Two days ago I wrote about Best Western’s Web globalization efforts.
I took the Best Western Web site to task for a relatively poor global gateway. However, it was pointed out to me this morning that I missed one of the key gateway elements. As shown below, I noticed the “Global Best Western Sites” button to the left but I did not notice the language links under the room reservation form.
I am impressed to see the links presented in the native script; this is a subtle but very important detail. Too many Web sites still use links such as “Korean” or “Japanese,” overlooking the fact that the user might actually prefer to see text in his or her language.
On a technical note: To enable the display of these scripts across all computers, the text is actually embedded within graphics. This is also a nice touch. Eventually, Web sites will use Unicode as the primary character set so any number of major languages can be displayed on one Web page, but we’re not there yet. The problem is that there are simply too many computers out there that don’t have the necessary fonts yet to displays these different character sets. Embedded text is still the best way to go in instances such as this.
Okay, now for the bad news about this gateway: It is simply not “findable” enough. I certainly overlooked it and I suspect I’m not alone. The ideal location for these links would be at the top of the Web page, preferably to the right. I call this the “sweet spot” and for good reason — more and more companies are moving their gateways to this location. Why? Because they too are learning from in-house usability studies that people tend to look at the top of the page first when searching for country or language-specific Web site links. And it’s safe to assume that as more sites adopt this location for their gateways, the more conditioned Web users will become to looking for gateways there.
That said, I’m happy to see Best Western using a gateway on their home page. The next step is to give this gateway some better real estate so more users can find it.