Booking.com: The best global travel website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 24 travel websites:

  • Air France
  • Airbnb
  • American Airlines
  • Avis
  • Booking.com
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Enterprise
  • Expedia
  • Four Seasons
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Hotels.com
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Marriott
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Sixt
  • TripAdvisor
  • Uber
  • United Airlines

This is the third year that we’ve combined web-based travel services companies with the travel companies they represent. And while OTAs (online travel agencies) have long dominated this category, we’re seeing airlines and hotels become much more competitive in the fight for customer relationships, and not just in developed markets.

Booking.com emerging number one overall. It leads all other websites with support for 41 languages and  leverages global templates across all local websites. The mobile website is also lighter (in kilobytes) than most competitive websites giving Booking.com a potential performance advantage. Following close behind in score is Hotels.com.

The travel industry is by definition a global industry. When your customer may be located anywhere in the world and traveling to any other place in the world, you need to support not only a significant number of languages but also currencies, time zones, and mobile devices. A number of the companies in this sector have been aggressive in using geolocation and content negotiation to greet visitors with the right language, region and currency. But they also provide a great deal of flexibility. For instance, Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to change your currency using what I call the currency gateway:

But Booking.com is far from perfect. It buries its global gateway on its mobile website, which is not ideal for visitors who need to quickly change settings. Instead, I recommend including the global gateway link in the header, as shown here with Emirates:

I recommend a more generic globe icon than the one used by Emirates, but this is far better than most other mobile travel websites.

American Airlines does not use a globe icon, but does at least make its global gateway available in the header, as shown here:

I do not recommend using flags for navigational purposes and many travel websites continue to use them today. Flags do not scale well and flags convey meaning that often goes far beyond mere navigation — a reason why a number of websites intentionally leave the Taiwan flag off of the global gateway, even though it includes all others.

A number of companies have been quite busy expanding their linguistic reach; websites that added languages over the past year include:

  • Emirates
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Uber

KLM, by the way, leads all airlines with support for 28 languages. And Hilton leads all hotels with support for 23 languages (though if you include Airbnb as a hotel brand, it emerges on top).

Websites that scored on the negative end of this list include Four Seasons, Enterprise and Avis.

To learn more, check out the Web Globalization Report CardTravel and travel services is the largest sector covered by the Report Card, a section more than 50 pages long.

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

Click here to download a PDF brochure for the report.

NOTO, as in No Tofu

First of all, I love tofu.

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:

tofu3

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.

This font family is called NOTO (as in no tofu).

google_noto

A package of all 100+ fonts weighs more than 470MB.

Instead, you might pick and choose which language/script you wish to support:

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-4-13-30-pm

This post is brought to you by the Multilingual Eye Chart.

 

American Express: The best global financial services website of 2016

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 9 financial services websites:

  • Allianz
  • American Express
  • Axa
  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • Marsh
  • MasterCard
  • Visa
  • Western Union

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:

amex_home

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_gateway

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.

amex_mobile

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.

 

 

 

Companies are blogging less and that’s a mistake

An interesting study courtesy of the Society for New Communications Research:

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:

capgemini_blogs

And here is an excerpt from the German site — local-language blogs:

capgemini_de

 

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.

After all, everything old is new again…

You can download the full research report here.