Language negotiation in a mobile world: Improving the global user experience

Language negotiation is the process of detecting the language setting of a web browser and responding with the matching language, if available. Companies such as Google and Facebook have used language negotiation with great success over the years.

In the 2011 Web Globalization Report Card, just 12% of the 250 web sites studied support language negotiation. While this is an increase from the previous year it is still too low.

As more and more people surf the web using mobile devices, the “business case” for supporting language negotiation grows more acute. After all, do you really want your users to fumble over a “select language” pull down menu on their mobile devices? Why not just give these users the language they want and save them time and create a better user experience.

To demonstrate, I’ve created a short video in which I use the iPhone to visit four web sites: Google, Xbox, Nike, and Apple. You may be surprised by which of these companies does not support language negotiation.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EE6lvXTF7c’]

To learn more about language negotiation and best practices in global navigation, check out my book: The Art of the Global Gateway.

I hope you find this video useful, and I welcome input and suggestions for future demos.

Global by Design turns 1,000

In 2002, I launched this blog.

It was the first blog devoted to web globalization. In fact, I don’t believe there were any blogs devoted to translation either at that point in time. So I really wasn’t sure where this whole blog thing would lead me. Perhaps I’d lose interest along the way.

Evidently, I didn’t, for today marks blog post #1,000.

I’m not the most prolific blogger to be sure (and I relied on a handful of guest articles along the way).

But it has been an exciting journey. I took a few minutes to page through the archives and I’ve included below a number of posts that jumped out at me (NOTE: a lot of the news links are broken):

In 2002, China had fewer than 100 million Internet users. Machine translation was more of a punchline than a business tool. And at the time you could count on one hand the number of web sites that supported 40 or more languages. Today, there are more than 23 such web sites.

I also took a stroll through Google Analytics. Though I didn’t have analytics in place during the early years, here are the three most popular blogs since 2005:

  1. Starbucks CEO on Globalization: Don’t Go Changing
  2. Google and the Global Traveler
  3. Google vs. Baidu: A User Experience Analysis

Thanks for reading over the years — and all your input and comments!

The world according to FedEx

I must warn you that if you visit this FedEx microsite you might lose an hour or so viewing the many data maps.

Above is a view of Facebook users around the world. If you click on a country you get a hard count of users.

Below is a view of Internet users around the world.

I’d love to see a 20-year forecast of this visual — to see how India and China expand in relation to the US and Europe.

Okay, I’ve gotta get back to work now…

PS: I almost forgot to mention that the site has been localized into seven languages.