You say Sea of Japan. I say East Sea.

Who said the life of a map maker isn’t interesting?

Every other day it seems there is another disputed territory, which usually means another disputed name.

I’ve already mentioned the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas issue.

On the other side of the planet there is a dispute brewing over the Sea of Japan.

South Korea maintains that the body of water should be known as the East Sea.

Japan disagrees.

Now I’m not going to wade into these murky waters by picking a side.

But if you’re a map maker, you’ve got a tough decision to make, unless you wisely decide to take a more neutral approach.

Here is how Google handles the issue currently:

Google Sea of Japan East Sea

And this from Bing:

Bing Sea of Japan East Sea

Of the two approaches, Microsoft appears more tactful. I’m not sure Google’s approach is as pleasing to South Koreans.

And there is a takeaway from this issue that every global executive should always keep in mind — maps often convey cultural and geopolitical biases. Use caution when you use maps on websites and in promotional campaigns.

 

Five tips for successful, global web surveys

It seems like everyone is running a web survey these days.

While I appreciate the importance of asking your website visitors what they think, too many of these surveys are poorly implemented.

So here are five tips to consider before launching your web survey…

1. Make it worth my while

I used to love to participate in focus groups. But I didn’t do it just to be nice (and get a sneak peak at new products). The focus groups paid me for my time.

On the Internet, most web surveys offer little (or nothing) in exchange for my time.

Consider this plea from Twitter, which attempts to coax you with cuteness into participating:

Twitter survey

Facebook doesn’t even try to be cute. But, like Twitter, nothing in exchange for my time:

Facebook survey

Why, Facebook?

Why should I give you 3-4 minutes of my time? (Or, to be honest, an additional 3-4 minutes of my time.)

I’m not suggesting you must pay people to get them to participate. But offer them something. A chance to win a gift certificate or free product is always a nice incentive.

Some surveys will tell me they want my feedback to help them improve my user experience. This isn’t much, but it’s something. And it displays an understanding that my time has value and that the company appreciates it. The New York Times does  that:

New York Times web survey

And how about offering to share the results of your survey with your respondents? This too would be something of value that many of your respondents might appreciate. I certainly would.

2. Speak my language

During the production of The Web Globalization Report Card, I visited a few hundred websites. Roughly 35% of these websites featured a web survey, though only a small fraction of these websites offered surveys in the local user’s language. For example, as shown below, a visitor to the Texas Instruments Russia website encounters a pop-up survey in English.

Texas instruments survey in Russia

Perhaps the company was targeting English-speaking web users in Russia, though I doubt it. Most companies simply overlook non-English speaking markets when they launch “global” web surveys.

Fortunately a few companies do invest in localizing their web surveys.Best Buy localized its survey for its Spanish-language website, shown here:

Best Buy Survey in Spanish

So the lesson here is simple: If you’re planning a global web survey, invest in making it truly global.

And keep in mind that localizing a survey is not simply a matter of translation. Questions may need to be completely rewritten, added or deleted.

3. Be brief

The following survey, which I encountered last year, is so text-heavy and complex that I  wonder who actually bothers to participate.

Gillette survey

And how valuable is the feedback from someone who has the spare time to navigate such a survey request, let alone the survey?

4. Don’t block navigation

As you can see below, a web survey overlay on the Siemens website blocks my ability to select a country website.

Now let’s suppose I don’t speak English and I just want to get to my country website.

Siemens web survey

Clearly, overlays are designed to not be ignored. But consideration should be given to web users who may not speak the language of the global home page.

These people are simply trying to move along to their localized websites and web surveys can be very disruptive.

5. Don’t be creepy

Microsoft web survey

I think surveys that interrupt you with a pop-up when you first visit and then promise to interrupt you again when you leave the website are a bit creepy.

Most people don’t like the idea of being watched online and this feels like that — like someone hovering too close while you use the ATM machine.

And how about this one from LG:

LG web survey

This message implies that LG somehow knows how to get in touch with me via email or text.

I realize this isn’t the case but I’m not sure all web users will know this.

Bonus Tip: Test your survey on friends and family

Too often we launch surveys and promotions without asking a few simple questions:

  • Would my mom or dad bother to take this survey?
  • Would my significant other?
  • Would my child?
  • Would I take the time to complete it?

It doesn’t matter if these people aren’t your “target” web users. Because everyone’s a web user these days. Everyone’s busy. And everyone is encountering web surveys.

If the answers to these questions are NO, then find out how to get them to YES. Often this process alone will help you address many of the points mentioned above.

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Outlook now supports 32 country codes

Speaking of country codes, I’ve been meaning to mention this.

Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) now offers users an impressive range of country code domains.

Here’s the full list of supported country codes.

Outlook country codes list

It appears that Microsoft is using geolocation to enforce that you have to be based in a given region to register its country code.

So I won’t be able to easily register, say, Outlook.my.

 

 

The top 25 global websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card

Top 25 global websites of 2013

I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.

Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.

Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.

Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.

New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.

As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.

The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.

I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.

And if you have any questions at all, just ask.

 

Microsoft’s new web design — the bad and the good

Saw on Daring Fireball that Microsoft is previewing its new global website (link).

Naturally, I wondered “Where the heck did the global gateway go?”

It used to be in the header. But no more.

The global gateway has been demoted to the footer. This is the bad.

But there is a saving grace — Microsoft is now using a globe icon to highlight the gateway. This is the good.

Also good, it’s a nice clean design.

I’ll have more to say once the site goes live, officially.