More than a decade ago, I began annually scoring websites based on their global effectiveness — analyzing languages, depth of local content, global consistency, and usability. The 2016 Web Globalization Report Card is the twelfth edition of this analysis.
Normally, I like to highlight the websites that rank highest overall, which I’ve noted here (http://www.globalbydesign.com/2016/02/12/the-top-25-global-websites-of-2016/). Companies that have ranked highly year after year include Google, Facebook, 3M, and NIVEA,; these are companies that consistently invest heavily in languages, content localization and the local user experience.
But it can also be enlightening to study those websites that scored poorly overall – to see what they have in common.
There is no “one” reason why these websites finished at the bottom of the list. To paraphrase Tolstoy: All successful global websites are alike; each unsuccessful global website is unsuccessful in its own way.
A number of factors determine global success and the website is only one of these factors — unless of course you’re an Internet-based company (you’ll note below that none of these companies are “web only”).
The websites listed below are the lowest-scoring websites in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card — and not necessarily the worst global websites, period. The Report Card analyzes a carefully curated group of 150 websites, across more than a dozen industry sectors, including 80% of the Interbrand Best Global Brands. Some industry sectors simply do a better job at web globalization than other sectors, such as consumer technology and web services companies.
With these caveats in mind, here are the 10 websites that finished at the bottom of the 2016 Report Card:
146 Jack Daniels
147 Ralph Lauren
A handful of companies have become regulars on this list over the past few years, companies like Walmart, Jack Daniels, and Budweiser.
It would be easy to blame the low scores on limited language support. And while many of these websites fall well short of the 30-language average set by all 150 websites studied, lack of languages does not alone account for a low score. For example, Amazon, which supports just 11 languages, is ranked in the top 25% of all websites.
Lack of global consistency is an issue with many of these site. That is, each country web team appears to have gone off on its own and created a website from scratch instead of working across company to share common design templates and resources. For example, here are three different country websites exhibited by Budweiser. The use of shared global design templates can save significant resources and free up local teams to focus more on content.
Global gateways are often wildly erratic — or missing altogether. A number of these websites offer no visual clues on their .com home pages to help users find localized websites.
In the case of Burberry, shown here, the global gateway is hard to see and many of the country names are not presented in the local languages. For example, “Germany” should be presented as “Deutschland.”
The liquor and beer producers suffer from an additional problem of using “age gateways” that often appear before the global gateways. This means that users must first understand the language of the age gateway before having an opportunity to select a country or language.
Having said all this, there is some good news. A few of these companies could vastly improve their websites with relatively minor fixes. They already have the localized content but they’re just not presenting it in a scalable or user-friendly manner. I suspect a handful of these companies are not long for this list.
And, to be clear, you can be a successful global company and still have a poorly localized website. But think how much more successful you can be if you adopt some of the best practices shared by the best global websites.