Microsoft: The best global consumer technology website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, I benchmarked the following consumer-oriented technology websites:

  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Canon
  • Dell
  • HP
  • HTC
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Microsoft
  • Nikon
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Toshiba
  • Xiaomi

Microsoft and Adobe tied this year for the top spot, with Microsoft winning out based on languages supported. Both companies, along with Nikon, made the top 25 list of best global websites. At 43 languages (not including US English), Microsoft leads this category. The web design remains globally consistent; shown below is the home page for Germany:

Microsoft is a conglomerate of loosely related brands, which presents website architecture challenges. That is, how do you support the brand while still letting visitors know that this brand is part of the Microsoft ecosystem?
The following two-level navigation architecture is a clean and lightweight solution, and one that would work well with most companies that support many different brands, while still keeping those brands unified under the parent brand. Shown below are the headers for Surface, Office, and Windows:

The Microsoft global gateway is universal, which means each country/region link is properly displayed in the native language. This gateway is modified for each brand, such as Surface, shown here:

One needed improvement: Promote the global gateway link from the footer into the header (and replace this globe icon with a more generic globe icon):

Adobe
Adobe held steady at 34 languages over the past year.  Adobe continues to support a globally consistent template that is also mobile friendly. Adobe makes excellent use of geolocation to gently alert visitors to the availability of localized websites. Shown here, a French visitor to www.adobe.com is notified that the French website is available, but is also allowed to continue on to the .com site.

This strategy is wise because it leaves users in control; after all, many visitors may indeed want to remain on the .com site, so it’s important to honor that intention.

What about Apple?
Apple made a small but significant addition to its language portfolio last year: Arabic. The website now supports 34 languages, though I believe it should support a great many more, such as Hebrew, Serbian, and Slovenian. Below is the new Arabic-language site for United Arab Emirates:

Apple tweaked its design last week but still, unfortunately, left the global gateway buried in the footer.

More unfortunate, the gateway menu continues to rely on flags.

I’ve been pushing for a number of years to convince Apple to migrate away from using flags. You can read why here. Hopefully we’ll see some movement on this soon.

To learn more about best practices in web globalization, check out the 2017 Report Card.
PS: All purchasers of the Report Card receive signed copies of Think Outside the Country, among other goodies!

Conduent and 5 tips for creating a more world-ready website

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

For more insights into website globalization, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

Boeing and the trouble with flags in global gateways

Examine the Boeing global gateway below and see if you can see a problem:

boeing_flags

I did not realize the Middle East had an official flag but, according to this gateway, it does.

And herein lies a major problem with using flags — they’re not well suited to regional websites.

Apple has a similar problem as illustrated by its Latin American flags:

apple_flags_16

So what’s the solution?

Stop using flags for global navigation.

It’s quite simple actually.

And, yes, I do believe that Apple will drop flags from its website. Eventually.

For more on this, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.

Tiffany: The best luxury website of 2016

This year, we benchmarked the following seven luxury websites for the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Burberry
  • Cartier
  • Gucci
  • Hermès
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Tiffany

Out of these websites Tiffany emerged on top, largely because of its investment in global ecommerce.

Most luxury brands have been late to embrace ecommerce and, even now, have a long ways to go in terms of web localization and usability.

These websites average only 10 languages, which is a major reason why they lag most other global websites. And global navigation is also a problem for most websites, as is support for mobile devices.

But Tiffany is the leader in this category in global navigation. Tiffany uses geolocation to ensure that you are directed to your localized website, assuming it’s available. It displays the following overlay to first-time visitors:

tiffany_geo

Here is the same overlay, localized for German website visitors to the same .com domain:

tiffany_geo_de

This may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a significant impact to customer experience and ultimate conversion.

Tiffany also supports a mobile-friendly website design, though the gateway is poorly located in the footer. Burberry also buries its global gateway link in the footer, as shown here on the German home page:

burberry_2016

For users who don’t speak German, this gateway link is not going to be easy to find. A globe icon would greatly improve usability — something that fashion brands have yet to implement.

In terms of global reach, Tiffany is tied for number one in languages with Hermès. But fashion brands still are not even halfway to reaching the baseline for “global” websites. As shown here, the average number of languages supported by the leading global brands is now 30:

Average number of languages supported by leading global websites: 2016 Web Globalization Report Card
Average number of languages supported by leading global websites: 2016 Web Globalization Report Card

As luxury brands embrace ecommerce, they must also embrace fundamental global usability practices, such as user friendly global gateways, support for country codes, fast-loading mobile websites, and depth of localized content.

2016 Report Card

The one “flag” you should never use on your website

I visited the home page of the Chinese online travel agency website Ctrip recently and came across this odd flag:

ctrip_flag

Just because the UK  voted to separate from the EU doesn’t mean that it’s considering a merger with the United States (the last I checked).

Seriously, I understand why companies use this hybrid flag—as an all-purpose English icon. But it fails to achieve that goal because flags are not synonymous with language. And, as icons go, people generally don’t like to see their national flags chopped up or merged with other flags.

A better approach is to avoid using any flag at all and simply use “English.”

For more on flags and the global gateway, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.

Apple’s evolving global gateway provides another reason to rid your website of flags

Apple can’t seem to rid itself of using flags on its global gateway. And, yes, I’ve been writing about this for awhile now.

Every time Apple launches a redesign I get my hopes up.

But this latest design merely offered up newly “flattened” map icons, as shown here:

Current Apple Global Gateway:

apple_gateway_20152

Previous Apple Global Gateway:

apple_gateway_20151

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