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What’s the world’s most multilingual website? (2018 update)

A few months ago, I wrote an essay for Multilingual in which I noted that the world’s most multilingual website isn’t Google or Facebook or even Wikipedia.

It is the website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

As I noted in the essay:

The JW.org website supports more than 675 written languages. And it doesn’t stop at written languages; it also supports more than 90 different sign languages as well as downloadable PDFs in languages ranging from Adyghe to Zazaki, for a total of 941 languages.

Apple, by comparison, supports a mere 34 languages. And Amazon, the company now synonymous with world domination, supports just 15 languages. Based on my studies, the world’s leading brands support an average of 31 languages, adding roughly one new language per year.

Religious leaders understand well the power of language. And so do the tech leaders. Sadly, too many other business leaders have not yet come to this realization.

Here are the top 10 most multilingual websites from the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card:

 

Notice how precipitously the language curve drops; it plateaus at roughly 40 languages for companies such as Audi, IKEA3M, Nikon and Cisco. And yet 40 languages is still a significant accomplishment for most organizations. The average number of languages, among the leading global brands, is just 32 languages.

The next great language boom will center around India, but this will take time as even companies such as Amazon and IKEA have been resistant to fully invest in the many official languages of this country.

To learn more about the language leaders, download a free sample of the Web Globalization Report Card.

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Globalia illustrates why your global gateway should be in the header

Globalia is the leading travel company in Spain, generating 3.5 billion euros in revenues across more than a dozen brands.

I visited the global website recently and noticed something missing from the home page — my native language. Not surprisingly, the global home page defaults to Spanish. So I went looking for a link to English-language content.

I first scanned the header.  No luck.

Then I moved down to the footer and, in painfully small type, I found the link to the “English version.”

Clearly, this is not the best place to locate a “global gateway,” even if the gateway itself is simply a link to a second language. Language/location links should always be in the header to save your visitors from needless searching and scrolling.

Globalia could take a page from one its companies, AirEuropa, which does an excellent job of locating its global gateway in the header — and using a generic globe icon, as shown here:

Since so many global home pages default to English, I find the Globalia home page to be a useful case study for many American-based multinationals. Because here in the US, it’s tempting to just assume that the global home page of any company should be in English. While this may be the case for most multinationals, the most sophisticated companies greet users in their preferred languages, whatever that language may be.

Web localization isn’t simply about supporting a set number of languages, it’s about support the most important languages of your customers, whatever those languages may be. And, when you do invest in all those languages, don’t let them waste away by burying your global gateway in the footer.

To learn more check out Think Outside the Country and the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card (free sample available).

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BMW: The best global automotive website of 2018

For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 16 automotive websites:

  1. Audi
  2. BMW
  3. Chevrolet
  4. Ford
  5. Honda
  6. Hyundai
  7. Land Rover
  8. Lexus
  9. Mercedes
  10. Mini
  11. Nissan
  12. Subaru
  13. Tesla
  14. Toyota
  15. Volkswagen
  16. Volvo Cars

This year, BMW unseated Nissan, reclaiming the top spot. Both BMW and Nissan made the 25 list of best global websites.

BMW deserves credit for an increased focus on local-language social content — as well as the promotion of this content on its local websites. It also made slight improvements to its global template over the past year.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • The automotive sector has long been a leader in languages. The average number of languages supported by these 16 websites is an impressive 41 languages.
  • Mercedes most recently added two new local websites (and languages) raising its language total to 44. The company has been slowly (perhaps too slowly) rolling out a responsive design.
  • When it comes to global navigation, no automotive website stands apart. Too many automotive websites either bury the global gateway in the footer or overlook it entirely. Technologies like geolocation and content negotiation are not utilized to the degree that they could be to improve the user experience. 
  • What’s the best global website among American-based automotive companies? That would be Chevrolet. Among other best practices, Chevy does a good job of supporting Spanish for the US market. Note the bilingual toggle for US Spanish and English speakers:

  • Subaru was a new addition to the Report Card this year. With support for 39 languages, it holds its own with the other global auto brands.
  • Ford made a notable improvement to its global navigation over the past year. As shown below, the website added a globe icon in the header:

Currently, this gateway only allows toggling between Spanish and English (similar to other automotive websites). Ultimately, we believe its function will expand to enable better global navigation.

  • Automotive companies still have a long ways to go in improving global consistency and navigation. They decentralized structures have historically prevented them from working globally in this regard. And it’s easy to see how fragmented a site from Toyota or Chevrolet appears when compared with Tesla. Granted, Tesla supports a fraction of the number of models, but the architecture of the Tesla website ensures that it can scale better than the legacy sites of other automotive companies.
  • That said, even Tesla could improve its global navigation. Its gateway link is buried in the footer:

Tesla relies too heavily on flags for navigation. I believe it’s just a matter of time before this strategy shifts.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

If you’d like a report that includes only the automative benchmark profiles, you can purchase the Automotive Websites edition.

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The top 25 websites from the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.

First, here are the top-scoring websites from the report:

For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google was unseated this year by Wikipedia. Wikipedia, with support for an amazing 298 languages, made a positive improvement to global navigation over the past year that pushed it into the top spot. And Wikipedia, due to the fact that it is completely user-supported, indicates that there is great demand for languages on the Internet — and very few companies have yet responded in kind.

Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, as could Facebook.

Other highlights from the top 25 list include:

  • Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
  • As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of more than 80 languages (up from 54 last year); but note that we added a few websites that made a big impact on that average.
  • Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
  • The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 32.

The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t.  

I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.

Congratulations to the top 25 companies and to the people within these companies who have long championed web globalization.

