The best global automotive web site: Volkswagen

We included 12 automotive brands in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card.

And of the 12, Volkswagen emerged on top.

Volkswagen is one of the more globally consistent automotive web sites. In general, automotive sites are behind the curve in global consistency, so it was nice to see so many country sites leveraging the same global design template. Shown below are VW’s Italian and Finnish web sites:

VW Finland

Volkswagen also leads the category in global navigation, with a global gateway that is visually engaging, albeit a bit over-engineered, shown below.

Volkswagen Global Gateway

Volkswagen also began supporting geolocation within the past 18 months, which is great to see, as it helps most users bypass the global gateway altogether.

While Volkswagen is ahead of its peers, you may have noticed that there were no automotive companies in the top 25 list.

The automotive industry is generally behind the curve in web globalization. And I should note that automotive web sites generally are ahead of the curve in language support; Toyota, for example, supports 41 languages.

But languages alone do not make a great global web site. Volkswagen did not lead in languages, but it did lead in a number of other categories, making it the best automotive web site of 2010.

Here is a full list of automotive brands included in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Porsche
  • Smart
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Web Globalization 2010: How Many Languages is Enough?

Languages are a means to an end, and in web globalization, languages help you expand your global reach.

And global reach doesn’t always mean expanding beyond borders, it could also mean expanding within borders — consider Spanish for the US (a trend that continues to tick upward).

That said, any executive with global aspirations is sure to wonder at one point or another: How many languages is  enough?

It must seem that every year, the definition of “enough” inches upward.

The Web Globalization Report Card proves this to be true.

In 2003, when we began the Report Card, 10 languages was widely considered  enough for a global web site.

Today, that baseline is 20+ languages.

As you can see below, the number of languages that companies support has steadily grown over the years. In the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card — in which we tabulated the languages of 225 global web sites across 21 industries — the average was 22 languages.

I’m not suggesting that companies add languages for the sake of adding languages.

But I do suggest that companies conduct regular “audits” of their own language mix, the languages supported by the competition, and the languages supported by the ecosystem as a whole.

I’d prefer to be the first company within a given industry to support a new language than the last. Only by keeping a close eye on languages and the competition can you achieve this goal.

Consider Russian. Five years ago, fewer than 40% of the major global web sites supported this language. At that point in time, a company might not have felt any pressure to localize for Russia simply because few other companies did so. Today, seven out of 10 companies now support Russian, which means that companies that hope to do business in Russia and do not support Russian are now in the minority.

Now let’s look at three companies in more detail: NIVEA, Starbucks, and Genzyme.

Each of these companies occupies a different industry sector and yet all three continue to add languages, each at its own pace.

For more information on language trends and much more, check out the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card.

The best global web sites of 2010

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card.

Here are the top 25 web sites overall:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Cisco Systems
  4. Philips
  5. Samsung
  6. Wikipedia
  7. 3M
  8. NIVEA
  9. Symantec
  10. Lenovo
  11. Xbox
  12. Autodesk
  13. Gmail
  14. Microsoft
  15. Nokia
  16. Intel
  17. Caterpillar
  18. Panasonic
  19. HP
  20. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
  21. LG
  22. Volvo Group
  23. Hotels.com
  24. SAP
  25. Kodak

Google has emerged on top again, but just barely.
The big story this year is that Facebook and Google finished in a numerical tie. But because Google supports more languages (for now), it edged out as the winner.

Moving down the list, there are a number of familiar faces — companies like Cisco and Philips, Panasonic, and NIVEA. But there are some new faces as well. Samsung jumped up in the rankings due to improvements to global navigation and localization. Kodak, Symantec, and Autodesk are also new to the top 25.

Although these sites represent a wide range of industries, they all share a high degree of global consistency and impressive support for languages. They average 50 languages — which is more than twice the average for all 225 sites reviewed.

20+ languages is the new baseline
Even as we look across all 225 web sites, the number of languages continues to increase. Although the rate of language growth slowed over the past two years — due in large part to the global recession — growth continues. This year, the average number of languages increased to 22, up from 20 languages in 2008.

It wasn’t that long ago that any web site that supported 10 languages would have qualified as “global.” The new baseline is 20 or more languages, and climbing.

I will be posting additional findings in the days and weeks ahead. If you want to learn more, we’ve posted a brochure here.