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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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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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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.