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Apple adds geolocation to improve its global gateway strategy

Apple has redesigned its website many times over the past decade but one thing has remained largely unchanged — its global gateway strategy.

Here’s a screen shot of the global gateway menu from back in 2010:

And here it is today:

But over the past few days Apple did something I’ve been waiting for them to do for some time — begin using geolocation.

Here’s how it works…

If you’re in the US and you try visiting the home page of, say, Apple France, at www.apple.fr, you see this message above the top menu:

The message gives you a shortcut back to the US (.com) website.

And if you’re in Japan and you visit www.apple.com, you see this message:

In this case, the user can go to the Japan home page with one click.

This is a step forward for Apple and I’m happy to see it.

But there are still flaws with the execution which could use improvement.

Beginning with the flags.

I don’t know why Apple clings to flags with such passion. I do believe Apple will drop flags eventually and I’m hoping the move towards geolocation portends bigger and better changes to come. Flags are completely unnecessary for this geo-header to be effective. Also, if you wish to select a different locale you will be bumped back to the array of flags on the global gateway menu. As a general rule, flags should not be used for navigational purposes.

Now let’s examine the message itself: Choose another country to see content specific to your location and shop online. 

The first issue is the absence of “or region” in this sentence. The intention here is not to be verbose but to help Apple avoid any geopolitical issues, particularly given the recent issues that American multinationals have been having with China. Better yet, perhaps the text can be rewritten so “or region” isn’t even necessary. How about asking if the visitor would like to visit a more local website.

Finally, the mixture of pull-down menu with the “Continue” button is a bit cumbersome. Since the pull-down menu lists only two options I’m confident there is a better UI that would save the visitor a click.

Issues aside, I am happy to see Apple moving ahead with geolocation. I can imagine this was not an easy decision. After all, Apple is very sensitive to user privacy and this type of implementation will naturally lead some visitors to wonder how Apple knows where they are. But this is not an invasion of privacy; this is a step towards providing a better experience.

I also believe this change is a sign of a larger shift in website strategy, a more decentralized model, which I will be talking about later this year.

PS:  To learn more about global gateway best practices, check out the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card and The Art of the Global Gateway.

 

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Global gateway icon: Globes gain traction

Regular readers of this blog know well that I advocate for a global gateway icon on websites and apps — a visual element that lets users know, regardless of their language, where to find the global gateway menu.

I recommend using a globe icon because it displays well in small sizes, can be made geographically neutral (see below) and communicates its meaning across all languages.

I’ve noticed over the past year more and more companies making use of the globe icon.

Here is one:

genious_gateway

And here is the Netflix global gateway (not well positioned, however):

netflix_gateway

Both of these icons are geographically neutral.

As opposed to this icon, used by GM in its header:

gm_gateway

To learn how to make the best use of a global gateway icon along with geolocation, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

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Global gateway fail: DeWalt

DeWalt greets visitors with a pull-down global gateway shown here:

DeWalt_gateway

This type of landing page is not ideal in this day and age.

Using geolocation (see Geolocation for Global Success), DeWalt could take the user directly to the localized website and display an overlay asking the user to confirm or change locale setting. But this is not the main reason I’m writing about DeWalt.

This is:

DeWalt_gateway1

The menu shows a clear preference in favor of visitors from the USA.

Let’s suppose you’re visiting from the UK — you’ve got a bit of scrolling ahead of you. Not only that, you (and everyone else) is now acutely aware that DeWalt displays a bias in favor of its American visitors.

So what’s the solution?

I suggest avoiding long pull-down menus altogether. There are plenty of global gateway menus that display all options on one page.

For more on global gateways, check out The Art of the Global Gateway and 25 Amazing Global Gateways.

 

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What’s wrong with this global gateway?

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.18.58 AM

A few things.

First, using flags to indicate language is almost always a mistake.

Second, why are the language names all in English?

Only the “English language” text needs to be in English. The purpose of the gateway is to communicate with speakers of other languages, not just English speakers.

