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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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Google and Wikipedia: Partners in (multilingual) content

In 2008, Google launched a project called Knol. Remember it?

It was designed to replace Wikipedia.

Google apparently wasn’t happy that so many of its visitors were quickly abandoning it for this nonprofit wealth of information.

But Knol died a silent death in 2012 and Wikipedia is, fortunately, still very much alive and well.

In fact, Google.org just donated $2 million to Wikipedia, a relatively small but generous donation to what I believe to be one of the greatest achievements of this internet.

Google wants Wikipedia to invest more heavily in fostering more languages. Wikipedia has already been doing this with projects such as the Project Tiger for Indic languages.

In addition to the donation, Google and Wikipedia are expanding Project Tiger, an initiative to expand the content on Wikipedia into additional languages. The pilot program has already increased the amount of locally relevant content in 12 Indic languages. With the expansion, the goal is to include ten more languages.

Techcrunch

And while Google’s investment in this project sounds altruistic, Google has plans for all that new content across in all those new languages.

Google has a 109-language machine translation engine — and the way this engine improves translation quality is by devouring well-translated source and target language content. And when it comes to languages such as Luganda and Māori, Google needs a great deal more content.

That’s where Wikipedia comes in.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to see Google putting money where it belongs. I visit Wikipedia at least a dozen times a week and the internet would be a sadder place without it.

PS: Wikipedia emerged on top of the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card — and is looking very good for the next report (now underway).

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To create a world-ready mobile app, think small, as in “lite”

If you don’t know what your mobile app weighs (in kilobytes), then it’s safe to say your emerging market strategy could use some tweaking.

That’s not to be harsh, but to face the simple fact that mobile users in emerging markets (and even many developed markets) are quite sensitive to data usage. And for good reason.

Late last year I wrote a post about the Internet’s obesity crisis. A key takeaway graphic from the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card illustrates the extent to which websites have ballooned over the past decade:

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.

Instagram Lite is intended for developing markets and comes in at a 573 kilobytes, compared to the more than 80 megabytes of the iOS version. This follows the success of Facebook Lite app — also weighing in under 1MB.

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.

Learn more about the Report Card.

 

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Think you can succeed in India supporting English only? Think again.

#serveinmylanguage

It’s more than a hashtag; it’s a social movement. And it’s growing.

A movement among Indian consumers to force the vendors who depend on their business to actually support their native languages.

As this Times of India article notes: From ATMs to deposit slips, withdrawal challans and call centres, most public and private banks feel that service in Hindi and English should suffice their customer base –– Indians who converse in 22 major languages and 720 dialects.

This article is specific to the banking industry, but it’s safe to say that this is the beginning of something much bigger. Linguistically, India has been poorly served by websites.

As I noted in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, only 7% of the global websites studied support Hindi, followed by Urdu and Tamil. According to research conducted by Nielsen in 2017, 68% of Indian internet users consider local-language content to be more reliable than English. Facebook certainly understands this; Facebook supports more than half of India’s official languages. And it’s no surprise that Facebook now has more users in India than in the US.

Fortunately, some Indian banks are now becoming more multilingual. The Times of India article notes:

Private banks such as ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank are trying to be more multi-lingual in their digital banking strategy. “For instance, the Kotak Bharat app is aimed at financial inclusion. Users can transfer money, recharge their mobile, buy insurance, etc in Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil or Kannada. We plan to expand the app to handle other regional languages,” says Deepak Sharma, chief digital officer at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

And as you can see by this excerpt from my newly updated IDN poster, India represents a significant diversity of languages and scripts:

Languages are more than a means to an end; they are a sign of respect.

And companies that invest in languages are not only investing in their customers but investing in their own future.

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