Apple adds geolocation to improve its global gateway strategy

Apple has redesigned its website many times over the past decade but one thing has remained largely unchanged — its global gateway strategy.

Here’s a screen shot of the global gateway menu from back in 2010:

And here it is today:

But over the past few days Apple did something I’ve been waiting for them to do for some time — begin using geolocation.

Here’s how it works…

If you’re in the US and you try visiting the home page of, say, Apple France, at www.apple.fr, you see this message above the top menu:

The message gives you a shortcut back to the US (.com) website.

And if you’re in Japan and you visit www.apple.com, you see this message:

In this case, the user can go to the Japan home page with one click.

This is a step forward for Apple and I’m happy to see it.

But there are still flaws with the execution which could use improvement.

Beginning with the flags.

I don’t know why Apple clings to flags with such passion. I do believe Apple will drop flags eventually and I’m hoping the move towards geolocation portends bigger and better changes to come. Flags are completely unnecessary for this geo-header to be effective. Also, if you wish to select a different locale you will be bumped back to the array of flags on the global gateway menu. As a general rule, flags should not be used for navigational purposes.

Now let’s examine the message itself: Choose another country to see content specific to your location and shop online. 

The first issue is the absence of “or region” in this sentence. The intention here is not to be verbose but to help Apple avoid any geopolitical issues, particularly given the recent issues that American multinationals have been having with China. Better yet, perhaps the text can be rewritten so “or region” isn’t even necessary. How about asking if the visitor would like to visit a more local website.

Finally, the mixture of pull-down menu with the “Continue” button is a bit cumbersome. Since the pull-down menu lists only two options I’m confident there is a better UI that would save the visitor a click.

Issues aside, I am happy to see Apple moving ahead with geolocation. I can imagine this was not an easy decision. After all, Apple is very sensitive to user privacy and this type of implementation will naturally lead some visitors to wonder how Apple knows where they are. But this is not an invasion of privacy; this is a step towards providing a better experience.

I also believe this change is a sign of a larger shift in website strategy, a more decentralized model, which I will be talking about later this year.

PS:  To learn more about global gateway best practices, check out the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card and The Art of the Global Gateway.

 

The top 25 websites from the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.

First, here are the top-scoring websites from the report:

For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google was unseated this year by Wikipedia. Wikipedia, with support for an amazing 298 languages, made a positive improvement to global navigation over the past year that pushed it into the top spot. And Wikipedia, due to the fact that it is completely user-supported, indicates that there is great demand for languages on the Internet — and very few companies have yet responded in kind.

Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, as could Facebook.

Other highlights from the top 25 list include:

  • Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
  • As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of more than 80 languages (up from 54 last year); but note that we added a few websites that made a big impact on that average.
  • Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
  • The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 32.

The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t.  

I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.

Congratulations to the top 25 companies and to the people within these companies who have long championed web globalization.

The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

When looking at Asia, look beyond China, Japan and South Korea…

Historically, when a Western company planned its Asian expansion strategy, it primarily focused on three markets (or fewer):  China, Japan and South Korea.

Today, any company with eyes on Asian expansion should not limit itself to these three markets. There are many opportunities in the emerging ASEAN countries.

ASEAN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and it represents 10 member states that reflect a diverse range of fast-growing and multilingual markets. The member states are illustrated by country codes below. I’ve included full list of country names at the end of this post; see if you can guess them by country code alone…

 

Nielsen recently published a report, Rethinking ASEAN, noting:

…that ASEAN’s middleweight regions with population between 500,000 to five million are the region’s next big bet for growth, debunking the commonly held belief that mega-cities such as Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok are the region’s sole engine for growth.

I’m excerpting an interesting graphic they produced that illustrates a few key data points, namely that smaller markets (and regions within these markets) are experiencing faster rates of growth than we’re seeing in much larger markets. In other words, it’s not a bad idea to look beyond the largest markets (and cities) when planning your Asian expansion strategy.

From a web localization perspective, I’ve seen significant investments in a number of these countries over the past few years. According to the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, here are three emerging Asian languages among the leading global brands. Thai is now seen on more than half of all leading global brand websites.

These is still plenty of room for growth. Languages such as Malaysian and Filipino are still not supported by most global companies. But it’s safe to say that this will change in the years ahead.

And now let’s see how you did on aligning country codes with country names…

 

ASEAN  members:

  • .BN: Brunei Darussalam
  • .KH: Cambodia
  • .ID: Indonesia
  • .LA: Laos
  • .MY: Malaysia
  • .MM: Myanmar
  • .PH: Philippines
  • .SG: Singapore
  • .TH: Thailand
  • .VN: Viet Nam