Internationalization resources complements of the W3C

Successful website globalization is all about asking questions.

A key point I stress in Think Outside the Country is that nobody knows everything. Nobody can know everything. And you should not trust anyone who says or implies they do. And, honestly, that’s part of the fun of this field — from language to culture to country to technology, you will never stop learning something new.

So where do I go when I have questions?

Well, if the questions are technical and specific to the Internet, I often begin by visiting the World Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, specifically the Internationalization Working Group. Richard Ishida, who leads this group, has done an impressive job over the years of curating and publishing tutorials, best practices and standards.

So where do you begin if you want to learn more?

Here are a few resources that I recommend checking out…

Working with Languages in HTML

A nice overview of language tags and why they matter.

Personal Names Around the World

An excellent explanation for why “first name” and “last name” in an input form is bound to fail when taken global.

Introduction to Multilingual Web Addresses

A nice intro to internationalized domain names (IDNs), punycode, and other challenging aspects of getting non-Latin domains to work on the Internet.

Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm Basics

A dense read but  important if you want to understand how web browsers handle bidi scripts such as Hebrew and Arabic.

CSS3 and International Text

A look at the cool new multilingual features of CSS.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dive in!

 

 

Country codes of the world. XL.

For quite some time people have asked me about creating a larger version of our Country Codes of the World map, something they could pin up in their conference rooms or on office walls.

And a map without the legend, so that people could figure out on their own which ccTLDs stood for which country or region.

Now I’m pleased to offer just that — a whopping 4 foot by 3 foot black and white poster printed on lightweight paper.

Shown below is an excerpt of this map featuring our resident model Harlan. He’s a big cat and, despite his best efforts, even he can’t cover up all of the Americas.

To learn more and purchase, click here.

Feline not included.

Welcome to the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland

When I read about Swaziland’s recent name change, by decree, my first thought was: What about the country code?

As in .sz?

As far as I can tell, it’s way too soon to know if the president has thought this far ahead. My guess is that things will stay the same for quite some time.

But country codes do change and will continue to change. And as I noted earlier, internationalized domain names also continue to evolve, as you can see here.

A unique look at the emerging multilingual Internet

I’m happy to announce that I’ve updated my map of the world’s internationalized domain names for 2018:

The map includes all ICANN-approved country code IDNs for the world — more than 50 across more than 30 countries and regions.

I’ve also included a sidebar that details the many scripts and languages now supported within India. You can learn more and purchase here.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

I also design customized versions of this map as well as the Country Codes of the World map. These designs cover entire walls in offices in the US and Europe. I’m also beginning work on site-specific installations using mixed media. If you have any questions, please contact me.

BMW: The best global automotive website of 2018

For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 16 automotive websites:

  1. Audi
  2. BMW
  3. Chevrolet
  4. Ford
  5. Honda
  6. Hyundai
  7. Land Rover
  8. Lexus
  9. Mercedes
  10. Mini
  11. Nissan
  12. Subaru
  13. Tesla
  14. Toyota
  15. Volkswagen
  16. Volvo Cars

This year, BMW unseated Nissan, reclaiming the top spot. Both BMW and Nissan made the 25 list of best global websites.

BMW deserves credit for an increased focus on local-language social content — as well as the promotion of this content on its local websites. It also made slight improvements to its global template over the past year.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • The automotive sector has long been a leader in languages. The average number of languages supported by these 16 websites is an impressive 41 languages.
  • Mercedes most recently added two new local websites (and languages) raising its language total to 44. The company has been slowly (perhaps too slowly) rolling out a responsive design.
  • When it comes to global navigation, no automotive website stands apart. Too many automotive websites either bury the global gateway in the footer or overlook it entirely. Technologies like geolocation and content negotiation are not utilized to the degree that they could be to improve the user experience. 
  • What’s the best global website among American-based automotive companies? That would be Chevrolet. Among other best practices, Chevy does a good job of supporting Spanish for the US market. Note the bilingual toggle for US Spanish and English speakers:

  • Subaru was a new addition to the Report Card this year. With support for 39 languages, it holds its own with the other global auto brands.
  • Ford made a notable improvement to its global navigation over the past year. As shown below, the website added a globe icon in the header:

Currently, this gateway only allows toggling between Spanish and English (similar to other automotive websites). Ultimately, we believe its function will expand to enable better global navigation.

  • Automotive companies still have a long ways to go in improving global consistency and navigation. They decentralized structures have historically prevented them from working globally in this regard. And it’s easy to see how fragmented a site from Toyota or Chevrolet appears when compared with Tesla. Granted, Tesla supports a fraction of the number of models, but the architecture of the Tesla website ensures that it can scale better than the legacy sites of other automotive companies.
  • That said, even Tesla could improve its global navigation. Its gateway link is buried in the footer:

Tesla relies too heavily on flags for navigation. I believe it’s just a matter of time before this strategy shifts.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

If you’d like a report that includes only the automative benchmark profiles, you can purchase the Automotive Websites edition.

Amazon Translate joins the machine translation crowd

Amazon announced earlier this week that it had made its home-grown Amazon Translate service generally available.

Like other Amazon Web Services (AWS), you can leverage the service across websites, apps, as well as text to speech. I should stress that this is a “neural” machine translation service — which has proven surprisingly effective at getting more natural sounding over time. Google and others are also investing heavily in neural MT.

And you can give it a free test drive; according to AWS, the “first The first 2 million characters in each monthly cycle will be free for the first 12 months starting the day you first use the service.”

The major limitation right now languages:  It supports English into just six languages, which feels rather retro compared to MT services from SDL and Google. Google Translate, by comparison, is 12 years old and supports 100+ languages (of varying degrees of quality).

And more languages are coming. I can’t comment on the quality of the translation but would love to hear what others have experienced so far.

As I’ve noted in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, machine translation continues to gain fans among global brands — not just internally but externally. That is, visitors to websites can self-translate content themselves — a feature I have long recommended for a number of reasons.

So it’s great to see another machine translation service available at scale for organizations of all sizes.

PS: Interesting to see a recommendation from Lionbridge on the home page — a happy Amazon Translate client.