The top 25 global websites from the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card

More than ten years ago I set out to create a report that benchmarked global websites.

I looked at languages supported. I studied the localized websites. I interviewed the executives who managed these sites and learned what was working and what wasn’t working.

And the end result of that work become The Web Globalization Report Card.

There was nothing else around like it. Most companies at the time supported fewer than 5 languages so many executives didn’t even see the need for such a report.

But times have changed. And here I am announcing the leading websites from the 10th edition of the Report Card:

web globalization top 25 websites

Google is no stranger to the top spot. Given the company’s focus on supporting so many languages across so many products, the company didn’t really face much competition this year.

Granted, I still think Google needs to improve its global navigation. I know the company has been working on “harmonizing” its navigation across products, but the “global gateway” remains elusive. And that’s still a work in progress.

But even with this downside, Google remains the leader.

Hotels.com and Facebook more or less held their own over the past year. But there were more interesting developments further down the list.

For example, Starbucks continues to improve its global website, adding languages and modifying its global template. And it remains a leader in local-language social engagement. Its global gateway still needs work though.

NIVEA did much better this year due in large part to its investment in image localization. Check out NIVEA’s many local websites and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s very interesting to see four travel services companies in this list: Hotels.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Kayak. These companies continue to prove that the travel services sector is among the most competitive when it comes to web and mobile globalization.

It’s also worth highlighting companies like Cisco, Philips, IKEA, and Microsoft — all of which have become regulars in the top 25 list, and for good reason.

Did you know the average number of languages supported by these 25 websites is 50? Even if we were to remove Wikipedia, which is a true language outlier (in a good way), the average would still be above 45 languages.

These companies also generally do a very good job with global gateways, support for country codes — as well as backend technologies like geolocation and language negotiation. In other words, they invest in making local content easy to find for users around the world.

They all do an excellent job of supporting consistent global design templates. This is one of the most important web globalization best practices — one that has clearly stood the test of time.

These companies invest more heavily than most companies in localization — which isn’t just about translation. There is support for local-language social platforms, localized ecommerce, customer support, and culture-specific content and promotions.

Congrats to the top 25 companies and the people within them that have long championed web and mobile globalization!

Learn more about the Report Card.

Tips and Best Practices for Targeting an APAC Audience (Part II)

Here’s my latest post for client Pitney Bowes:

Any company with global aspirations cannot afford to ignore the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. It’s a region that includes more than two billion people across more than 20 countries, ranging from Australia to Indonesia to China and Japan.

This article (the second of two) offers a few web localization tips to keep in mind.

An excerpt:

Don’t Be Colorblind
Colors carry cultural and emotional significance. And sometimes colors mean very different things depending on the culture. At a Chinese wedding, for example, the bride typically wears red, not white. This alone should underscore just how important red is in the Chinese culture.

White is more often associated with death, and some companies go so far as to avoid packaging their products in white (though Apple seems to have done quite well in spite of this perceived hurdle). One key point to keep in mind is that red is positive and green is not so positive, at least so far as the stock market is concerned.

china_stockmarket

Shown here is a daily summary of the Shanghai Composite Index. While the red text may appear ominous to a Western investor, the stock market actually finished up 12 points this day.

Here’s the full story.

And here’s Part I.

How the NSA is threatening the future of Google, Facebook, Amazon and others

NSA Prism

When I read government arguments in defense of the NSA, an oft-repeated line was:

We’re not targeting Americans. We’re targeting foreigners.

Foreigners.

I really dislike that word.

And I’m sure companies like Apple, Google and Facebook do as well.

Why?

Because 80% of Google’s customers are foreigners.

More than 50% of Microsoft’s revenue come from foreigners.

Most of Facebook’s users are foreigners.

Apple gets more than 12% of its revenues from China.

And now these foreigners are well aware that their emails and texts and Facebook posts may have been scanned by the US intelligence industry.

