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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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Global gateway fail: Slack

Although Slack is not (yet) included in the Web Globalization Report Card, I wanted to point out something that I hope Slack fixes before it gets too far along on its global journey.

Shown below, Slack locates its global gateway in the footer of its website, which is a poor place to locate it.

But the bigger issue are those flags.

Flags in global gateways are never a good idea. And, in this case, placing a flag next to a language name effectively restricts the reach of that language. For instance, should a Spanish speaker in Argentina feel comfortable clicking on the Español link?

Perhaps this degree of restriction is by design.

But even if it is, I’d recommend replacing flags with country/region names. Like Microsoft:

China compliance is one reason (of many) why flags can be problematic. Something I will be writing about in the next edition of the Report Card.

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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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What do the colors of your flag mean?

Flag Stories image

Wondering what the colors of a flag actually represent?

Flag Stories includes an impressive collection, dissection and compilation of the world’s flags into a range of infographics. For instance, you’ll get a see a visual compilation of the elements shared by the world’s flags, as well as common colors. This site underscores what I’ve been saying for quite some time — that global gateway menus that rely on flags do not improve usability because so many flags appear similar to one another.

You’ll also learn what the colors themselves symbolize: