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Peak flag: The decline of flags on websites has begun

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:

  • Delta Airlines
  • General Electric
  • Google
  • Marriott
  • Siemens

To name just a few.

Apple global gateway

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.

To learn 10 reasons why you should remove flags from your website, check out my report FLAG FREE, which is also included with the Web Globalization Report Card.

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It’s time for your website to go flag free

If you are flying the Taiwan flag on your website, consider yourself warned.

By China.

As I’ve written many times over the past year, China is paying close attention to how multinationals refer to Taiwan on their websites, not just textually but visually. And this includes the global gateway.

But the fact is, flags are completely unnecessary in global gateways — not just the Taiwan flag but any flag. And now is a very good time to extricate flags from your website.

Flag free means frustration free.

I’ve published a new report that details the many reasons for removing flags from your website; it also includes examples of websites that have gone flag free, including Costco, Google, Sanofi and Siemens.

This report is included free with all purchases of the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

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The one “flag” you should never use on your website

I visited the home page of the Chinese online travel agency website Ctrip recently and came across this odd flag:

ctrip_flag

Just because the UK  voted to separate from the EU doesn’t mean that it’s considering a merger with the United States (the last I checked).

Seriously, I understand why companies use this hybrid flag—as an all-purpose English icon. But it fails to achieve that goal because flags are not synonymous with language. And, as icons go, people generally don’t like to see their national flags chopped up or merged with other flags.

A better approach is to avoid using any flag at all and simply use “English.”

For more on flags and the global gateway, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.

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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.