Intel: The best global enterprise technology website of 2016

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 11 enterprise technology websites:

  • Autodesk
  • Cisco Systems
  • EMC
  • IBM
  • Huawei
  • Intel
  • Oracle
  • SAP
  • Texas Instruments
  • Xerox
  • VMware

With support for 23 languages, Intel is not the language leader in this category; Cisco Systems leads with 40 languages.

But Intel leads in other ways.

Such as global navigation. First and foremost, Intel has embraced country codes, such as:

  • www.intel.de
  • www.intel.co.jp
  • www.intel.cn

On the China home page, the global gateway is perfectly positioned in the header. Also, note the globe icon — which makes this global gateway easy to find no matter what language you speak:

intel_cn

Selecting the globe icon brings up this “universal” global gateway menu:

intel_gateway_2015

Universal means this menu can be used across all localized websites — because the locale names are presented in the local languages and scripts (for the markets in which they are supported). 

Unfortunately, on the mobile website the globe icon is demoted to the footer. Shown here is the Polish home page:

Intel Poland mobile

Intel supports strong global consistency across its many local websites. Depth of local content varies and there are gaps in support content across a number of languages.

But Intel is making smart use of machine translation  to allows users to self-translate content into their target language. Shown here an excerpt from the Brazil website.

Intel Brazil Machine Translation

The button near the top of the page is what users select to self-translate content. Too few companies are making use of machine translation currently.

One concern, looking ahead, is that the .com design has very recently demoted the global gateway icon to the footer.

Intel global gateway in the footer

Ironically, it is the .com website that most requires a global gateway in the header because more than half of all visitors to the .com website originate outside of the US.

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

In search of a better translation icon

A few years ago I wrote about the translation icon and its many variations at that point in time.

I thought now would be a good time to revisit this icon.

Let’s start with the Google Translate. This icon has not changed in substance over the years but it has been streamlined a great deal.

Here is the icon used for its app:

google-translate-icon

Microsoft uses a similar icon across its website, apps, and APIs:

microsoft_translate

I’m not a fan of this icon, despite how prevalent it has become.

Before I go into why exactly, here is another app icon I came across:

another-translate-icon

These first three icons display specific language pairs, which could be interpreted as showing preference for a given language pair. This is the issue that I find problematic.

Why can’t a translate icon be language agnostic?

Here is how SDL approaches the translation icon:

sdl_translation

Although the icon is busy, I’m partial to what SDL is doing here — as this icon does not display a given script pair.

Here is another icon, from the iTranslate app:

iTranslate_app

The counter-argument to a globe icon is this: It is used EVERYWHERE. And this is true. Facebook, for example, uses the globe icon for notifications, which I’ve never understood. Nevertheless, the globe icon can successfully deliver different messages depending on context. In the context of a mobile app icon, I think a globe icon works perfectly well.

 

So the larger question here is whether or not a language pair is required to communicate “translation.” 

Google and Microsoft certainly believe that a language pair is required, which is where we stand right now. I’d love to see this change. I think we can do better.

The humans behind machine translation

Google Translate is the world’s most popular machine translation tool.

And, despite predictions by many experts in the translation industry, the quality of Google Translate has improved nicely over the past decade. Not so good that professional translators are in any danger of losing work, but good enough that many of these translators will use Google Translate to do a first pass on their translation jobs.

But even the best machine translation software can only go so far on its own. Eventually humans need to assist.

Google has historically been averse to any solution that required lots and lots of in-person human input — unless these humans could interact virtually with the software.

Behind Google’s machine translation software are humans.

In the early days of Google Translate, there were very few humans involved. The feature that identified languages based on a small snippet of text was in fact developed by one employee as his 20% project.

Google Translate is a statistical machine translation engine, which means it relies on algorithms that digest millions of translated language pairs. These algorithms, over time, have greatly improved the quality of Google Translate.

But algorithms can only take machine translation so far.

Eventually humans must give these algorithms a little help.

Google Translate Community

So it’s worth mentioning that Google relies on “translate-a-thons”  to recruit people to help improve the quality.

According to Google, more than 100 of these events have been held resulting in addtion of more than 10 million words:

It’s made a huge difference. The quality of Bengali translations are now twice as good as they were before human review. While in Thailand, Google Translate learned more Thai in seven days with the help of volunteers than in all of 2014.

Of course, Google has long relied on a virtual community of users to help improve translation and search results. But actual in-person events is a relatively new level of outreach for the company — and I’m glad to see it.

