About this Author
John Yunker is founder of Byte Level Research
and author of the widely acclaimed book, Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies
and editor of Global By Design
He has covered the emerging field of Web globalization for half a decade and has published a wide range of reports dedicated to best practices in Web localization and internationalization.
About this blog
Going Global focuses on the risks and rewards of expanding into new geographic and cultural markets, from Web globalization to international marketing to global usability.
March 28, 2004
As companies add more and more localized Web sites to their portfolio, they are increasingly resorting to using pull-down menus for navigation. Yet as the FedEx gateway (below) illustrates, pull-down menus are no panacea; they may in fact cause more problems than they solve.
The FedEx gateway includes more than 170 countries from which to choose. For residents of the US, the menu is rather easy to use - as the US has in effect jumped to the front of the line. But what if you are a resident of Sweden, Taiwan, or Venezuela? I'm afraid you have a lengthy bit of scrolling to do.
Pull-down menus simply do not "scale" well. In addition, this particular menu does not list the countries in their native languages - also not a good idea; this raises a more vexing problem - how would you alphabetize the list of countries if they were in their native languages?
Finally, FedEx makes a major (but common) mistake by placing the U.S.A. at the top of the menu. This display of favoritism may benefit the bulk of its Web users, but its does not create the appearance of a globally agnostic company. I've spoken with more than a few non-US residents who resent this strategy.
So what's the solution? The 3Com gateway offers a very good alternative:
Notice how the gateway groups the countries by region, thereby avoiding any patent displays of favoritism. The site also presents the countries in their native languages - a huge usability boost.
Granted, the page only includes a fraction of the countries that the FedEx menu includes, but I believe that it could be expanded to include an equal number of sites.
While I realize that the pull-down menu takes up very little real estate, it's simply not a valid solution for global gateways. For our recent presentation on this hot topic, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization | Translation | Web Globalization
March 27, 2004
Here is a very nice article by Evelyn Olsen on the New Zealand translation industry.
Her company is NZTC, and for those who manage competitive companies, I recommend taking a look at their Web site (excerpt below).
They present bios of their teams divided by language specialty - a nice touch. Translation companies increasingly run into prospective clients who naively believe that translation work could easily be managed by computers. By emphasizing the people behind the scenes, NZTC makes it very clear what value they add to the process.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization | Globalization Vendors | Software Localization
March 21, 2004
The Localization Industry Standards Assocation (LISA) offers a free localization primer available for download. The guide is available in 9 languages, including Arabic.
Over 52 pages, the guide covers the following topics:
- Doing Business in a Global World
- Localization Tools and Technologies
- Localization Costing and Pricing
- Best Practices and Standards
- Future Trends and Challenges
I found this exhibit particularly interesting:
The primer is well worth a download. Registration is required for the English-language edition.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Web Globalization
The USC Online Journalism Review has an excellent article about the state of Internet penetration in Africa. Needless to say, this region has largely missed out on the Internet revolution, although penetration and usage is growing exponentionally.
Here is where Internet penetration stands today, along with an article excerpt:
Throughout the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, access to media is largely an urban phenomenon. Newspapers and Internet cafes, though expensive, are available in every African capital; but in rural areas -- where it is often a struggle to achieve basic health care and education -- a newspaper is often a luxury, and the Internet is a distant dream.
According to statistics released last Feb. 29 by internetworldstats.com, there were about 900 million people living in Africa, of which slightly more than 10 million had Internet access -- and roughly a third of all users are in South Africa. However, the total number of Internet users on the continent represents a gain of more than 123 percent from figures released in December 2000.
Wanted: Cheap computers and cheap Interenet access
The demand for communications in the region is not hard to find -- in countries where cellular phones and coverage have become affordable, cellular adoption is booming. Nigeria is arguably the fastest-growing mobile market in the world.
Unfortunately, getting access to the wired Internet is a much bigger challenge - computers and conventional Internet access are still prohibitively expensive. There are parts of Africa where telecoms companies won't lay copper wires for fear that the wire will be stolen for resale.
But there is hope in the form of unlicensed wireless communications -- Wi-Fi and WiMAX (a standards-based form of fixed wireless communications).
Wi-Fi is already making a difference. Last year, I spoke with a nonprofit organization in South Africa that has outfitted a van with an onboard satellite dish and Wi-Fi access points. The van will park next to a school and use Wi-Fi to provide computers within the school with Internet access; this allows students and teachers to send and receive emails and browse the Internet. Like a bookmobile, the van goes from school to school, giviing students brief access to a much bigger world. Without Wi-Fi, students would have no Internet access at all.
I believe that Wi-Fi and WiMAX will finally bring low-cost wireless broadband to the continent. And computer prices will continue to fall, coupled with an affordable Linux operating system. Note that Microsoft could miss out on this market entirely if it continues gouging these poorer countries with expensive software that is rarely localized into the native languages (more on this later).
