In search of a better translation icon

By John Yunker,

A few years ago I wrote about the translation icon and its many variations at that point in time.

I thought now would be a good time to revisit this icon.

Let’s start with the Google Translate. This icon has not changed in substance over the years but it has been streamlined a great deal.

Here is the icon used for its app:


Microsoft uses a similar icon across its website, apps, and APIs:


I’m not a fan of this icon, despite how prevalent it has become.

Before I go into why exactly, here is another app icon I came across:


These first three icons display specific language pairs, which could be interpreted as showing preference for a given language pair. This is the issue that I find problematic.

Why can’t a translate icon be language agnostic?

Here is how SDL approaches the translation icon:


Although the icon is busy, I’m partial to what SDL is doing here — as this icon does not display a given script pair.

Here is another icon, from the iTranslate app:


The counter-argument to a globe icon is this: It is used EVERYWHERE. And this is true. Facebook, for example, uses the globe icon for notifications, which I’ve never understood. Nevertheless, the globe icon can successfully deliver different messages depending on context. In the context of a mobile app icon, I think a globe icon works perfectly well.


So the larger question here is whether or not a language pair is required to communicate “translation.” 

Google and Microsoft certainly believe that a language pair is required, which is where we stand right now. I’d love to see this change. I think we can do better.

Global gateway fail: Qualcomm

By John Yunker,

Qualcomm supports a mobile-friendly website but doesn’t (yet) support a global-friendly website.

Particularly if you’re a visitor who does not speak English.

The home page, shown here, includes no evidence of a global gateway.


It does exist — you have to click the ellipses button at the bottom of the left column

Tthen you are met with this global gateway, which is a bit overdesigned for its own good.

There are 12 country websites from which to select.



Fortunately, this global gateway issue is easily fixed.

  • First, I’d add a globe icon in the website header that links to the global gateway menu.
  • Second, I’d look into using a standalone global gateway menu so as to keep things simple. I don’t advise blending global gateway menus with other menus.
  • Finally, I’d consider using geolocation to make the gateway menu even more discoverable, which as far as I can tell is not currently happening.

Now, there are some positives to the Qualcomm websites which I want to highlight.

Qualcomm does support country codes, such as:


This means that many web users will not hit the .com website upon arrival and wonder where the gateway is. That’s good news.

Also, the Qualcomm mobile website does make the global gateway more discoverable. It’s located in the footer, shown below, which is not the ideal location, but certainly more visible than on the PC website.


Also worth noting here is the use of the globe icon — which I highly recommend. More on this in future posts…

On the importance of date display localization

By John Yunker,

The proper display of dates for each locale has become relatively trivial with libraries such as Globalize and yet I still encounter websites that don’t get it right.

Case in point, I recently visited a tech website looking for a firmware upgrade and I found a list of three downloads:


I had to scan to list to figure out exactly how the dates were formatted.

The third item made it clear that month came after day, which is not standard for the United States.

One simple fix is to spell out the name of the month. But a more scalable fix is to take advantage of Globalize.

(Here’s an article by Jukka Korpela on how to use Globalize.js to display local dates properly)

When will more global websites support Arabic?

By John Yunker,

I read a brief report on digital Arabic content produced by the Wamda Research Lab, in partnership with Google and Taghreedat.

A few data points jumped out at me, such as:

By 2017 over half of the Arab world will have access to the Internet, an increase from the 32% that were online in 2012. Estimates suggest that the region has been home to the world’s largest increase in Internet usage since 2001, experiencing 600% growth in the number of users over this time period.

And then there’s this:


With roughly 300 million native speakers, Arabic is one of the world’s leading languages.

Yet too many global companies do a poor (to nonexistent) job of supporting this language.

According to the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card just 49% of the websites studied support Arabic. Compare this to 95% for Chinese (Simplified) and German,  92% for Brazilian Portuguese and 89% for Russian (a language with 155 million native speakers).

So what we have here is an acute deficit in Arabic content on the Internet and this has, for years, led to a negative cycle for consumers of this content.

Arabic speakers have been conditioned to assume that most global companies are not invested in their language.

Why, for instance, is the Apple Egypt home page still in English?


The irony here is that Apple’s operating systems do support Arabic.

