In 2002, I began benchmarking Web sites specifically by how they were localized for other countries and cultures. This work evolved into The Web Globalization Report Card.
Flash-forward to now and I’ve just published the fifth edition of this report: The 2008 Web Globalization Report Card.
Although the title has remained the same, the content has changed quite a bit. Five years ago, a Web site that supported more than 10 languages was in rare company. Today, 10 languages is well below average.
What is the average you may wonder? This year, the average number of languages supported by the 225 sites reviewed is 20, up from 18 last year. And I’m not counting English, which was found on all of the sites.
It’s exciting to see so many companies across so many industries embracing Web globalization. And now let me introduce the top 20 Web sites overall:
- Cisco Systems
- Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
- American Express
Google emerged on top again. And, yes, I realize that Google wins every year. But there is something I want to emphasize about Google. Even if we were to ignore Google’s search engine, which supports more than 100 languages, and focus on the other Web applications, Google would still do well in our rankings.
Gmail supports 41 languages, which is more languages than most Fortune 500 companies support on their Web sites, including UPS, Oracle, and GE. Adwords and iGoogle also support 40 languages.
The bottom line is that if you want your Web site or Web application to speak to the world, it needs to speak a lot of languages. Google does that.
Cisco Systems is also worth highlighting. Even though this company did very well in the rankings last year, it didn’t rest on its laurels. Over the past year, the company added Ukrainian to its portfolio, raising its number of languages supported to 38. It also added news feeds and local-language video podcasts.
Local-language blogs and news feeds are playing a small but important role in helping companies improve their local Web sites. Deloitte and Dell have also been active in this area.
Panasonic made the top 20 list for the first time, thanks to improved global consistency (of Web design and architecture) and improved navigation. The Panasonic.com site now uses a globe icon to highlight the global gateway — a much better alternative than simply using the words “select country” and a pull-down menu.
A globe or map icon, now used by a significant number of Web sites studied, can make a noticeable improvement in helping Web users find their way to the local Web sites.
I’ll have lots more to say in the weeks ahead. For now, congratulations to the top 20 Web sites!
For more information, visit the Web Globalization Report Card page.
And you can download a PDF brochure here.