The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card

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Succeeding in the Translation Economy

Here is an article I wrote that was recently published in tcworld magazine.

In it, I define the “translation economy” and the opportunities (and challenges) it presents to all organizations.

From the information economy to the translation economy
The internet connected the world’s computers, and the digitization of content enabled the rapid flow of information around the world, which drove several decades of what came to be known as the information economy. But one of the great myths of the information economy – and the World Wide Web, for that matter – was the idea that a company could go global simply by launching a website. While the Internet connects computers, it is language that connects people, and the information economy has for too many years exhibited an English-language bias.

Read more…

And for much more on the translation economy, check out Think Outside the Country.

Also now available in Japanese!

 

 

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Amazon’s uneven (and not unusual) language strategy

Amazon Crossing is the Amazon publishing imprint dedicated to translating non-English books into English. In just a few years it has grown to be a leading translator of literary novels.

I noted earlier that Amazon.in doesn’t significantly support Indian languages. But on the Amazon Crossing submission page, you will find support for Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi. The global gateway is shown below on the right:

The gateway is (sadly) missing a globe icon — though I suspect the Amazon Crossing logo is partly to blame (one globe too many perhaps).

Other languages supported include Arabic, Portuguese and Russian. What’s interesting here is that the language mix is noticeably different on the Amazon.com site.

Both Amazon.com and Amazon Crossing support 13 languages in addition to English as noted in the 2017 Report Card, which means Amazon still has a long ways to go before it competes with the leaders in languages. Here is the average number of languages supported by the leading global brands over the past seven years.

But what I wanted to call attention to is Amazon’s uneven support for languages across its different products and services — a phenomenon that is not unique to Amazon. Many multinationals I work with support different language mixes for different properties. The rationale is sound: Different products and services have different audiences, marketing strategies, global and regional partners, and local opportunities.

But how do you balance an uneven language strategy with a consistent global content architecture? For example, let’s say you have one product page localized into Russian and a visitor to that product page goes to the global nav menu and selects another product, naturally assuming this other product also is also localized into Russian, only to discover it is not.

This problem is only going to grow more acute as more companies decentralize their global product content and marketing strategies.

Of course, every challenge is also an opportunity. Where companies can differentiate themselves is in how effectively they manage user expectations, manage language expectations, and how they leverage machine translation to fill language gaps.

To learn more about which companies are doing the best job at managing language expectations, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

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When looking at Asia, look beyond China, Japan and South Korea…

Historically, when a Western company planned its Asian expansion strategy, it primarily focused on three markets (or fewer):  China, Japan and South Korea.

Today, any company with eyes on Asian expansion should not limit itself to these three markets. There are many opportunities in the emerging ASEAN countries.

ASEAN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and it represents 10 member states that reflect a diverse range of fast-growing and multilingual markets. The member states are illustrated by country codes below. I’ve included full list of country names at the end of this post; see if you can guess them by country code alone…

 

Nielsen recently published a report, Rethinking ASEAN, noting:

…that ASEAN’s middleweight regions with population between 500,000 to five million are the region’s next big bet for growth, debunking the commonly held belief that mega-cities such as Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok are the region’s sole engine for growth.

I’m excerpting an interesting graphic they produced that illustrates a few key data points, namely that smaller markets (and regions within these markets) are experiencing faster rates of growth than we’re seeing in much larger markets. In other words, it’s not a bad idea to look beyond the largest markets (and cities) when planning your Asian expansion strategy.

From a web localization perspective, I’ve seen significant investments in a number of these countries over the past few years. According to the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, here are three emerging Asian languages among the leading global brands. Thai is now seen on more than half of all leading global brand websites.

These is still plenty of room for growth. Languages such as Malaysian and Filipino are still not supported by most global companies. But it’s safe to say that this will change in the years ahead.

And now let’s see how you did on aligning country codes with country names…

 

ASEAN  members:

  • .BN: Brunei Darussalam
  • .KH: Cambodia
  • .ID: Indonesia
  • .LA: Laos
  • .MY: Malaysia
  • .MM: Myanmar
  • .PH: Philippines
  • .SG: Singapore
  • .TH: Thailand
  • .VN: Viet Nam

 

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Announcing the top 10 global tourism websites

While I’ve closely studied travel websites for many years (such as airlines, hotels, travel agencies) as part of The Web Globalization Report Card, I’ve not spent much time looking closely at destination websites, such as for cities, regions and countries.  That is, until earlier this year.
For this report we benchmarked 55 country, region, and city tourism websites across six continents. Of those websites, here are the top 10 overall: 
Germany emerged on top driven in large part by its support for a leading 24 languages as well as global consistency and local content.
 
The leading city website is Paris, with support for 11 languages, which may not sound like many languages, but is actually well above the average for city websites.
Which leads me to the key finding of this report: the growing language gap between travel and tourism websites, which I will write about in a later post.
Western Australia came out on top of the regional websites. Shown here, note the globe icon in the header used to highlight the global gateway — a very nice touch.
Tourism websites should lead the travel industry
Language is just one of the areas in which tourism websites need improvement. This report carefully documents the many different types of navigation strategies used by tourism websites and provides best practices that all sites should consider. It also takes a close look at localized content, social media, and support for mobile users (also a weak point).
It’s my hope that this report helps tourism organizations make a stronger case for globalization. After all, the travel and tourism industry is growing at a faster pace than the global economy and by 2017 is projected  by the World Travel and Tourism Council to account for 1 of 9 jobs on this planet. Tourism websites play a key role in attracting travelers and more than half of these travelers do not speak English.
To learn more about the report, click here.