 MB.

bmw_mobile

This is significant, and a big reason why, for the first time since 2011, an automotive website made it into the Top 25 list.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

 

 

 

Most global websites now use country codes

As part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card I note the use of country codes among the world’s leading brands.

It’s an imperfect process because different companies use country codes in different ways. For example, some websites use country codes as redirects back to the .com domain (not ideal, but better than nothing). Others use the country codes as standalone domains (ideal).

And a handful of others, suchas Amazon and Expedia, have made country codes an extension of their brand:

Expedia Japan Logo country code

Amazon Germany country code

 

More than 80% of the companies studied in Web Globalization Report Card use country codes for at least some of the markets they support. This is a significant increase from five years ago, when many companies were still relying on .com as the base domain for all local websites.

What’s changed since then? For starters, Google has done a good job of incentivizing websites to support country codes. But more important, users around the world actually prefer country codes. These domains function as shortcuts to the local websites, bypassing the global .com site altogether.

The following companies do a very good job of supporting country codes:

  • Adidas
  • Autodesk
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dell
  • DHL
  • Dyson
  • Google
  • Hilton
  • Honda
  • IKEA
  • Intel
  • John Deere
  • Mercedes
  • Merck
  • Nikon
  • NIVEA
  • Philips
  • Starbucks

Want to learn more about country codes? Check out this handy map.

Also, to better understand how country codes should fit into your overall global navigation strategy, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

Included as part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card

BMW & Chevrolet: The Best Global Automotive Websites

For the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 14 automotive manufacturers and one supplier (Michelin).

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Goodyear
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Michelin
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Out of those 15 websites, BMW and Chevrolet emerged in a numerical tie for number one.

BMW and Chevrolet both support an impressive 41 languages, in addition to English. Chevrolet added three languages over the past year, including Indonesian.

 

Did you know that Chevrolet also supports a Georgian website? Few companies have yet tackled a Georgian (and in country) website.

Toyota leads this category in languages but BMW and Chevy do a much better job supporting global consistency across its many localized websites.

BMW and Chevy both support geolocation, which is a positive trend, though they deploy it in different fashions.

Here is the screen that BMW displays to US-based web visitors to the BMW.com website; BMW wants these visitors to go to BMWusa.com.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 7.10.46 PM

This, by the way, raises interesting questions regarding the .com domain, which I plan to address in a later post.

Both websites respond well to mobile devices. Here is the Chevy home page on a smartphone:

chevy-mobile

Not all automotive websites are responsive yet, so kudos for BMW and Chevrolet.

Now, for negatives.

Neither BMW nor Chevrolet support visual global gateways effectively — few automotive websites do. Global consistency still has room for improvement as well. And depth of localization is still weak on many country websites.

For these reasons, and a few others, you will not find any automotive company in the overall Top 25 list.

If there is one common theme that runs through many of these websites it’s that the regional and country operations aren’t on the same page with headquarters. I know this because I’ve spoken with a number of these companies and am always struck by the tension between the various web and marketing teams across various regions. And this is unfortunate because there is no reason there couldn’t be four or five automotive companies in our top 25 list.

I think this will change. Maybe not this year year, but definitely over the next three years. There is much happening behind the scenes right now.