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.

What’s the most multilingual website?

I often point to Wikipedia as one of the most multilingual websites on the Internet.

Which is a major reason why Wikipedia finished in third place in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

But Wikipedia is not the most multilingual website.

For that, I’d have to point toward the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.

As only partially illustrated by the screen grab below, the Jehovah’s Witnesses site supports nearly 600 languages, up from 400 in 2010.

jw_gateway.700

In comparison, Wikipedia supports only 271 languages.

Google supports only 125 languages.

(It feels odd to write “only” and “125 languages” in the same sentence)

I should be clear that I’m using a liberal definition of “supporting a language.” Most of the languages supported by the Jehovah’s website are represented by very little content — about a dozen or so web pages. This is also static content — the stuff that doesn’t require monthly or even annual updates. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny that 600 languages is a notable achievement.

Here’s a sample page in Marathi:

jehova's witness global

 

I want to highlight the global gateway: The menu includes all available languages (displayed in the local languages). And, equally important, a global gateway icon is well positioned in the upper right corner of every web page, as shown below:

Jehovah's Witness global gateway

 

I prefer a globe icon as the one used here says “translation” more than global gateway.

So how does the JW.org website compare with other religion websites?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports an impressive 115 languages, up from 40 a few years ago.

And the website has made great strides in improving its global gateway. Shown below is the language menu:

LDS global gateway

 

And here is the globe icon used to highlight the gateway:

lsd_gatewaydetail2

 

The Holy See supports a mere 10 languages, which, to its credit, is an increase from five years ago.

Holy See global gateway

 

I also visited the Christian Scientist website, which has made progress over the years–up to about 20 languages.

Christian Science home page

 

I reviewed a handful of other religion websites but found nothing beyond English and Spanish.

While I doubt anyone is going to come close to challenging Jehovah’s Witnesses soon in languages, I’d love to see more competition. So if I’ve overlooked any website, please let me know.

Translators Without Borders and the Wikipedia 100-language project

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.41.38 AM

Translators Without Borders is an amazing organization of volunteer translators using their skills to make the world a better place.

One project worth noting is an ambitious effort to translate valuable Wikipedia articles into 100 languages:

The 100 x 100 Wikipedia Project envisions the translation of the 100 most widely read Wikipedia articles on health issues into 100 languages. The project is well under way – dozens of articles have been translated into a still growing number of languages.

As I’ve noted in the Report Card, even most of the world’s largest companies fail to support more than 30 languages — only a very small number support more than 40 languages. Sadly, too many executives still have the mindset that they can do business in certain markets without translating for those markets. And I mention this because the world’s largest brands function as language benchmarks for so many other companies. Currently, the benchmark for what constitutes a “global” website remains stubbornly low.

But Wikipedia is more in touch with the world’s Internet users because it reflects input from the world’s Internet users.

Which is why Wikipedia is the world’s language leader, with support for more than 270 languages.

But the content supported by these 270+ is unevenly distributed, meaning many articles do not get the translation attention they deserve.

Which is why the 100-language project is so valuable.

You can track progress and participate here.

The Top 25 Global Web Sites of 2011

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card. This year, we reviewed 250 web sites across 25 industries. The web sites represent nearly half of the Fortune 100 and nearly all of the Interbrand Global 100.

Out of these 250 sites, here are the top 25 overall:

Google, which has held the number one spot for years, was unseated by Facebook this year. Facebook’s recent innovations (multilingual social plugins, improved global gateway, multilingual user profiles) gave it the edge. (I’ve devoted a separate report to Facebook’s innovations.)

Companies like 3MCiscoPhilips, and NIVEA have become regular faces in the top 25. But there are some new faces as well. There are five companies new this year to the top 25: Volkswagen, Adobe, Shell, Skype, and DHL.

Although these 25 web sites represent a wide range of industries, they all share a high degree of global consistency and impressive support for languages. They average 58 languages — which is more than twice the average for all 250 sites reviewed.

The average number of languages supported by  all 250 web sites is 23, up from 22 last year. As the visual below illustrates, language growth over the years has been amazing. Seven years ago, I was thrilled to find a web site with more than 20 languages. Today, 20 languages is below average.

Language is just one element of web globalization, but it is the most visible element. When a company adds a language, it is making its global expansion plans known. If you want to know where your competitors are betting on growth, spend some time looking at their local web sites. More than twenty companies added four or more languages over the past 12 months.

Fast-growing languages on the Internet include Hungarian, Turkish, Indonesian, and Russian. Here is where Russian stands today — now found on nearly 8 of 10 web sites:

In the Report Card, languages account for 25% of a web site’s score. We also evaluate a web site’s depth and breadth of local content, the effectiveness of the global gateway, and overall global consistency. Beginning in 2010, we have also begun tracking how companies promote local social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter around the world. Our goal was not only to highlight the leaders in language but to identify those web sites and services that were globally “well rounded” as well as innovative.

The top 25 web sites are not perfect. The Report Card details many ways these sites could be improved (including Facebook and Google). That said, the executives who manage these web sites and services deserve a great deal of credit. As someone who has worked as both a consultant and an employee at companies such as these, I know how challenging it can be to get the funding to add languages and staff and to educate various teams on the many complexities of web globalization. While it may be the company names that appear on the top 25 list, it is the hundreds of passionate and bright people who got them there.

Congratulations!

Is Facebook “translation worthy” or just plain cheap?

I read at Design Across Cultures that Facebook is planning to use “crowdsourcing” to allow its users to create translated content.

Crowdsourcing is a hot new buzzword that is best illustrated by Wikipedia — you take a lot of motivated volunteers, give them access to your Web site, and let them go crazy. I’m simplifying things of course, and crowdsourcing is no cure-all. People sometimes game the system for various reasons. But the net result can amount to something that could never have been created without the crowd involvement.

Now, Wikipedia has next to no money and it’s a non-profit; crowdsourcing is not just a great strategy but a necessity.

And crowdsourcing can be a great way to localize your Web site.

Google relied on crowdsourcing in its early years to translate its search engine interface into more than 60 languages (and still relies on the technique in more limited ways today). Netvibes relied on volunteer translators to quickly localize its interface into more than 60 languages.

Naturally, the idea of having your Web site translated for “free” is alluring to a lot of companies. But very few companies will find that they are translation worthy. Web users will not bother to translate a Web interface if they don’t actually see a need to use the product itself in their native language.

So Is Facebook Translation Worthy?

You can’t fault Facebook for trying to get some free translation help, and I suspect that it will find plenty of volunteer translators, though it will take time. But a part of me can’t help wondering why the company hasn’t just coughed up a few dollars to get its localization efforts moving sooner rather than later. After all, doesn’t the company have a market value of, like, $100 billion?

The challenge with crowdsourcing translations is that nothing is truly free. Facebook has to dedicate people and resources to create the translation workflow and approval processes to ensure that the finished translations are of high quality. These things take time, and time also costs money.

Given the importance of acting quickly when it comes to taking social networking sites global, it seems to me that Facebook would be wise to pay for localization for some core languages and then use crowdsourcing to support the less-strategic languages. This way, Facebook could accelerate tackling those markets that are already seeing Facebook knockoffs (like the Russian knockoff shown below).

Russian facebook

Relying on volunteers to translate content is an emerging trend — one that can give a company a tremendous advantage over its competition. And I think we’ll see many more companies try this strategy in the years ahead.

But before getting started, ask yourself: Is our Web site translation worthy?

UPDATE: Techcrunch provides additional details on Facebook’s translation efforts.