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

Web localization is a black and white issue

The death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej has led to stores running out of black and white clothing as the population mourns its leader in color-appropriate clothing.

What does this mean for website localization?

Consider the Thailand home pages for Apple:

apple_thai

Samsung:

samsung_thai

Microsoft:

microsoft_thai

McDonald’s:

mcdonalds_thai

Starbucks:

starbucks_thai

And Coca-Cola has gone black on its social feeds:

coke_social_thai

Web localization isn’t about creating a localized website and forgetting about it.

It’s about creating a living and breathing website that responds quickly to local events. Web localization is about respect.

To learn more about the leaders in web localization, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

 

Going beyond stock photos to succeed locally

My latest post for client Pitney Bowes includes tips for creating “world ready” visuals.

An excerpt:

Don’t Send the Wrong (Hand) Signal

Gestures are culturally specific and, while some gestures have gone global, there are variations on these gestures and hand signals, in addition to locally unique signals, that you’ll need to know. The peace sign may be globally ubiquitous, but if you were to rotate your hand around, it suddenly becomes an offensive gesture in countries such as the UK and Australia. President George H.W. Bush was widely ridiculed in Australia when he visited in 1992 and gave the peace sign in reverse.

Hand gesture for peace sign

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzut] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The OK sign may be perfectly “OK” in the US, but it can be quite offensive in countries such as Turkey and Brazil. And it can be taken to mean “zero” in France.

More

Tips and Best Practices for Targeting an APAC Audience (Part II)

Here’s my latest post for client Pitney Bowes:

Any company with global aspirations cannot afford to ignore the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. It’s a region that includes more than two billion people across more than 20 countries, ranging from Australia to Indonesia to China and Japan.

This article (the second of two) offers a few web localization tips to keep in mind.

An excerpt:

Don’t Be Colorblind
Colors carry cultural and emotional significance. And sometimes colors mean very different things depending on the culture. At a Chinese wedding, for example, the bride typically wears red, not white. This alone should underscore just how important red is in the Chinese culture.

White is more often associated with death, and some companies go so far as to avoid packaging their products in white (though Apple seems to have done quite well in spite of this perceived hurdle). One key point to keep in mind is that red is positive and green is not so positive, at least so far as the stock market is concerned.

china_stockmarket

Shown here is a daily summary of the Shanghai Composite Index. While the red text may appear ominous to a Western investor, the stock market actually finished up 12 points this day.

Here’s the full story.

And here’s Part I.

When does localization become capitulation?

I begin this post with a question because I don’t have an answer.

A book making news these days is The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. It’s about Hollywood’s active self-censorship to appease German censors during Hitler’s reign.

According to the book, movies critical of the Nazi regime were killed because they would have threatened all Hollywood exports into Germany at the time.

According to this NY Post piece, Hollywood is making the same sort of deal with the devil with China.

Changing plot lines, adding characters and scenes, changing the “bad guys” from  Chinese to Russian — all to appease Chinese censors.

China is very careful about what movies it allows in its large and lucrative  market. And this gatekeeper role gives it enormous power over Hollywood.

Which leads me to the question at hand: At what point does localization become capitulation?

This is question every company must ask itself when trying to expand into new markets and cultures.

A Hollywood studio would no doubt argue that it is simply localizing its product to comply with local laws and to succeed with customers.

Which means that Hollywood may end up one day localizing the “bad guys” for each market it enters.

Is this a bad thing? Or is this just good business?

Localization is, after all, about adapting to the market.

I do believe there is a line there, somewhere, that you shouldn’t cross.

When you find that you’re changing who you are to adapt to a market, you should pause to understand exactly what you are changing, exactly what you are sacrificing.

As for Hollywood “selling its soul” to succeed in China I would ask: What soul was there to sell? 

But in all seriousness, this is a big issue and it’s not going away. Companies are  desperate to succeed in markets around the world — markets where they may indeed be asked or required to do things they don’t want to do.

I think of Mean Girls and the lengths that Lindsay Lohan’s character went in order to fit in. (Yes, all the great business issues of the world have been addressed by high school movies.)

And then I think of a quote I from the former CEO of Starbucks:

On a country-by-country basis, the largest hurdle we had to overcome was thinking we had to be different.