I was asked by a tech company recently about what factors could disrupt their current globalization plans in the years ahead.

The NSA was at the top of my list.

We now see a rush of new and established tech companies around the world to create services that are located entirely out of reach of the US government (no matter how impractical this may appear). According to this WSJ article (reg required):

Three of Germany’s largest email providers, including partly state-owned Deutsche Telekom AG teamed up to offer a new service, Email Made in Germany. The companies promise that by encrypting email through German servers and hewing to the country’s strict privacy laws, U.S. authorities won’t easily be able to pry inside. More than a hundred thousand Germans have flocked to the service since it was rolled out in August.

So what does the COO of Facebook have to say about this?

“We should all be nervous when countries impose costly new requirements on companies as a condition of serving their citizens,” says Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. “It means fragmenting the Internet and putting the economic and social opportunities it creates at risk.”

The companies that are most nervous are the large established players, like, um, Facebook.

For start-ups around the world, this news is actually good news. From the same article:

For small German companies competing against big ones—like online-security company Symantec Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. which provides corporate cloud services—the NSA surveillance program “is a present from heaven,” says Oliver Dehning, chief executive of antispameuropeGmbH, which builds spam-protection software. “It’s kind of an opportunity to strike back and protect our home market.”

The fact is, the Balkanization of the Internet is not a new trend, but the NSA (no thanks to Snowden) accelerated it.

Do foreigners care about their email being scanned?

If the Germans are a leading indicator, perhaps so.

Though this article would indicate that Europeans largely are not concerned about the goings on of the security agencies. After all, it wasn’t just the US government at work here; there were other governments involved.

But I think the threat to US-based tech companies is real (perception, after all, is reality). I think the impact will be felt years from now, when there are new and competitive service providers taking a distinctly local approach to their offerings. This is where global service providers get uneasy. It’s difficult to compete with a “local by design” business when you are a “global by design.”

The sad part about all of this is that China — the poster child of Internet privacy violators — suddenly doesn’t look all that bad.

UPDATE: US tech leaders visited Washington, again, and warned of the Balkanization of the Internet.

 

When localizing social content for China, think beyond Facebook and Twitter

So your company is successful on Facebook. And Twitter.

And now you want to expand your social reach into China.

Well, you can pretty much forget Facebook and Twitter, because these services are blocked.

Instead, you’ll need to focus on networks like RenRen, Sina Weibo, and QQ.

If you find this a tad bit intimidating, you’re not alone.

Which is why I was intrigued to come across a company that offers a simple but compelling service for companies wishing to expand their social footprints into China.

I’ll let the visual they provide sum up their service:

KAWO social

The company is KAWO and founder Andrew Collins recently answered a few of my questions…

Q: What social networks do you localize social feeds for in China?

KAWO allows brands to translate and localize their existing social media content from their Facebook and Twitter accounts to their Chinese social media counterparts, RenRen, WeChat, and Sina Weibo, giving brands digital access to over 500 million people where these key Western social media platforms are blocked.

Q: Roughly how long does it take for your localizers to translate a newly created social update in English across to the local feeds?

Although posts can be posted as quickly as 10 minutes, we give brands a 30 minute allowance to manage their posts in case they want to change something. Brands can also directly post on the KAWO dashboard to expedite the process. KAWO has several layers of protection to ensure that all content is in line with the local environment, but this allowance lets brands to have more control over their content.

Q: I’m assuming you work from English to Chinese, but do you also support other source languages?

Currently, we only support English to Chinese (simplified), but we have plans to roll out French, Spanish and German by 2014.

Q: Are all your clients organizations and companies without a local marketing team?

Some do, but almost all of our clients do not have a local on-the-ground team in China.

Q: And if not, why would a company with a local team work with you?

