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The best global websites from the 2019 Web Globalization Report Card

A little more than 15 years ago, I began benchmarking websites for a new report I had in mind, tentatively titled the Web Globalization Report Card. The number one website in the first Report Card was a startup company by the name of Google. Its search interface supported 50 languages, in large part due to volunteer translation. But most other websites I studied back then supported fewer than 10 languages. 

We’ve come a long way. Among the leading global brands, 30 languages is just “average.” Most of the websites in the top 25 list passed 30 languages quite a while ago, such as the world’s dictionary, Wikipedia. I rely on this resource at least once a week, and many millions of others do as well. The website is austerely designed, mobile friendly, and supports more than 280 languages. And because Wikipedia reflects the investment in time and resources of its community, that language total is all the more impressive and a reminder that, when it comes to taking content and websites global, we’re only just getting started. 

Joining Wikipedia on the list of the top 25 websites are regulars such as Google, Cisco, Deloitte NIVEA, Adobe, and Philips. New to the list this year are Uber, Volvo, and Emirates.

The teams behind the websites featured in the top 25 all deserve a round of virtual applause. Because I know acutely well how difficult it can be to build the case for supporting languages  — and how one must continually battle to support usability for all users, not just those who speak the dominant languages of the executive team.

A few key findings

  • Actions speak louder than words. Despite all the talk of walls and Brexit, companies continue to expand their global reach. The average number of languages supported by the leading global brands is now 32 languages—more than double the number of languages from a decade ago.
  • There’s a good reason Google ran an ad for Google Translate during the Super Bowl.The internet may connect computers but language connects people. Google Translate supports more than 100 languagesand acts as a linguistic “front end” for many websites.
  • Uber is on a language-expansion streak. It added 11 languages over the past two years—and now supports 46 languages.
  • Volvo finished as the highest-scoring automotive website.

Congrats to everyone on the list — and stay tuned for more announcements in the weeks ahead.

The 2019 Web Globalization Report Card


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The Year of the Pig (one localized website at a time)

Lunar New Year has arrived and, with it, the Chinese New Year (and related Asian New Year celebrations).

As I’ve done a few times in the past, I thought I’d feature a few localized web pages from multinationals as they make the most of Chinese New Year.

And, as in years past, we can expect to see plenty of the color red — the color of celebration and good fortune.

Beginning with Google:

And BMW practically wall-papered its China home page in red:

Buick (which has a very positive brand in China):

Nike:

Starbucks:

Coach:

Gucci:

Hermes (and its poorly punned promotion):

Speaking of luxury brands, they have invested heavily in China, but as you’ll see in the next Web Globalization Report Card, luxury brands are laggards in web globalization best practices.

<begin PSA> And speaking of pigs, did you know that they are more intelligent than most dogs? Sadly, we slaughter millions of these very smart and compassionate creatures every day. In honor of this amazing animal, I ask everyone who eats meat (as I once did) to consider cutting back or giving it up altogether. As someone who was raised on barbecue, I never would have imagined I would be one day write these words, which is proof that you will not wither away if you give up meat. You’ll actually be quite a bit healthier. And think of the animals you will save! </end PSA>

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Forget it, Jake. It’s China.

A timely article in The Wall Street Journal (that I only recently got around to reading): “The future’s not here.” American business people once saw China as dynamic, exciting and wide open. Not anymore.

To which I ask: When was China ever “wide open?”

An excerpt:

For years, American entrepreneurs saw a place in which they would start tech businesses, build restaurant chains and manage factories, making potentially vast sums in an exciting, newly dynamic economy. Many mastered Mandarin, hired and trained thousands in China, bought houses, met their spouses and raised bilingual children.

Now disillusion has set in, fed by soaring costs, creeping taxation, tightening political control and capricious regulation that makes it ever tougher to maneuver the market and fend off new domestic competitors. All these signal to expat business owners their best days were in the past.

Let’s not blame the recent trade and tariff issues. China is a ruthlessly competitive market that, like so many countries, tilts the playing field in favor of its home-grown companies. And intellectual property is (to put it mildly) not well protected. I remember when Bill Gates traveled to China years ago to complain about the epic levels of piracy of the Windows OS (at the time, Windows was the leading operating system in China and yet Microsoft saw little in the way of revenues).

Other companies that have struggled in China include Cisco, Amazon and WalMart. And let’s not overlook the fact that Google and Facebook are still desperately trying to squeeze their way in without selling their souls (and are close to doing just that).

One thing I have been telling companies in the early stages of going global for more than a decade now — if China is your first overseas market, perhaps you should select another. Going global is difficult, no matter what country or culture you target. But add in one of the most heavily and capriciously regulated intranets (China’s Internet is in truth an intranet) and you face a very steep hill to climb. That’s not to say you shouldn’t target China, but go into it with eyes open and a long-term game plan.

And, frankly, that’s true for any market. Every new market is a new frontier — with new rules, cultures, competitors. The experience of going global can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. But it is most definitely not boring!

Speaking of… I’m now working on the next edition of the Web Globalization Report Card. Lots of exciting new developments which I will write about in the weeks and months ahead.

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Peak flag: The decline of flags on websites has begun

I’m pleased to say that, based on the websites I study regularly, we’ve reached “peak flag.” In other words, at a high level, companies are now beginning to move away from using flags on their websites within their global gateways.

This is a good thing.

On a personal level, I love flags. But from a usability perspective, flags often cause more problems than they solve.

Companies that have stopped using flags on their websites over the years include:

  • Delta Airlines
  • General Electric
  • Google
  • Marriott
  • Siemens

To name just a few.

Apple global gateway

And, yes, I’m well aware that Apple still uses flags. I do believe that Apple will drop flags as the risks far outweigh the rewards.

To learn 10 reasons why you should remove flags from your website, check out my report FLAG FREE, which is also included with the Web Globalization Report Card.