If you are flying the Taiwan flag on your website, consider yourself warned.
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.
It’s hard to believe that this is the twelfth edition of the Report Card. Over the past decade I’ve seen the average number of languages supported by global brands increase from just 10 languages to 30 languages today.
And, of course, the top 25 websites go well beyond 30 language. Google supports 90 languages via Google Translate and 75 languages on YouTube. And Facebook stands at 88 languages.
But it’s not just languages that make a website succeed globally. Companies need to support fast-loading mobile websites, locally relevant content, and user-friendly navigation.
Notable highlights among the top 25:
Wikipedia is far and away the language leader, with content in more than 270 languages. The company also now supports a mobile-friendly layout that is considerably lighter (in kilobytes) than most Fortune 100 mobile websites.
NIVEA provides an excellent example of a company that localizes its models for local websites — one of the few companies to do so.
Nike made this top 25 list for the first time, having added languages and improved global consistency and navigation.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 52 languages.
For 2016, we studied 150 websites across 15 industry categories — and more than 80% of the Interbrand Best Global Brands. Websites were graded according to languages supported, global navigation, global and mobile website architecture, and localization.
Four years ago, for the Web Globalization Report Card, I began noting (and rewarding) those websites that supported mobile devices. Even then one could easily see the virtual grounds shifting in favor of mobile devices. But at the time, only about 20% of the websites studied supported mobile devices.
In this year’s Report Card, the majority of websites are now mobile friendly. Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a flurry of newly responsive web designs from a diverse range of companies including Philips, Merck, VMware and Pepsi.
Even Apple now supports a responsive website. Shown below are before and after screen grabs:
If your company hasn’t yet made the leap to mobile, now is the time to accelerate your plans — unless you don’t care much for your search ranking.
Google has made it abundantly clear that websites that do not support mobile devices are going to suffer.
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
All languages. All regions. This makes great sense given that markets like China and Indonesia are overwhelmingly experiencing the Internet via mobile devices.
Google wants to remain relevant to mobile users which means your website needs to remain relevant to Google.
Which means, ultimately, remaining relevant to your web users. Particularly if you plan to succeed globally.
I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.
Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.
Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.
Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.
New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.
The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.
I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.
I was happy to see that Philips launched a new (and improved) global gateway recently.
Below is a screen grab of the old gateway, as seen on the home page:
The menu was well positioned in the upper right corner, but it was a LONG menu.
And the use of flags was problematic for many reasons, such as adding a great deal of overhead to every single web page. (Here are a few previous thoughts on flags)
Now, here is the header from new Philips home page with new gateway:
No more pull-down menu — just a simple text link: United States – English.
Click on the link and you are taken to a new menu – notice the absence of flags:
Overall, a very nice improvement!
One recommendation: I would still like to see a globe icon positioned next to that global gateway link in the header. The icon communicates “global gateway” to users regardless of their native language.
To illustrate the value of the icon, here is the header from Philips Japan. Imagine you don’t understand Japanese and you want to navigate to a different local site; would you know that the link in the upper right corner is your way out?
Nevertheless, Philips has taken huge strides forward in improving its global gateway. (This will be reflected in the next Report Card.)
PS: Speaking of global gateway, there are still a few copies left of The Art of the Global Gateway (now on sale).
Last week I said I’d love to see more profiles of global-minded business execs and, sure enough, the Journal delivers.
Here’s an interview with the Philips Electronics CEO Gerard Kleisterlee.
According to the article, the company’s emerging-market sales increased 29% in the second quarter from a year earlier and now make up 34% of the company’s total sales. And it’s just getting started.
Some choice quotes from the interview:
The rush to emerging markets is there already for the last 10 years. What you have started to see is that, in many of these emerging markets, now you get growing local [Chinese] competitors who become either regional or aspiring global competitors.
It does not suffice to serve only the metropolitan areas. In India and in China you need to have good rural distribution.
For the emerging markets we have even more local responsibility. In general we try to push responsibility down in the organization and have everything necessary centralized. But for emerging markets we have done that even more than for the developed markets.
The Philips global web site finished in 4th place overall in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card. Decentralization of control is a key ingredient of successful local web sites, particularly in emerging markets.