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:
To name just a few.
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.
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.