Nissan: The best global automotive website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 14 automotive websites:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Historically, automotive websites have been strong on languages but weak on global consistency and global navigation. And while most automotive websites continue to struggle on these fronts, I was pleased to see Nissan’s new global website design, a big reason why Nissan emerged number one for the first time.

BMW was the leader last year, with support for 41 languages and average global consistency. But Nissan’s new web design is more consistent and generally exhibits greater depth of localization. While many automakers do exhibit some degree of global consistency within a region, such as within Europe, it’s rare to see global consistency across regions. Shown below are Nissan’s Germany and Brazil home pages:

You’ll find few automotive websites that support consistency to this degree between these two distinct markets.

Nissan added a language last year and is now is tied with Honda for the lead in languages, at an impressive 46 languages. Nissan also stands apart in its support for local-language social feeds. For instance, here is an excerpt from the Spain home page:

 

When it comes to global navigation, sadly, no automotive website stands apart. Nissan, like many companies, incorrectly relies on flags. But it does do a very good job of supporting country codes.

What’s the best global website among American-based automotive companies? That would be Chevrolet. While many GB brands are, globally speaking, a mess, Chevrolet does exhibit a number of global best practices. It also does a good job of supporting Spanish for the US market:

Tesla was a new addition to the Report Card this year. And while the website does support strong global consistency, it lags in languages and in global navigation — also relying heavily on flags. Here’s the global gateway:

Hyundai finished last in our ranking this year, with low scores across the board, with the exception of global reach (languages). Note that Hyundai supports an impressive 43 languages, which goes to show that languages alone do not make for a successful global website.

Automotive companies are highly decentralized organizations with independent web teams and budgets, which often results in websites that share few design elements across country/region websites. But Nissan has taken a promising step forward, one that I believe other automakers are sure to follow.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card. It includes more than 25 pages of automotive website profiles.

Microsoft: The best global consumer technology website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, I benchmarked the following consumer-oriented technology websites:

  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Canon
  • Dell
  • HP
  • HTC
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • Microsoft
  • Nikon
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Toshiba
  • Xiaomi

Microsoft and Adobe tied this year for the top spot, with Microsoft winning out based on languages supported. Both companies, along with Nikon, made the top 25 list of best global websites. At 43 languages (not including US English), Microsoft leads this category. The web design remains globally consistent; shown below is the home page for Germany:

Microsoft is a conglomerate of loosely related brands, which presents website architecture challenges. That is, how do you support the brand while still letting visitors know that this brand is part of the Microsoft ecosystem?
The following two-level navigation architecture is a clean and lightweight solution, and one that would work well with most companies that support many different brands, while still keeping those brands unified under the parent brand. Shown below are the headers for Surface, Office, and Windows:

The Microsoft global gateway is universal, which means each country/region link is properly displayed in the native language. This gateway is modified for each brand, such as Surface, shown here:

One needed improvement: Promote the global gateway link from the footer into the header (and replace this globe icon with a more generic globe icon):

Adobe
Adobe held steady at 34 languages over the past year.  Adobe continues to support a globally consistent template that is also mobile friendly. Adobe makes excellent use of geolocation to gently alert visitors to the availability of localized websites. Shown here, a French visitor to www.adobe.com is notified that the French website is available, but is also allowed to continue on to the .com site.

This strategy is wise because it leaves users in control; after all, many visitors may indeed want to remain on the .com site, so it’s important to honor that intention.

What about Apple?
Apple made a small but significant addition to its language portfolio last year: Arabic. The website now supports 34 languages, though I believe it should support a great many more, such as Hebrew, Serbian, and Slovenian. Below is the new Arabic-language site for United Arab Emirates:

Apple tweaked its design last week but still, unfortunately, left the global gateway buried in the footer.

More unfortunate, the gateway menu continues to rely on flags.

I’ve been pushing for a number of years to convince Apple to migrate away from using flags. You can read why here. Hopefully we’ll see some movement on this soon.

To learn more about best practices in web globalization, check out the 2017 Report Card.
PS: All purchasers of the Report Card receive signed copies of Think Outside the Country, among other goodies!

IKEA: The best global retail website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, I benchmarked the following 9 retail websites:

  • H&M
  • IKEA
  • LUSH
  • McDonald’s
  • MUJI
  • Starbucks
  • UNIQLO
  • Walmart
  • Zara

For the purposes of this report, the retail segment includes only those companies that support physical retail locations within the markets they serve. While Amazon is in the early stages of rolling out retail locations, I still view Amazon as more of a web services company than a conventional retail company and is therefore benchmarked against sites such as eBay and Google. The reason for this distinction is to focus on those companies that are already physically distributed around the world and may have in-country offices supporting unique country websites.

One of the great web globalization challenges that global retail organizations face is in aligning disparate offices and cultures on shared design templates — a goal that has so far eluded companies such as McDonald’s and Walmart. IKEA emerged as number one this year, edging out Starbucks. 

IKEA added two languages over the past year, raising its language total to 34; only McDonald’s supports more languages in this category.

IKEA continues to do an excellent job of supporting global consistency and depth of localization. But IKEA made a key improvement over the past year that I want to point out.

First, a bit of backstory. IKEA was one of the first companies to use a splash global gateway and continued to use one up until last year, shown here:

In the early days of global websites, IKEA was smart to use a splash global gateway. Geolocation was not yet a proven technology, so the splash page was the ideal way to ensure that visitors from around the world to the .com domain discovered their local websites.

But times have changed and people are impatient. They don’t want to land on a splash global gateway every time they arrive at your global home page. That’s where geolocation comes in.

Fortunately, IKEA isnow uses geolocation to greet you in your locale.

