Designing for new internet users

The author William Gibson is widely attributed with the quote: The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.

This line popped into my head when I watched an insightful presentation by Rahul Goradia, a Microsoft designer, about designing for the world’s next billion Internet users. The Internet may be here already but, for billions of people, it is far from evenly distributed. Too many Western companies develop websites and apps for users that they assume largely speak English and have ready access to high-speed networks and full-featured computing devices.

To illustrate, here’s a chart from the most recent Web Globalization Report Card featuring the native languages spoken by the world’s 5 billion Internet users:

Fewer than 20% of the world’s internet users are native-English speakers. To reach more than 80% of all internet users, you’re going to need to support quite a few languages.

Also note that this graph represents the 5 billion people online — meaning nearly 3 billion people are not yet online. Those who do come only over the next ten years for the first time will not be native-English speakers and they will mostly come online via mobile devices.

Rahul Goradia’s three main tips can be best summarized with this slide:

And now here is the full presentation — definitely worth watching…