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.
For years, American entrepreneurs saw a place in which they would start tech businesses, build restaurant chains and manage factories, making potentially vast sums in an exciting, newly dynamic economy. Many mastered Mandarin, hired and trained thousands in China, bought houses, met their spouses and raised bilingual children.
Now disillusion has set in, fed by soaring costs, creeping taxation, tightening political control and capricious regulation that makes it ever tougher to maneuver the market and fend off new domestic competitors. All these signal to expat business owners their best days were in the past.
Let’s not blame the recent trade and tariff issues. China is a ruthlessly competitive market that, like so many countries, tilts the playing field in favor of its home-grown companies. And intellectual property is (to put it mildly) not well protected. I remember when Bill Gates traveled to China years ago to complain about the epic levels of piracy of the Windows OS (at the time, Windows was the leading operating system in China and yet Microsoft saw little in the way of revenues).
Other companies that have struggled in China include Cisco, Amazon and WalMart. And let’s not overlook the fact that Google and Facebook are still desperately trying to squeeze their way in without selling their souls (and are close to doing just that).
One thing I have been telling companies in the early stages of going global for more than a decade now — if China is your first overseas market, perhaps you should select another. Going global is difficult, no matter what country or culture you target. But add in one of the most heavily and capriciously regulated intranets (China’s Internet is in truth an intranet) and you face a very steep hill to climb. That’s not to say you shouldn’t target China, but go into it with eyes open and a long-term game plan.
And, frankly, that’s true for any market. Every new market is a new frontier — with new rules, cultures, competitors. The experience of going global can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. But it is most definitely not boring!
Speaking of… I’m now working on the next edition of the Web Globalization Report Card. Lots of exciting new developments which I will write about in the weeks and months ahead.
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:
And the previous interface:
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:
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:
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:
To name just a few.
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.