Who’s the master of the web universe? We started our annual internet pilgrimage last fall in order to answer that question. Our team of multilingual testers on three continents logged their journey and took snapshots of the signposts, words, and images that today’s global web traveler encounters. As we went through the web, we asked questions like, “How many clicks does it take to find my language?”, “Why must I click on a flag that for a country that isn’t even mine?”, and in some cases, “I’m traveling and it’s detecting a language I don’t speak – how do I change it?” We documented the results and crunched the numbers. So who came out on top?
Over the years, we’ve developed a suite of concepts and metrics that allow us to objectively and systematically evaluate global websites, including:
Geolingual visitors, individuals who will be more likely to complete tasks on a website if content is adapted to his or her country requirements and/or linguistic preferences
Customer experience levels (CELs), a proscribed set of experiences common to all websites
Availability quotient (AQ), what percent of world online population can take advantage of a given CEL on a particular website
World online wallet (WOW), the economic buying potential of online audiences
Metanavigation, how a visitor moves from one country or language to another within the global web presence of a single company
This year, we introduced our composite Global Web Score, which evaluates sites using 20 scoring areas. Sites that make it difficult for global audiences to quickly find relevant content are penalized with point deductions for poor practices. With a Global Web Score of 9.56, Google narrowly beat out Facebook (9.53), YouTube (9.51) and Wikipedia (9.43). Web giants were not the only ones to make the list. Other companies topping this year’s leader board include Samsung (9.11), Blackberry (9.10), and HP (8.97).
As we revealed in our previous report on the topic, “Gaining Global Web Presence,” monolingual websites are quickly becoming an endangered species. But language isn’t the only thing that we used to calculate the scores. While language is obviously important, simply having the language available isn’t enough. It takes a combination of quantity and quality to create a compelling web experience –\and to answer questions like the ones we posed above. Quality increasingly means not just good design practices and savvy content negotiation strategies, but giving consumers the ability to interact with that content. And all that has to be done on a global scale, clearly and consistently.
What’s more, not providing people with equal access to information is, well, unfair. A for-profit site shouldn’t care where the customer lives, so long as they’ve got money to spend. And a non-profit site shouldn’t forbid people from joining its mission due to language either. It only takes 11 languages to reach 80% of the population. Adding the languages is really the easy part. Doing it the right way? That’s what’s organizations find so difficult. We’re surprised sometimes by the mistakes that even very large companies make with global web design. But we’ve documented the poor practices along with the good ones, in an effort to help companies correct these disparities and reach broader segments of the population.