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.

 

 

Google to the Internet: Go mobile or watch your sales rank fall

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:

apple_responsive

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.

Beginning April 21st.

According to Google:

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.

Mozilla frees web browser from mobile language limitations: A Q&A

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.55.33 PM

I was intrigued to read recently that Mozilla is working on updating the Firefox Android mobile browser, codename Fennec, to allow the browser to offer more languages than the underlying Android system currently supports. Typically, apps leverage language support from the underlying operating system, which can sometimes be limiting. So it’s nice to see Mozilla moving beyond this limitation.

To learn more, I asked Mozilla localization engineer Jeff Beatty a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: With Fennec, Mozilla is effectively freeing the web browser from the language restrictions of the underlying Android OS. Can you detail roughly how many language Android supports vs. the number of languages Fennec will support?

A: This can be a complicated question, because language support is often very broadly defined. What traditionally determines if an app can be localized in the Android OS is the number of languages the OS itself is localized into. Excluding region codes, the Android source code indicates that Google localizes Android into 46 languages. Device manufacturers will often expand that to upwards of 85 languages. Essentially, any Android device can have localizations for between 46 and approximately 85 languages.

By allowing for language switching within the Firefox for Android browser, we’re able to allow users to select from languages that are not offered on their Android device. There are about 16 volunteer Mozilla localization teams who have translated strings for the browser, but have been unable to see their localizations delivered to Firefox users through the Google Play store. Of these, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Basque, Fulah, and Armenian are on the roadmap to be shipped with the language switching feature in Firefox 32.

Q: How are these additional languages supported by the browser? Specifically, is the language data included in the original install or will data be pulled from the server if the user switches to a language not supported by Android?

A: The language data is included in a multi-locale APK delivered through the Google Play store.

Q: Are there any other localization/culture data dependencies on Android that have proved challenging when it comes to supporting non-Android languages?

A: Absolutely. The language switching piece places us in the right direction, but we’re now confronted with localization issues we haven’t had to encounter before. The benefit of shipping Android-supported languages is that you rarely have to worry about issues with character rendering, Unicode-enabled fonts, ISO locale code support, or in-app region-specific customizations. Now we need to ensure that each of these locales are thoroughly tested for these issues and determine what we can feasibly do to not only support the languages, but also ensure that memory consumption remains low and performance remains high for all users.

Q: Do you have other operating systems planned for this model? For instance, there would be an even greater disparity on iOS that Fennec will address.

A: There are no plans to expand Fennec to ship on iOS. The Flame developer reference phone allows us more freedom to experiment with languages that have never been tested on devices before (like Fulah, certain Indic languages, and indigenous languages in Mexico, for instance). All of these have active localizers and some have even already been using Firefox OS in their language unofficially on localized test / developer builds of Firefox OS.

Q: Finally, was this feature something asked for by users? Do you have any usage data that illustrates demand for a given language/locale that you are now able to support?

A: Users and our volunteer localization community were the primary drivers behind the demand for this feature. Since language coverage is a primary concern for the localization team, we are preparing to meet that demand.

To learn more…

https://blog.mozilla.org/l10n/2014/05/20/language-switching-in-fennec/