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Welcome to the driver’s seat: Which automakers are doing the best job of welcoming female drivers in Saudi Arabia

It’s been a month since women have been legally allowed to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and I wanted to get a sense for how this massive new audience of drivers was being welcomed by the world’s automakers.

I spent time visiting the Saudi Arabia websites of a number of automakers, all included in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

And, so far, I’d say that most global automakers are treading slowly, too slowly, in welcoming their new customers.

There were two notable standouts, however, that I want to mention: Ford and Audio.

As a bit of background, more than half of the websites I benchmark for the annual Report Card now support Arabic. And most of the automakers studied support partially or largely localized websites for Saudi Arabia.

Now onto the two standout automakers…

Ford has the most striking home page, shown here:

In English, the headline reads: You Drive in Front. Welcome to the Driver’s Seat.

And when you click on the main link you’ll see this visual:

Audi also leads with a bold, welcoming message: Sometimes history is written. This time, it is driven.

Clicking on the main link takes you to a video that features a husband and wife leaving the house and getting into their Audi. But instead of the man getting into the driver’s seat, we see the woman taking the wheel. In most other regions of the world, this would not be an attention-grabbing video; but Saudi Arabia is not most other regions.

Audi also includes a link to a test drive request form, a very nice feature.

Beyond Ford and Audi, there are a handful of positive examples from other automakers responding to this doubling of potential drivers:

  • Volkswagen features a TV ad that focuses on female drivers, with one behind the driver’s seat.
  • Mercedes has a Mercedes She global promotional campaign that does a degree of localization for women in the Middle East, but not nearly enough in my opinion.
  • Subaru and Toyota have been active on social media in welcoming female drivers. Shown below are examples from Twitter and Instagram:

The automakers not mentioned here are not doing nearly enough to welcome their new customers (if anything at all) — and I suspect this is not going without notice. Web localization is about respect and respect is about languages, cultures, and people.

To learn more about website globalization best practices in the auto industry and beyond, check out the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

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Chinese drawing even with English on global websites

Over the past decade Simplified Chinese has grown to become one of the most popular languages on global websites, second only to English.

According to the Web Globalization Report Card, which has long monitored languages supported by the world’s leading brands, Chinese was seen on only about six out of ten websites in 2006.

Today, it is seen on virtually every global website.

chinese language growth

That’s not to say languages such as French, German and Spanish aren’t important as well. In fact, French is right on par with Chinese, followed by German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Here are the top 10 languages overall:

top 10 languages

I should also note that Russian has seen a significant rise in usage over the past decade. In 2006, Russian was seen on only 42% of all global websites and now it’s up to 87%.

But there are language gaps still remaining. Arabic, for example, is spoken by more than 240 million people but only half of all global websites support it (so far).

And Hindi, with more than 260 million speakers, sees a paltry 4% of global website support — many companies cling to the hope that English will be sufficient for India. Perhaps for today but not for long. Consider that companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have embraced Hindi, as well as other Indic languages, foreshadowing a time when other companies will be compelled to follow their lead.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

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United Airlines doesn’t speak Arabic

I wanted to highlight a great catch made by commenter Ben to my earlier post on United’s in-flight navigation system, shown here:

united_gateway

If you look closely at the lower right corner of the screen, the Arabic link is not correctly displayed. I certainly wasn’t looking that closely, but Ben was.

As he noted, the characters are correct, but they’re not joined properly.

Below is what the word should look like and, below it, the characters displayed individually:

arabic

Arabic  characters exhibit different forms based on their position within a word. There are four forms, described here.

In the case of United’s in-flight entertainment screen, this is is a big mistake. How did it occur?

Clearly, a proofreader could have helped United avoid this situation altogether.

Technically speaking, it could be that the entertainment system does not support Unicode, which is the best way to go about supporting not only Arabic, but most of the world’s languages. However, the Asian fonts appear to be correctly displayed, which leads me to believe that this is not a technical issue but simply a matter of the Arabic word losing its joining properties at some point during the production process — and nobody ever noticing, until now.

Thanks Ben for the heads up!

To learn more, check out my new book The Art of the Global Gateway.