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.