I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.
First, here are the top-scoring websites from the report:
For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google was unseated this year by Wikipedia. Wikipedia, with support for an amazing 298 languages, made a positive improvement to global navigation over the past year that pushed it into the top spot. And Wikipedia, due to the fact that it is completely user-supported, indicates that there is great demand for languages on the Internet — and very few companies have yet responded in kind.
Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, as could Facebook.
Other highlights from the top 25 list include:
Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of more than 80 languages (up from 54 last year); but note that we added a few websites that made a big impact on that average.
Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 32.
The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t.
I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.
Congratulations to the top 25 companies and to the people within these companies who have long championed web globalization.
Microsoft and Adobe tied this year for the top spot, with Microsoft winning out based on languages supported. Both companies, along with Nikon, made the top 25 list of best global websites. At 43 languages (not including US English), Microsoft leads this category. The web design remains globally consistent; shown below is the home page for Germany:
Microsoft is a conglomerate of loosely related brands, which presents website architecture challenges. That is, how do you support the brand while still letting visitors know that this brand is part of the Microsoft ecosystem?
The following two-level navigation architecture is a clean and lightweight solution, and one that would work well with most companies that support many different brands, while still keeping those brands unified under the parent brand. Shown below are the headers for Surface, Office, and Windows:
The Microsoft global gateway is universal, which means each country/region link is properly displayed in the native language. This gateway is modified for each brand, such as Surface, shown here:
One needed improvement: Promote the global gateway link from the footer into the header (and replace this globe icon with a more generic globe icon):
Adobe held steady at 34 languages over the past year. Adobe continues to support a globally consistent template that is also mobile friendly. Adobe makes excellent use of geolocation to gently alert visitors to the availability of localized websites. Shown here, a French visitor to www.adobe.com is notified that the French website is available, but is also allowed to continue on to the .com site.
This strategy is wise because it leaves users in control; after all, many visitors may indeed want to remain on the .com site, so it’s important to honor that intention.
What about Apple?
Apple made a small but significant addition to its language portfolio last year: Arabic. The website now supports 34 languages, though I believe it should support a great many more, such as Hebrew, Serbian, and Slovenian. Below is the new Arabic-language site for United Arab Emirates:
Apple tweaked its design last week but still, unfortunately, left the global gateway buried in the footer.
More unfortunate, the gateway menu continues to rely on flags.
I’ve been pushing for a number of years to convince Apple to migrate away from using flags. You can read why here. Hopefully we’ll see some movement on this soon.
To learn more about best practices in web globalization, check out the 2017 Report Card.
I remember when Google Translate went live. Hard to believe it was 10 years ago.
I remember thinking that this relatively new technology, known as Statistical Machine Translation (SMT), was going to change everything.
At the time, many within the translation community were dismissive of Google Translate. Some viewed it as a passing phase. Very few people said that machine translation would ever amount to much more than a novelty.
But I wasn’t convinced that this was a novelty. As I wrote in 2007 I believed that the technologists were taking over the translation industry:
SMT is not by itself going to disrupt the translation industry. But SMT, along with early adopter clients (by way of the Translation Automation Users Society), and the efforts of Google, are likely to change this industry in ways we can’t fully grasp right now.
Here’s a screen grab of Google Translate from 2006, back when Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic were still in BETA:
Growth in languages came in spurts, but roughly at a pace of 10 languages per year.
Most common translations are between English and Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian
Brazilians are the heaviest users of Google Translate
3.5 million people have made 90 million contributions through the Google Translate Community
The success of Google Translate illustrates that we will readily accept poor to average translations versus no translations at all.
To be clear, I’m not advocating that companies use machine translation exclusively. Machine translation can go from utilitarian to ugly when it comes to asking someone to purchase something. If anything, machine translation has shown to millions of people just how valuable professional translators truly are.
But professional translators simply cannot translate 100 billion words per day.
Many large companies now use machine translation, some translating several billion words per month.
Companies like Intel, Microsoft, Autodesk, and Adobe now offer consumer-facing machine translation engines. Many other companies are certain to follow.
Google’s investment in languages and machine translation has been a key ingredient to its consistent position as the best global website according to the annual Report Card.
Google Translate has taken translation “to the people.” It has opened doors and eyes and raised language expectations around the world.
The consumer technology sector includes many of the most globally successful companies. So it’s no surprise that the top four companies are also in the top 25 list: Adobe, Microsoft, Samsung and Nikon.
Adobe emerged on top even though it is not the language leader; Microsoft leads with 43 languages.
But Adobe leads in global navigation and consistency. Shown below is the Japanese home page, which shares the same global template with most other country websites:
In the footer is the global gateway link, as indicated by the map icon. I recommend upgrading this icon into the header to improve findability. I also recommend using a generic globe icon.
Clicking on the map icon brings up an effective global gateway menu overlay. Notice how the country/region names are in the local languages. I call this a “universal” global gateway because it can be used across all localized websites (instead of supporting a separate menu for each local website):
Adobe also makes good use of geolocation to help determine which localized website users prefer. For example, if a user in Ecuador inputs Adobe.com, he or she is taken to the .com English-language website but presented with this overlay that lets the user know there is also a Spanish-language site available.
