If you are flying the Taiwan flag on your website, consider yourself warned.
As I’ve written many times over the past year, China is paying close attention to how multinationals refer to Taiwan on their websites, not just textually but visually. And this includes the global gateway.
But the fact is, flags are completely unnecessary in global gateways — not just the Taiwan flag but any flag. And now is a very good time to extricate flags from your website.
Flag free means frustration free.
I’ve published a new report that details the many reasons for removing flags from your website; it also includes examples of websites that have gone flag free, including Costco, Google, Sanofi and Siemens.
As readers of this blog well know, I often refer to China and Taiwan when making the case for avoiding the use of flags on a global gateway. There are many others reasons, of course, but geopolitical issues have become more acute lately.
I could also point to the Russia and Kosovo as another case study for avoiding the use fo flags. As this New York Times article notes Kosovo, despite being a FIFA member, cannot fly its flag at World Cup stadiums:
The flag — which depicts a gold map of Kosovo under six white stars on a blue background — is one of more than two dozen barred from World Cup stadiums by tournament organizers.
Here’s a visual of the flags not allowed into the stadiums:
While most countries acknowledge Kosovo and its flag, Russia does not. And because this World Cup is hosted by Russia, well, so it goes.
Which brings me back to your global gateway.
Your global gateway is a tool for helping visitors find (or change) their locale setting, not a geopolitical statement.
Mobile apps have also suffered from a serious case of progressive bloat.
Consider that 50 megabyte wireless plan will cost a Brazilian more than 30 hours of minimum-wage work to afford. And let’s suppose your mobile app weighs 80 MB, which is what Instagram comes in at on iOS. Do you really want your customers to blow through their data plans simply because you did not have a weight limit when you began creating your app for emerging markets?
It’s not uncommon for users in markets where wireless costs are expensive to switch their phones off whenever possible. And seek out free wifi networks.
And it’s also no surprise that Instagram, following in Facebook’s well-worn path of world domination, has launched a “lite” app.
Uber also now has a lite app, which is comparatively still overweight, at 3MB. The app was designed in India and, like the Facebook apps, is designed for Android.
Android is key here because it is the dominant OS of emerging markets and slower wireless networks. It’s important to stress that designing a lightweight app is step one. Equally important is helping users make the most of their limited (and often expensive) wireless connections. That’s why maps on Uber Lite are deactivated by default.
For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, website weight is one of the many metrics used when benchmarking websites. Which website comes in lightest overall? Wikipedia.
One reason for this — not just a strict focus on text and limited bells and whistles. But also no tracking codes. And no ads.
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.
I love typewriters and languages, so this book was a sure thing as my interests go.
And I learned a great deal.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway was the degree to which the Chinese language was viewed as inferior (not just outside of China but also within) simply because the many thousands of characters weren’t easily accommodated onto a Western-designed keyboard.
It’s worth noting that the Internet itself was not designed to support Chinese characters either. IDNs are, at best, a hack and probably will be for the foreseeable future.
But it’s fascinating to see how the “standard” Western typewriter evolved and how it impacted typewriter innovations for supporting Chinese. Shown here is theShu-style typewriter — a marvel to behold.
The conventional single shift keyboard that we use today was not the only keyboard available a hundred years ago. For instance, I have a typewriter that features a great many more keys (and no shift key).
Turns out that this typewriter was ideal for the Thai language, at least until the company that made this typewriter was bought out and the design laid to rest.
Progress we call it.
The author has a sequel in the works, I’m assuming it will be titled The Chinese Computer. And I can’t wait to read it.
And let’s suppose this vendor refers to Taiwan as a country and the email goes out to people in China who believe differently, and they happen to be in a position to punish you by blocking your website within China.
According to Skift it was indeed a vendor that led to this misstep. And the CEO, Arne Sorenson, has vowed to make sure it won’t happen again:
“We should have caught it, even though it was provided by a third party, and we didn’t catch it,” Sorenson said. “We moved quickly to fix that mistake and we are moving as quickly as we can to look at all of the stuff we’ve got exposed out there online to customers in China and customers around the world to make sure we are not making similar mistakes in the future.”
This is a lesson that all companies should take to heart. When you hire vendors to communicate with the world on your behalf — you have to audit their work just as closely as you would your own. Because at the end of the day it’s your brand name that will suffer.
Here we are, roughly six weeks later, and the Marriott website still appears to be blocked. Mistakes happen, but the more educated your marketing and web teams are to global and local regulatory and cultural issues, the fewer of these mistakes you will make.
I’ve found over the years that it often helps to highlight the more common mistakes that organizations have made to help other organizations sidestep them. This report is included with 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.