As readers of this blog well know, I often refer to China and Taiwan when making the case for avoiding the use of flags on a global gateway. There are many others reasons, of course, but geopolitical issues have become more acute lately.
I could also point to the Russia and Kosovo as another case study for avoiding the use fo flags. As this New York Times article notes Kosovo, despite being a FIFA member, cannot fly its flag at World Cup stadiums:
The flag — which depicts a gold map of Kosovo under six white stars on a blue background — is one of more than two dozen barred from World Cup stadiums by tournament organizers.
Here’s a visual of the flags not allowed into the stadiums:
While most countries acknowledge Kosovo and its flag, Russia does not. And because this World Cup is hosted by Russia, well, so it goes.
Which brings me back to your global gateway.
Your global gateway is a tool for helping visitors find (or change) their locale setting, not a geopolitical statement.
Not exactly breaking news, but Apple Store is now live in Russia.
I love the art they used for the launch:
The global gateway that Apple uses for its online stores is a subset of the gateway it uses for its main website. Both global gateways are in need of improvement. For starters, they need to rid themselves of the flag icons. I’ve yet to find a usability study that demonstrates that flags help users find their local websites more quickly. I believe flags can actually hinder usability.
I’m hard on Apple in this regard because the company is usually pretty good at simplifying things. But when it comes to global navigation, Apple complicates things. And, worse, Apple sends a message out to other companies that flags improve usability. When they often do not.
A little more than a year ago, Russia opened up registration for its top-level IDN: рф.
Since then, more than 900,000 domains have been registered, making this the most successful IDN by far.
I’ve always been quick to stress that the bulk of these registrations are coming from squatters: folks hoping to make a quick buck reselling them. Yet according to Russia’s registry, about one in five registered domains is now hosting a live website.
I’d still love to see a list of some of these live websites to make sure they truly are legitimate websites — and not just placeholders.
Even so, let’s assume that 100,000 web sites are indeed live and indeed legitimate, that’s an impressive number.