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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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Speaking in Tongues: Corporate America needs to get religious about languages

I was happy to have an essay published in the recent issue of Multilingual.

In the essay I write:

While Wikipedia, Google and Facebook are among the leaders in languages at 298, 172 and 107 respectively, they don’t come even close to the website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

That’s right. The world’s most linguistic website is managed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and can be found at www.JW.org.

You can read the essay here.

 

 

 

 

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Deloitte: The best global professional services website of 2018

For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 6 professional services websites:

  1. Accenture
  2. Capgemini
  3. Deloitte
  4. Ernst & Young
  5. KPMG
  6. PWC

Last year, Deloitte and KPMG tied for first place. This year, Deloitte pulled ahead of KPMG with the top score.

While KPMG may lead in languages, Deloitte leads in global navigation as well as depth and timeliness of local content.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • Professional services websites tend to reflect highly decentralized corporate structures, with support for locally generated content and social feeds. Nevertheless, the leaders demonstrate that even decentralized companies can successfully support global consistency.
  • At 38 languages, KPMG remains the language leader in this category.
  • Deloitte was the first professional services company to use a globe icon and, as I predicted last year, would not be the last. Another company has joined this trend, but it could still benefit from improvement in execution.
  • Over the past year, Capgemini unveiled a new global design that is a clear step forward. The new design is less than half the weight (2.3MB) of the previous design (5MB). Also significant, the mobile design maintains the global gateway in the header, as seen here:

  • PwC takes an interesting (and unfortunate) approach to its global gateway. PwC relies on the “location” icon, shown below for its global gateway:

This global gateway fails in several ways. First, the “location” icon is more traditionally used to “find location,” as in find a local store or office. Using this icon for selecting a country or region is not standard. Also, the use of a pull-down menu is not user friendly. As you can see, the list is alpha-sorted, which will not be intuitive from users from many other countries and who speak different languages. For example, where would a German resident first look — under G for Germany or under D for Deutschland? In this case, the only link to Germany is located under G, even though PWC does support German-language localization.

  • Accenture also does a poor job of managing expectations. For example, shown on the Spanish home page is the link to an article (headline in Spanish); clicking on the link takes the user to the UK website and an article in English.

 

 

Despite the high degree of global consistency and support for languages exhibited by a few of these websites, more improvements are needed before any of these companies break into the top 25.

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

If you’d like a report that includes only the professional services benchmark profiles, please contact us.

 

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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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Apple adds geolocation to improve its global gateway strategy

Apple has redesigned its website many times over the past decade but one thing has remained largely unchanged — its global gateway strategy.

Here’s a screen shot of the global gateway menu from back in 2010:

And here it is today:

But over the past few days Apple did something I’ve been waiting for them to do for some time — begin using geolocation.

Here’s how it works…

If you’re in the US and you try visiting the home page of, say, Apple France, at www.apple.fr, you see this message above the top menu:

The message gives you a shortcut back to the US (.com) website.

And if you’re in Japan and you visit www.apple.com, you see this message:

In this case, the user can go to the Japan home page with one click.

This is a step forward for Apple and I’m happy to see it.

But there are still flaws with the execution which could use improvement.

Beginning with the flags.

I don’t know why Apple clings to flags with such passion. I do believe Apple will drop flags eventually and I’m hoping the move towards geolocation portends bigger and better changes to come. Flags are completely unnecessary for this geo-header to be effective. Also, if you wish to select a different locale you will be bumped back to the array of flags on the global gateway menu. As a general rule, flags should not be used for navigational purposes.

Now let’s examine the message itself: Choose another country to see content specific to your location and shop online. 

The first issue is the absence of “or region” in this sentence. The intention here is not to be verbose but to help Apple avoid any geopolitical issues, particularly given the recent issues that American multinationals have been having with China. Better yet, perhaps the text can be rewritten so “or region” isn’t even necessary. How about asking if the visitor would like to visit a more local website.

Finally, the mixture of pull-down menu with the “Continue” button is a bit cumbersome. Since the pull-down menu lists only two options I’m confident there is a better UI that would save the visitor a click.

Issues aside, I am happy to see Apple moving ahead with geolocation. I can imagine this was not an easy decision. After all, Apple is very sensitive to user privacy and this type of implementation will naturally lead some visitors to wonder how Apple knows where they are. But this is not an invasion of privacy; this is a step towards providing a better experience.

I also believe this change is a sign of a larger shift in website strategy, a more decentralized model, which I will be talking about later this year.

PS:  To learn more about global gateway best practices, check out the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card and The Art of the Global Gateway.

 

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Is your vendor putting your international business in jeopardy?

You hire a vendor to conduct a global survey.

And let’s suppose this vendor refers to Taiwan as a country and the email goes out to people in China who believe differently, and they happen to be in a position to punish you by blocking your website within China.

This is roughly what happened with Marriott.

According to Skift it was indeed a vendor that led to this misstep. And the CEO, Arne Sorenson, has vowed to make sure it won’t happen again:

“We should have caught it, even though it was provided by a third party, and we didn’t catch it,” Sorenson said. “We moved quickly to fix that mistake and we are moving as quickly as we can to look at all of the stuff we’ve got exposed out there online to customers in China and customers around the world to make sure we are not making similar mistakes in the future.”

This is a lesson that all companies should take to heart. When you hire vendors to communicate with the world on your behalf — you have to audit their work just as closely as you would your own. Because at the end of the day it’s your brand name that will suffer.

Here we are, roughly six weeks later, and the Marriott website still appears to be blocked. Mistakes happen, but the more educated your marketing and web teams are to global and local regulatory and cultural issues, the fewer of these mistakes you will make.

Which leads me to a new report that we’ve just published: Web Globalization Bloopers & Blunders.

I’ve found over the years that it often helps to highlight the more common mistakes that organizations have made to help other organizations sidestep them. This report is included with the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

 

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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