How are Used Global Gateways on the Websites of Forbes Global 2000

by Julia Litvin

We are continuing the series of reports about our full digital audit of the first 1000 company websites from the Forbes Global 2000 list, in case you missed our introduction part you can catch it up easily.


An important consideration for multilingual or multi-regional websites is to figure out how to direct the users to the ‘correct’ language and/or country version. There are several ways to facilitate the selection of country and language. The two main approaches are to either automatically send the user to a language/country version based on the users IP address (geo-location) and/or the user's language settings (language/content negotiation), or to allow the user to manually pick from a list of countries and/or languages.

A middle way exists which gives the user a ‘suggestion’ for the country or language without automatically doing a redirect.

Such companies as Nestle, Schneider Electric, SAP or Bridgestone are good example of websites which do not automatically redirect the user but provide a suggestion instead:

Nestle.com proposes to visitor to go to Nestleusa.com:

nestle.com

Schneider Electric USA website proposes to visitor to choose another country or to go to their Global site

schneider-electric.us

The same picture on the SAP United States website

sap.com

Bringestone

bridgestone.com

Procter & Gamble is a great example for an automatic redirect based on IP address. When a user located in the United States tries to enter the main website pg.com, he or she is automatically redirected to us.pg.com.

What about the situation in which the user does not understand the automatically offered language or if the user wants to switch to another country/language? In this case we need to provide a way to easily switch to the country/language of choice. We can do this with the use of a Global Gateway

A global gateway is a way for the end user to easily switch to the language and country website of choice.

In this article we’ll show a few global gateway examples which we found during our digital globalization research study of 1000 Forbes Global companies. Interestingly enough, only 3% of the websites from the Forbes Global list provide a global gateway.

Let’s have a look at some examples, both good and bad.

Language

According to Internet World Stats statistics, English is still the most popular language in the internet.

Source: Internet World Stats - www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

The most authoritative resource on world languages Ethnologue shows us the largest languages with the number of first-language speakers in millions. As we can see, the most spoken languages are Chinese, Spanish and English are on the third place.

Source: “Ethnologue: Languages of the World” - www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size

Given that English is still the most popular language on the internet it’s not a surprise to see that many gateways use English to offer country and language choices. However, it can be a good idea to translate the country and language names so that it’s easier for non English speakers to find. The same way it would be difficult for English speakers to understand that 英語 means ‘English’ in Chinese. Or that ‘idiomas’ means ‘languages’ in Spanish. 

On the other hand, providing country and language names only in their own language might be confusing for customers who don’t understand these languages. In this case, it can be advisable to use both English and the translated version.

H&M for example includes two versions: one in English, and one in the native language.

Global gateway-H&M .pngGlobal gateway-h&m.png

hm.com

If a country version is not translated, it’s a good idea to clearly indicate this from the gateway in order not to set the wrong expectations to the user. 3M does a good job with that.

Global gateway-3m.png

3m.com

If a country has more than one spoken language, make the language option clearly available from the gateway. Examples of such countries include Switzerland, Belgium or Canada. Here is how H&M makes the language choice available:

Global gateway-h&m_2.png

hm.com

Grouping and Consistency

If a company operates on several continents and regions, it can be helpful to the user to organize the available country options by continents and regions.

Global gateway-order_by_conferense_Fedex.jpg

fedex.com

Be consistent in the way of country/language pointing in your global gateway. The following example from the Good Year's global gateway shows a mix of countries names in English and their translated options.  

Global gateway-way_countries_writing_GoodYear.png

goodyear.com

Design

Design of a global gateway page has to remain globally consistent. A good example of a consistent global gateway can be seen at the Heineken company website. Besides of the common design standards they keep colours of the 'global gateway' page consistent with their brand.

Global gateway-design_consistency_Henkel .jpg

heineken.com

Two more examples of well implemented global gateways are Visa and Turkish Airlines.

Global gateway-visa.png

visa.com

Global gateway_4.png

turkishairlines.com


Here are a few points to keep in mind when designing a global gateway:

1.  Along with English version translate the country and language names into its native language version, thereby you ease the site usability. 

In example: Germany | Deutschland, Chinese | 中文, Spanish | Español ect.

2. Be consistent in selection of the country or language in your global gateway. 

Whatever form of designation of each country/language in the selector you would prefer, use the same kind for each country/language. Do not mix up the different forms in one selector.

3. Keep brand consistency in the global gateway page design.

Use your common design standards, stay within your brand’s fonts and colours.

4. Organize the lists of countries by continents or regions.

5. Use a ‘globe’ icon such as this   to indicate the gateway.

6. Do not use flags to indicate language!

Which flag you would use for English language indication - American, British or maybe Australian? There is no correct answer, isn't it? 

7. If you can, do not use flags to indicate country.

From geopolitical and cultural perspective using of flags can be particularly complicated and could be offending for some of your global visitors.

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Global Gateway is a guide who leads visitors straight to their preferred country's website. It is important to have a user-friendly, clear, and accessible global gateway that will make a visitor’s journey pleasant.


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