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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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A More Responsive Google Translate

Google Translate is the world’s most popular translation tool. The company says it now translates 30 trillion sentences a year across 103 languages.

The key data point here is the 103 languages. No other free translation tool comes close to this range of languages. And while the quality across the lesser-used languages is quite uneven, to put it kindly, Google Translate is still the only game in town. Which means some translation is far better, even poor quality, than none at all.

Last week, Google Translate debuted an upgraded design that is now fully responsive. Here is the new interface:

Google Translate: November 2018

And the previous interface:

Google Translate: July 2018

The functionality remains the same, but I appreciate the more prominent “detect language” selector on the text input side. Google pioneered browser-based language detection a decade ago and it is wise to call attention to this powerful feature. Many users assume that they must need to know the source language before taking advantage of Google Translate.

Also nice to see is increased default sizes of the target languages on this menu:

Target language menu

One recommendation I would make — adding a generic globe icon above this menu of languages. Perhaps the downward arrow is sufficient, but I would rather use an icon that speaks across all languages.

Now, for those of you wondering about this list of languages — as in Why are they all in English? — you ask a great question. As I note in my book and reports, you want your global gateway to be globally agnostic, so each language should be presented in its native language. But that’s the rule for a global gateway. What we have here is not a global gateway, but a localized user interface — localized into English.

If I change my web browser setting to Spanish, I will be greeted with this interface:

Spanish-language interface: Target language menu

Google Translate morphs into Google Traductor

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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.

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It’s time for your website to go flag free

If you are flying the Taiwan flag on your website, consider yourself warned.

By China.

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.

This report is included free with all purchases of the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.