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.
But when you see it on a computer screen, it’s not so nice.
Like those two rows of “tofu-shaped” objects shown below that indicate a missing font:
Tofu used to be a much bigger problem ten years ago, back when fonts are strictly aligned with different character sets and computers shipped with very limited font families. Today, computers and phones ship with system fonts that can natively display a significant number of languages.
Nevertheless, as websites support more and more languages, the need for fully world-ready fonts will only grow.
So it’s nice to see Google investing in creating open-source font faces to support the world’s languages.
American Express emerged on top with support for an impressive 41 languages; it most recently added Bosnian. Allianz finished in second place in regards to languages.
The AmEx home page, shown here, features a visible global gateway link well positioned in the header:
You’ll notice that flags are not used on the global gateway menu, which is smart. American Express also includes “speech bubbles” to indicate that the site has been localized. I’m not sure these icons are needed. Instead, simply present the localized country names in the local languages. And as for those countries that are not yet localized, leave those country names in English, since the websites are still only in English.
AmEx supports most lightweight mobile website of the financial services sector. It comes in at 800 kilobytes, which is more than five times lighter than the MasterCard and Visa mobile websites.
Now, there is still plenty of room for improvement. While the global website is responsive, the global gateway page is NOT responsive, which is a significant oversight. And a number of localized websites still rely on legacy, non-responsive templates. This isn’t unique to AmEx as many financial services companies are not globally consistent.
Overall, American Express is well ahead of the competition when it comes to website globalization.
But the competition isn’t sitting still. It’s worth noting that both MasterCard and Visa launched newly designed and responsive websites over the past year. And that Visa has been aggressively adding languages, expanding its global reach.
I expect this year to see a significant increase in languages supported across the financial sector.
Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes has been studying corporate communications strategies of the Fortune 500 for the past eight years. Key findings include:
Twenty-one percent of the Fortune 500 has a corporate blog (103 corporations) (21%); a decrease of 10% from 2014.
Twitter is more popular than Facebook with the Fortune 500 (78% vs 74%).
Glassdoor (87%) has joined LinkedIn (93%) as a popular business tool.
The use of Instagram has increased by 13%. A total of 33% of the Fortune 500 having an Instagram presence, pointing to a continued growth in interest in visually rich platforms.
I have noticed that fewer companies are publishing blogs these days — particularly globally. I view this as a missed opportunity, though I understand why it is happening. Creating content that people actually want to read is hard work. It’s not as sexy as chasing the latest new social network, like Snapchat or Instagram.
Blogs, well produced, can be an amazing source of leads, search engine traffic and customer engagement — even with mobile users. And if you support blogs across a variety of languages you will only multiply the traffic you receive.
I’m not suggesting that companies not support Twitter, Instagram, etc. In fact, blogs provide foundational content for Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
One company still invested in blogs (and other content) is Capgemini:
And here is an excerpt from the German site — local-language blogs:
Perhaps I’m a bit biased about blogs, as I’ve been writing this one for more than a decade.
But I suspect companies will one day come full circle on this.
Four years ago, for the Web Globalization Report Card, I began noting (and rewarding) those websites that supported mobile devices. Even then one could easily see the virtual grounds shifting in favor of mobile devices. But at the time, only about 20% of the websites studied supported mobile devices.
In this year’s Report Card, the majority of websites are now mobile friendly. Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a flurry of newly responsive web designs from a diverse range of companies including Philips, Merck, VMware and Pepsi.
Even Apple now supports a responsive website. Shown below are before and after screen grabs:
If your company hasn’t yet made the leap to mobile, now is the time to accelerate your plans — unless you don’t care much for your search ranking.
Google has made it abundantly clear that websites that do not support mobile devices are going to suffer.
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
All languages. All regions. This makes great sense given that markets like China and Indonesia are overwhelmingly experiencing the Internet via mobile devices.
Google wants to remain relevant to mobile users which means your website needs to remain relevant to Google.
Which means, ultimately, remaining relevant to your web users. Particularly if you plan to succeed globally.