This type of outreach will keep Google Translate on the forefront in the MT race.

If you want to get involved, join Google’s Translate Community.

Google Translate turns 80, as in languages

google_translate

From Afrikaans to Zulu, the evolution of Google Translate is one of Google’s greatest success stories that few people fully appreciate. Perhaps because Google is reluctant to release usage data (which I imagine is significant).

So Google now supports 80 languages, having added support for Somali, Zulu, three Nigerian languages (Igbo, Hausa,Yoruba), Mongolian, Nepali, and Punjabi.

I’m not a fan of Google+. I won’t be caught dead wearing Google Glass. But I’ll be the first to sing the praises of Google Translate and Google’s ongoing investment in languages.

Google long ago set the bar for what a “global” website or web app should support in terms of languages. It raised that bar to 40 languages a few years ago is now raising it again to 60. If Google Translate is any indicator, that bar will be raised again over the next decade.

To give you an idea of just how far Google Translate has come in the past eight years, here is a screen grab I took back in 2006:

google_translate_2006

It’s amusing to see Arabic, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese labeled as BETA languages.

And impressive to see that Google Translate has grown from roughly 10 languages to 80 languages in eight years.

PS: Google Translate is one of the reasons Google does so well in the annual Web Globalization Report Card. I’m nearly complete with the 2014 edition and, yes, Google is looking good again this year.

 

 

 

Web globalization predictions for 2014

Globe

I’m optimistic about the year ahead.

I base this optimism in part on discussions I’ve had this year with dozens of marketing and web teams across about ten countries. While every company has its own unique worldview and challenges, a number of patterns have emerged. And I can tell you that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for web globalization — backed by C-level investments.

And this enthusiasm is not simply driven by China any longer — which is a healthy thing to see. Executives have a more realistic and sober view of China, and this has resulted in smarter and longer-term planning and investments. That’s not to say China won’t continue to dominate the headlines in 2014, as it most certainly will. But companies are now taking a closer look at countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, India, and much of the Middle East.

As I look ahead, here are a few other trends I see emerging in the year ahead:

  • Machine translation (MT) goes mainstream. I’ll have much more to say about this in future (you can subscribe to updates on the right) but suffice it to say, MT is not just for customer support anymore. Companies are looking to use MT as a competitive differentiator, and we’re going to see more real-world examples on customer-facing websites. And customers around the world will love it. (And, no, I’m suggesting that human translators are in any danger of losing their jobs; quite the opposite!)
  • Responsive global websites also go mainstream. True, there are valid reasons for NOT embracing responsive websites, but for most companies, this is a clear path forward. It helps manage the chaos internally and frees up resources for mobile apps — which are becoming, for some of us, more important than the website itself.
  • Language pullback. What? Companies are going to drop languages? That’s right. Some that I’ve spoken to already have dropped a language or two, and others are considering following along. I’m never a fan of dropping languages for budgetary reasons, as this is almost always a shortsighted decision, but it’s a fact of life as companies learn to align their language strategies with their budgets. In the end, pullbacks are far from ideal but probably a sign that companies are no longer making blind assumptions that adding languages will automatically increased sales (this isn’t always the case). So even this trend, while minor, is ultimately going to be a positive one.
  • Privacy becomes a selling point. The “NSA-gate” scandal is only just beginning to be felt around the world. And the threat to American-based tech companies is very real. I will not be surprised if Google or Microsoft announces non-US hosted services (to bypass the NSA’s grip and attempt to rebuild trust with consumers). And there are already a number of startups emerging in various countries promising to keep user data safe from the “evil” American intelligence agencies. You know this is a serious issue when Apple and Google and Microsoft (and other tech companies) all agree on something.
  • A non-Latin gTLD awakens American companies. I’ve long written about why I think the Internet is still broken for non-English speakers. But now that ICANN is moving ahead with delegation of generic TLDs, I believe that one (or more) of these domains will act as a wake-up call to those companies that have long overlooked them — and I’m including a number of Silicon Valley software companies as well. I don’t want to predict what domain I think it will be (they are all available for you to see) — let me know if you have a candidate.
  • Apple drops flags from its global gateway. True, this is not my first prediction along these lines. But do I think 2014 will be the year. And this will make my life a bit easier because I won’t have to respond to any more “But Apple is using flags so why can’t we” questions.

So what do you think about the year ahead?

If you have any predictions to share, please let me know.