Finally, do we need “Language” at all? I would think not.

 

 

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GoDaddy’s new global gateway sets the stage for global growth

It’s nice to see GoDaddy improving its global gateway.

Note the use of the globe icon below to indicate the global gateway menu:

goddaddy gateway

Click on the globe or locale name and you’ll see the following menu:

godaddy global gateway

It’s text-only, easy to read. Simple.

GoDaddy has a long ways to go in regards to web globalization, but this global gateway is a good foundation for growth — which I suspect is on the horizon.

 

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WhatsApp: Another “translation worthy” success story

I wrote recently that if you can make your product “translation worthy” the world will follow.

Reading about Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp I went back and did some language crunching.

WhatsApp Arabic

In December 2012, WhatsApp supported 15 languages. I also noted then that I really liked the company’s global gateway.

WhatsApp Language Growth

Today, WhatsApp supports 35 languages — thanks in large part (or entirely) to a crowd of volunteer translators.

WhatsApp crowdsourcing

This number of languages is now well above the average number of languages tracked in the Web Globalization Report Card.

Clearly, WhatsApp proved itself to be translation worthy.

And now, with Facebook involved, I would not be surprised to see WhatsApp double its language count over the next year or two. Perhaps WhatsApp will actually start paying for translation now…

 

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Tiffany’s global aspirations (and room for improvement)

Tiffany China

When I lived in New York, I used to get a kick out of visiting Tiffany. Not that I actually purchased much of anything there, but I was always impressed by how well the store packaged itself — down to that distinctive (and trademarked) blue box.

Tiffany has been slowly and steadily expanding globally over the years — most aggressively in Asia.

This WSJ interview with Tiffany CEO Michael Kowalski offers up some excellent insights into where the company is headed and what it has learned so far:

We do believe there are wonderful geographic expansion opportunities for us. We’ve tried to build a diversified geographic portfolio so that we aren’t dependent on any one region or any one country. We’ve only recently become a stronger presence in the Middle East and we’ll open our first-owned-and-operated store in Russia this spring. We’re also optimistic about potential in China. Our companywide plan is for Tiffany sales to grow between 10% and 12% for the foreseeable future.

And…

We learned we need to be more overt about how we present our brand. A great example would be the store signage. If you were to look closely at the New York Fifth Avenue store, Tiffany & Co. is written in steel letters on both sides of the doors, perhaps two [feet] in length, six inches in height and it’s carved into the granite of the facade. And that’s the only signage there is.

When we first came to China, we were equally discreet and subtle in how we presented the brand and that created a problem. People simply didn’t see or couldn’t see the brand. They couldn’t understand what the store was about. We’ve had to be more direct and less subtle in how we communicate the brand.

I took a look at the website and there is room from improvement.

But first a focus on what Tiffany gets right. Tiffany makes good use of country codes, such as:

  • www.tiffany.com.br
  • www.tiffany.cn
  • www.tiffany.kr

Unfortunately, Tiffany buries its global gateway link in the footer of the template.

And this is particularly troublesome because Tiffany greats first-time visitors with its global gateway landing page:

tiffany global gateway

It’s a fine gateway overall — but if you were to select the wrong market by accident this preference is locked via cookie into your browser. So if you try to go back to www.tiffany.com you’ll be redirected to the local site, whether you like it or not.

I’m not a fan of redirection. Websites should honor user input — but gracefully make users aware of the local websites (and URLs) so users can go directly there upon return visits.

 

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Are you playing favorites with your global gateway?

This is nothing new to regular readers of this blog, but I visited another fairly major website recently that used the following global gateway:

I always cringe when I see this.

Showing favoritism for one country over others is never a good idea.

And even if most of the users of this particular menu are based in the US, there are technical ways to pre-select “United States” without embedding it at the top of a list.

I realize that this may seem like a trivial detail, but for those web users living outside of the US, it’s not so trivial.

For more on global navigation, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.