This way, users remain in control but also made aware of localized websites. To learn more about geolocation strategies, check out Geolocation for Global Success.
Adobe also one of a growing number of companies that make use of user-facing machine translation to allows users to self-translate content. Here is a screen shot from the user forums. While the execution could be more user friendly, the feature itself is something more companies should be supporting (and many are currently testing):
On a separate note, I wanted to highlight the mobile home page for Nikon.
Notice the globe icon in the header. Nikon is one of the few consumer tech websites to include a global gateway link in the header of its mobile website.
It’s hard to believe that this is the twelfth edition of the Report Card. Over the past decade I’ve seen the average number of languages supported by global brands increase from just 10 languages to 30 languages today.
And, of course, the top 25 websites go well beyond 30 language. Google supports 90 languages via Google Translate and 75 languages on YouTube. And Facebook stands at 88 languages.
But it’s not just languages that make a website succeed globally. Companies need to support fast-loading mobile websites, locally relevant content, and user-friendly navigation.
Notable highlights among the top 25:
Wikipedia is far and away the language leader, with content in more than 270 languages. The company also now supports a mobile-friendly layout that is considerably lighter (in kilobytes) than most Fortune 100 mobile websites.
NIVEA provides an excellent example of a company that localizes its models for local websites — one of the few companies to do so.
Nike made this top 25 list for the first time, having added languages and improved global consistency and navigation.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 52 languages.
For 2016, we studied 150 websites across 15 industry categories — and more than 80% of the Interbrand Best Global Brands. Websites were graded according to languages supported, global navigation, global and mobile website architecture, and localization.
I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.
Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.
Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.
Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.
New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.
The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.
I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.
Facebook has demonstrated that you can crowdsource translations with high quality and rapid turnaround, leading many other companies to ask how they too can leverage the crowd to translate their content.
Adobe has recently begun leveraging Lingotek’s software platform to enable the crowdsourcing of translations within China. As of now, there are 40 volunteer translators in China translating documentation.
Keeping in mind that this is a new and ongoing effort, I recently conducted a Q&A with Lingotek’s CEO Rob Vandenberg.
Here is the interview:
Q: What incentives did Adobe use to get Chinese users interested in translating content?
Adobe takes a very user-centric approach to volunteer translation. Instead of asking users to translate certain material, Adobe provides the content and tools for users to translate what they are interested in. They went to their user groups, and offered community translation as an opportunity. This allowed them to find people who were already interested in translating – whether because they are a reseller of the software, they want to put Adobe’s name on their résumé, or they are end-users who just want Adobe content in their language.
Q: Does the Lingotek platform stand alone or is it integrated into existing Adobe translation systems?
We have worked with Adobe to provide a number of integration points, including:
Providing an API to allow community members to upload documents from an Adobe Flex application.
Providing a version of our leaderboard that could be placed on the Adobe Groups site, as well as an API to get leaderboard data.
Providing a version of our signup page that could be placed on the Adobe Groups site.
Q: How is quality managed with regard to the volunteers. Even Facebook relies on a vendor to ensure quality.
The primary means of producing quality translations in the Adobe communities is to limit who is allowed to participate. Adobe selects project managers who they can trust, and these people are in charge of determining which translators should be allowed to participate.
Q: Are the project managers Adobe employees in China? And are they effectively the gatekeepers for quality?
As I understand it, there is a Community Manager who is the interface between Adobe and the community, but the project management is all done by community members. The translated content is then given to the community, and they publish it.
In addition, the Lingotek platform allows for a number of tools which not only help translators to work faster, but improve the quality of the translations, including:
Shared Translation Memories
Notes on each segment
Q: How does Adobe get rapid turnaround using volunteers? Are deadlines used?
The speed of translation is affected most by letting volunteers translate the things that they want to translate. In addition, Adobe brings attention to the project managers and translators who have done the most work.
Q: How does Adobe deal with customers who assume that they should not be required to translate content themselves?
Adobe focuses on the users who are eager to help them to translate. They don’t try to recruit general end-users, and I think that is why they have avoided most of this criticism.
Q: Why is Adobe doing this exactly?
The main driving factor is Adobe’s community users are asking for translated content that isn’t in Adobe’s professional translation pipeline. By using Lingotek’s API’s and translation software and Adobe’s existing community to translate content were making new content available to Adobe users quicker and at a much lower price.
Q: How does Adobe license the Lingotek platform?
Lingotek is licensed on a concurrent user basis. We don’t share pricing information.
Q: Is this limited to only volunteers? That is, will the same platform be used not only for documentation but for product/software loc work?
The Lingotek platform is designed to support many different workflows. Some clients are using their communities to provide the initial translation, and then use internal reviewers to do the final review before publishing. Other clients use a traditional assigned workflow, without using community members. In Adobe’s case, so far they are only using their community members.