Now, when someone from the US visits IKEA.com he or she sees this page:

And customers in the United Kingdom see this landing page:

IKEA’s global gateway still could use improvement (an over reliance on flags). But this move to geolocation is a big step forward in global usability and a reason why IKEA is now the retail leader.

LUSH also relies on geolocation. Shown below is the landing page that LUSH greets Japanese visitors with. Unfortunately, language support is absent.

McDonald’s is the retail language leader at 41 languages yet still lags most global websites in  consistency. Shown here are three country home pages to give you some idea of how widely designs vary.

McDonald’s could save significant resources by relying on global templates. This would benefit users as well as they would see consistent navigation and branding when they navigate between the .com website and the local websites (which is a common scenario.)

Walmart continues to lag the field in web globalization best practices. But there are small signs of progress. For instance, Walmart now uses geolocation to auto-direct users to local websites. So a web user in Brazil can enter walmart.com and be taken to the Brazil website. While I applaud the use of geolocation, the failure to include a visual global gateway in the header of every web page is dangerous because users cannot easily override the geolocated setting.

To learn more, check out the 2017 Report Card.
PS: All purchasers of the Web Globalization Report Card receive signed copies of Think Outside the Country, among other goodies!

Intel: The best global enterprise technology website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, I benchmarked the following 10 enterprise technology  websites:

  • Autodesk
  • Cisco Systems
  • HP Enterprise
  • Huawei
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Oracle
  • SAP
  • Texas Instruments
  • Xerox

Intel emerged on top for the second year in a row, followed by Cisco Systems and Autodesk.

A new entrant this year is HP Enterprise, which ranked relatively low, due in large part to limited language coverage, but is notable for a world-ready architecture and above-average global gateway.

Intel held steady over the year with support for 23 languages. Intel modified its web design to support a “fly in” navigational menu. The support section also is better integrated into the design this year.

As before, Intel does an excellent job of supporting global consistency. Shown below is the Brazil home page, which shares the same underlying template as other country sites.

The nice thing about placing the Intel logo in the middle of the design is that you don’t have to worry about the logo shifting from side to side when the layout flips for bidirectional text, such as Arabic, shown below.

Notice the globe icon in the header — easy to find and use for anyone who wishes to navigate to a different locale. This is a relatively new (and valuable) addition to the mobile site, shown here:

Cisco remains the language leader of this category with 40 languages. Cisco debuted a new web design over the past year. Shown below are the before and after designs.

The most noticeable improvement is the addition of a globe icon in the header to indicate the global gateway. This is a small but important step forward in ensuring that users more easily find where they need to go.

Oracle most recently added support for Ukrainian and Arabic, increasing its language total to 32. Meanwhile, SAP dropped two languages over the past year, lowering its language total to 35 languages.

IBM is on year two of its new web design. It remains steady with 38 languages. Unfortunately, the global gateway is buried in the footer of both the desktop and mobile websites.

HP Enterprise is a new global website born of a spinoff from HP. The web design uses a lightweight, responsive template and includes the perfect global gateway icon in the header — yes, the globe icon.

Unfortunately, I found the global gateway menu to be buggy and difficult to use — and it is demoted to the footer on the mobile website.

To learn more about these websites along with best practices and emerging trends, check out the 2017 Report Card.
PS: All purchasers of the Report Card receive signed copies of Think Outside the Country, among other goodies.

 

 

Booking.com: The best global travel website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 24 travel websites:

  • Air France
  • Airbnb
  • American Airlines
  • Avis
  • Booking.com
  • British Airways
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Enterprise
  • Expedia
  • Four Seasons
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Hotels.com
  • Hyatt
  • InterContinental Hotels
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Marriott
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Sixt
  • TripAdvisor
  • Uber
  • United Airlines

This is the third year that we’ve combined web-based travel services companies with the travel companies they represent. And while OTAs (online travel agencies) have long dominated this category, we’re seeing airlines and hotels become much more competitive in the fight for customer relationships, and not just in developed markets.

Booking.com emerging number one overall. It leads all other websites with support for 41 languages and  leverages global templates across all local websites. The mobile website is also lighter (in kilobytes) than most competitive websites giving Booking.com a potential performance advantage. Following close behind in score is Hotels.com.

The travel industry is by definition a global industry. When your customer may be located anywhere in the world and traveling to any other place in the world, you need to support not only a significant number of languages but also currencies, time zones, and mobile devices. A number of the companies in this sector have been aggressive in using geolocation and content negotiation to greet visitors with the right language, region and currency. But they also provide a great deal of flexibility. For instance, Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to change your currency using what I call the currency gateway:

But Booking.com is far from perfect. It buries its global gateway on its mobile website, which is not ideal for visitors who need to quickly change settings. Instead, I recommend including the global gateway link in the header, as shown here with Emirates:

I recommend a more generic globe icon than the one used by Emirates, but this is far better than most other mobile travel websites.

American Airlines does not use a globe icon, but does at least make its global gateway available in the header, as shown here:

I do not recommend using flags for navigational purposes and many travel websites continue to use them today. Flags do not scale well and flags convey meaning that often goes far beyond mere navigation — a reason why a number of websites intentionally leave the Taiwan flag off of the global gateway, even though it includes all others.

A number of companies have been quite busy expanding their linguistic reach; websites that added languages over the past year include:

  • Emirates
  • Hertz
  • Hilton
  • Kayak
  • KLM
  • Uber

KLM, by the way, leads all airlines with support for 28 languages. And Hilton leads all hotels with support for 23 languages (though if you include Airbnb as a hotel brand, it emerges on top).

Websites that scored on the negative end of this list include Four Seasons, Enterprise and Avis.

To learn more, check out the Web Globalization Report CardTravel and travel services is the largest sector covered by the Report Card, a section more than 50 pages long.