When you welcome visitors into your home, you probably don’t usher them directly to the basement.
Yet when it comes to websites, this is exactly how many companies treat visitors from around the world.
That is, they expect visitors to scroll down to the footer (basement) of their websites in order to find the global gateway.
Now I want to emphasize that many companies smartly use country codes to create country-specific “front doors.” In addition, many companies use backend technologies such as geolocation and content negotiation to guess what language/locale website the user prefers before forcing the user to select one.
But these technologies don’t work perfectly and there are times when users need to be able to self-select the language they wish to use or country website they wish to visit.
Which leads us to the global gateway.
Apple has long forced international users down to the footer to locate the global gateway as shown below. I’ve already written about the flaws with the flag itself.
Apple is not alone. Here is the Microsoft footer (on the Thai website):
To underscore that there is plenty of room in the header for the gateway, below is the header from that same web page.
Do you think we could cut back on that search window a tad to make room for the gateway? I would think so.
Kayak manages to fit its global gateway in the header — see the flag at the far right:
So does GE (I love the globe icon):
You can tell so much about a company by how it structures its website.
The global gateway is more than a functional element, it is in many ways an extension of your brand.
It’s important to greet visitors from around the world as warmly as you greet those users in your home country.
When you send your global gateway into the basement you are sending many users there as well.