Aside from offering a range of packages that allow brands of all sizes and budgets dip their toes into the China market, we offer an unrivaled level of transparency, control, and protection. KAWO’s dashboard lets brands monitor activity on their accounts as everything is tracked, as well as control content- brands can directly post or take down content. KAWO’s dashboard also streamlines the process by having a central location where content from Facebook and Twitter posts are aggregated and broadcasted on multiple Chinese networks at the same time. KAWO’s multi-layered protection, consisting of both our proprietary technology and human moderation, ensures that potentially harmful words, phrases, and pictures won’t go unnoticed.

Q: I realize your service is quite new but are there any success stories or positive anecdotes you can share?

Table tennis is the largest spectator sport in China, but the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) had almost no presence on Chinese social media. Their Facebook page had great content, but as that is banned in China, it is obviously more difficult for Chinese fans to connect to them. We pulled that content in, translated, localized, and published it, and now ITTF has over 15,000 fans in just two months. Additionally, the Sina Weibo and TenCent accounts for Liverpool FC are already at over 1.5 million fans. In such a short amount of time, companies are definitely getting more bang for their buck.

Q: How much does your service cost?

We offer a range of packages, starting from $199 going to $2995, depending on a company’s needs. Our ‘Lite’ package is perfect for small businesses looking to just dip their toes into the China market and get a feel for the environment. Our most recommended package, ‘Pro,’ is a little more comprehensive: with a ‘Pro’ account, brands, universities, destinations, and personalities can sync their Facebook and Twitter accounts to China’s three top social networks (Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, and RenRen) and get detailed demographic and competitor analysis. Finally, our ‘Enterprise’ package is the most extensive package. Clients with an ‘Enterprise’ package, ideal for clubs, teams, and large brands, not only have everything detailed in the ‘Pro’ account, but also full marketing support from our team- a dedicated account manager to help with campaigns, contests, and more.

Q: Do your localizers interact with locals in addition to just translating content? And how is this managed so the brand is well served? Also, what if there are customer service questions that need to be handled by corporate?

Our moderators are all local recruits, who are then trained to Internet and social media best practices. Since they know the local environment as well as international best practices for brands, they can gauge what posts are appropriate for China. Additionally, our team, comprised of both local and foreign employees, works closely together to make sure our customers’ needs are met. Our different packages offers varying levels of service as well- our enterprise account, for example, offers a higher level of customer interaction than our light package.

Q: If companies were to pick just one social network to embrace in China, what would you recommend and why?

The digital landscape is very dynamic in China, but Sina Weibo has consistently demonstrated its dominance for the past 2 years, and with its new partnership with e-commerce giant, Alibaba, there are going to be a lot more commercial opportunities for companies.

Q: Finally, can you tell us the significance of your name?

Kicking Asia Wide Open!

www.kawo.com

LinkedIn now uses a globe as language icon

LInkedIn logo

And here it is:

LinkedIn language icon

I think it works.

I realize some UI experts won’t agree with me on this.

I’ve been told many times over the years that the globe icon is insufficient for indicating language. That the globe represents geography or travel or “select country” — but not “select language.”

And while I agree that the globe icon may not be the best icon to indicate language, it works just fine.

Most people seem to understand its meaning. They see a globe and they know it means something like country and/or language. And given that some websites are organized by country/region and others (like LinkedIn) by language, the globe icon casts a wide symbolic net.

The globe is simply the best available language icon.

I’ve yet to come across any more effective icon. Believe me, people have tried.

One drawback of the globe icon is how overused it is by a number of websites and software.

I’m talking about you, Facebook.

Facebook curiously uses the globe icon for notifications:

facebook notifications

I proposed two visual alternatives to the globe icon awhile back.  But Facebook appears perfectly content with the globe icon as it is.

And just to be clear that Facebook isn’t re-using the globe icon for language or locale settings I dug into the account settings menu. There is no icon used:

facebook acount settings

Getting back to LinkedIn, I would change the “Change” text to the name of the currently selected language.

But I’m glad to see LinkedIn embrace the globe icon for this purpose.

Warts and all, the globe icon is the best icon we have for communicating “select language.”