Here is the article.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category:
March 20, 2004
Global Web site navigation is a hot topic these days, and it seems every site has a slightly different way of solving that eternal problem of getting people to their localized sites as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Here are a few thoughts on the matter...
What Does "Localized" Mean?
The term "localization" is confusing to people; it was confusing to me when I first entered this field years ago. Industry experts have long referred to the internationalization and localization of Web sites. While I find these terms important within the industry, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to the casual Web user. Consider the following example, courtesy of Scansoft:
The site uses "Localized Websites" for its navigation menu. I would recommend at the least tightening this to "Local Websites," although this too is a flawed solution. Local is such a relative term; it could refer to regional, country, state, or city Web sites. Perhaps "Global Sites" makes more sense; Symantec does it here:
However, no matter what words we use, they will no doubt be in English, which is hardly usable for non-English speakers.
Why Not Use an Icon?
The more I study this issue, the more convinced I am that an icon is the only long-term solution to global navigation -- something that communicates across all languages. I don't know why Web developers and designers resist the notion of dropping a little globe icon next to the menu. The little shopping cart icon is becoming a globally recognized image, regardless of whether a particular country actually relies predominantly on shopping carts.
Let's Adopt a Global Navigation Standard
If the shopping cart icon can become the default commerce icon globally, why not do the same thing for global navigation? For inspiration, take a look at how Bose does it:
While the location of the gateway is too far down the home page, the use of the globe icon is perfect. I also want to note that Bose recently overhauled its site design but retained the globe icon -- a sign that it's working. The Bose site also makes use of the shopping cart icon:
Not all icons work, but when it comes to creating sites that communicate across languages, they can be an ideal solution. I'll be writing more on this and I welcome any and all input: email@example.com.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Web Globalization
March 4, 2004
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has neatly divided globalization into three software-like stages, as follows:
The first era, from the late 1800's to World War I, was driven by falling transportation costs, thanks to the steamship and the railroad. That was Globalization 1.0, and it shrank the world from a size large to a size medium. The second big era, Globalization 2.0, lasted from the 1980's to 2000, was based on falling telecom costs and the PC, and shrank the world from a size medium to a size small. Now we've entered Globalization 3.0, and it is shrinking the world from size small to a size tiny. That's what this outsourcing of white-collar jobs is telling us â and it is going to require some wrenching adjustments for workers and political systems.
Tom does have a penchant for creating buzzwords. And while I typically agree with him on globalization, I believe he dangerously oversimplifies things.
Globalization 3.0 did not begin just a few years ago. He would have been wise to speak with a few translation or localization firms, which have been outsourcing work globally for more than three decades. And for the past five to seven years, most of this work has been outsourced via Internet applications. Yes, the technology today makes outsourcing tremendously easier and more cost effective -- hence, more attractive to upper management -- but the trend has been in place for some time. It is simply affecting more and more industries and people within those industries.
My major concern with Tom's column is that it will encourage executives to leap into the globalization waters without realistic expectations. I would hate to see thousands of executives around the US thinking they can lay off half their IT staffs and outsource everything to India without so much as a speed bump along the way.
For a sober analysis of one company's outsourcing efforts, the Wall Street Journal recently profiled a software company that nearly failed in outsourcing jobs to India. The article is here (subscription required). But here is an excerpt that I found most relevant:
ValiCert's experience offers important insights into the debate over the movement of service jobs to lower-cost countries, such as India. Such shifts can save companies money and hurt U.S. workers. But the process is difficult, and the savings typically aren't as great as a simple wage comparison suggests. Some jobs cannot easily or profitably be exported, and trying to do so can risk a customer backlash: In recent months, Dell Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., for example, moved several dozen call-center and help-desk jobs back to the U.S., after employee and customer complaints.
Globalization is inevitable, but let's not get reckless
I believe that globalization is ultimately good for the world and world peace. It forces countries, through commerce, to do what their governments are so often incapable of doing -- get along. Yes, globalization is messy and people absolutely lose jobs as a result. But people also gain jobs as a result. When a Hollywood blockbuster earns $50 million abroad, are there protests in Seattle? Is it fair for one country to sell its products to the world and then not expect anyone but its own people to benefit from its growth?
Globalization is painful because it forces us all to reexamine our worth -- to our employers and our countries. It also opens our eyes to a more competitive world. My advice to executives is that globalization is unavoidable, but it is also no panacea.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization
March 1, 2004
Google continues its global growth campaign by launching News Alerts in four additional languages:
Google also has localized its popular search toolbar into 35 languages -- from Arabic to Welsh. You can download your toolbar by clicking below:
And for those in desperate need of a change, Google offers toolbar versions in Pig Latin, Elmer Fudd and Hacker.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Globalization