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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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Think Outside the Country (now available in Japanese)

I received my copies of the Japanese edition of Think Outside the Country and am very impressed.

The book, like the English edition, is in full color and uses high quality paper.

The book is published by Born Digital (in collaboration with Mitsue-Links)

You can order via Amazon Japan.

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The growing language gap between travel and tourism websites

The travel industry has long been at the forefront of web globalization. Take Booking.com, with support for 41 languages, or Uber, with support for 36 languages, or KLM, with support for 32 languages.
And yet, if you wish to research destinations online, tourism websites are not nearly so globally friendly. While the leading travel websites support an average of 30 languages, the top 10 tourism websites support an average of just 12 languages.
Germany, the destination website that emerged number one overall, leads the category with support for 24 languages. But most other destination websites support far fewer, even many of the sites in the top ten list.

The Top 10 Global Tourism Websites

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Spain
  4. Paris
  5. Scotland
  6. Sydney
  7. Dubai
  8. Holland
  9. Singapore
  10. Western Australia

Language is the most evident sign of a localized website, but it is just one area in which tourism websites need improvement. The  new report Destination: Marketing carefully documents the many different types of navigation strategies used by tourism websites and provides best practices that all websites should adopt. It also takes a close look at localized content, social media, and support for mobile users (also a weak point).

I understand that the organizations that manage destination websites are not exactly flush with cash these days. Brand USA is fighting for its budget as I write this. Yet this is precisely the time to make the case for the value of multilingual destination websites.
Consider this: The travel and tourism industry is growing at a faster pace than the global economy and by 2017 is projected to account for 1 of 9 jobs on this planet. Tourism websites play an essential role in attracting travelers and more than half of these travelers do not speak English. The countries, regions and cities that do invest in a multilingual future are going to be best positioned to benefit from it.
To learn more about the report, click here.