The Rise and Fall of Web Globalization

According to my search on “web globalization” in Google Timeline:


I’m not sure I agree with this graph, but those were some heady days back in 2000.

From my humble perch, I’d say web globalization is alive and well. Perhaps searches are going down because more and more people already know what it is — at least that’s how I choose to see it.

And while I’m wasting an evening on Google, here’s one of its newest features, the Wonder Wheel:


It’s nifty, though I’m not sure I would use it more than once. And what the heck is Walmart doing there?

Walmart failed in Germany and Korea and is still bleeding cash in Japan — not exactly what I would call a web globalization success story. Walmart finished in the bottom 10 of The Web Globalization Report Card.

In other Google news, I added Friend Connect to this site — up on the upper right corner. Apparently Google now offers real-time translation of comments, so I’m hoping to give it a spin.

Let me know what you think…

UPDATE: I just removed it. It was really slow in loading. Instead I inserted my Twitter feed. I just noticed that the Chinese characters that were supported just fine in Twitter didn’t make it across into my feed as Unicode. This is interesting because I have WordPress setup for Unicode. I’ll have to do some digging.

Maybe I should have titled this post The Rise and Fall of WordPress Plugins.

United Airlines doesn’t speak Arabic

I wanted to highlight a great catch made by commenter Ben to my earlier post on United’s in-flight navigation system, shown here:


If you look closely at the lower right corner of the screen, the Arabic link is not correctly displayed. I certainly wasn’t looking that closely, but Ben was.

As he noted, the characters are correct, but they’re not joined properly.

Below is what the word should look like and, below it, the characters displayed individually:


Arabic  characters exhibit different forms based on their position within a word. There are four forms, described here.

In the case of United’s in-flight entertainment screen, this is is a big mistake. How did it occur?

Clearly, a proofreader could have helped United avoid this situation altogether.

Technically speaking, it could be that the entertainment system does not support Unicode, which is the best way to go about supporting not only Arabic, but most of the world’s languages. However, the Asian fonts appear to be correctly displayed, which leads me to believe that this is not a technical issue but simply a matter of the Arabic word losing its joining properties at some point during the production process — and nobody ever noticing, until now.

Thanks Ben for the heads up!

To learn more, check out my new book The Art of the Global Gateway.

Taking Web forms global

A Japanese input Web form

Web form usability expert Luke Wroblewski provides a very handy article on the challenges of developing Web input forms that work in various countries.

Data input and output is where Web localization projects often sink or swim. And Web forms can give a global marketing director night sweats.

Luke stresses that if you can identify the user’s country before presenting the form, you’re in much better shape, because you can then provide a fully localized form. And this is why global navigation is so incredibly important to successful Web localization. If you can help your customer find his or her country Web site right from the start, everything else gets so much easier (for you and your customer).

Here’s the article.