Arabic translation tends to be more expensive than many other languages. The bidirectional properties of the languages also presents a number of technical challenges (though very surmountable). These factors have led many executives to believe that the ROI of supporting Arabic just isn’t there.

Looking at the data I’d say the time is now to take a second look at supporting this language.


You Say .Sucks, I Say .Global: The flood of new domain names isn’t pretty but will create a truly global Internet

By John Yunker,

I sympathize with Internet old timers (such as myself) who look back wistfully at the good ol’ days, when the only decision you had to make when registering a new domain name was choosing between .com or .net.

Today, there are more than 500 of these top-level domains from which to choose (with 400 more on the way) ranging from .nyc to .berlin, from .pink to .blue, and from .ceo to .xyz.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 5.43.33 PM

And, yes, there is even .sucks, a domain now available at a steep price—an issue that has gotten advertisers and legislators in a froth. At a congressional hearing recently, Representative Bob Goodlatte said that trademark owners are “being shaken down” by Vox Popula, the owner of the .sucks domain.


While I agree that many of these new domain names feel like a shady Internet tax, let’s not lose sight of the big picture—that the majority of the world’s Internet users could care less about .sucks, because they don’t even speak English.

And it is these Internet users—those who don’t rely on a Latin-based script—who stand to benefit most from this new wave of domain names.

When ICANN opened the door to domains like .sucks, it also opened the door to domains like .世界 (.world), . рус (.Russian), and . みんな (.everyone).

What’s overlooked in the furor over the new domain names is that about 10% of the domains are in non-Latin scripts.

Imagine if, every time you wanted to visit a website, you were expected to type in letters from a foreign language, or worse, an entirely foreign script, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese. The Internet was designed to be global, but it was not designed to be multilingual.

Of the three billion Internet users today, more than 70% do not speak English as a native language, if it all. China alone accounts for 640 million Internet users.

Not surprisingly, the second most-registered new domain (after .xyz) is .网址 —the Chinese equivalent of “web address.”

With these new domains (and many more to follow), we inch closer to a linguistically global Internet, in which people no longer have to leave their native languages to get where they want to go.

If we must suffer through .sucks to have domains in Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and other languages, perhaps it’s a price we have to pay to make the Internet truly accessible to the world.

And, someday in the future, when Chinese and Russian legislators get in a froth over translated equivalents of .sucks, I will know that the Internet has truly connected the world.


Global gateway fail: DeWalt

By John Yunker,

DeWalt greets visitors with a pull-down global gateway shown here:


This type of landing page is not ideal in this day and age.

Using geolocation (see Geolocation for Global Success), DeWalt could take the user directly to the localized website and display an overlay asking the user to confirm or change locale setting. But this is not the main reason I’m writing about DeWalt.

This is:


The menu shows a clear preference in favor of visitors from the USA.

Let’s suppose you’re visiting from the UK — you’ve got a bit of scrolling ahead of you. Not only that, you (and everyone else) is now acutely aware that DeWalt displays a bias in favor of its American visitors.

So what’s the solution?

I suggest avoiding long pull-down menus altogether. There are plenty of global gateway menus that display all options on one page.

For more on global gateways, check out The Art of the Global Gateway and 25 Amazing Global Gateways.


Country codes are maturing — but not retiring

By John Yunker,

Country codes are still adding registrations but the more developed markets are seeing a decline in growth rate.

Shown below is a visual from the registry behind the .FR domain:

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 7.39.58 PM

Of course, AFNIC is keen to point out that the growth rate for country codes is still much higher than “legacy” domains like .com and .net.

And this is true. Country codes are still growing, just not as quickly as registrars would like.

Some experts say that the flood of new top-level domains has negatively impacted country codes.

These new domains include regional domains such as:

Dot London



As well as more generic domain names:

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 5.43.33 PM

To name just a few.

Honestly, all these new domains are overwhelming. But I do not believe they negative impact country codes.
In fact, my research shows that global brands are actually migrating away from using the .com domain for all markets to using country codes for specific markets.

I’ve also noticed that a few new TLD owners now wish to use country codes as second-level domains.

SONY is one such brand domain. Even though Sony has no intention of opening its domain to the public it wants to use country codes internally. So, in theory, a Sony German website would be located at

This is all theoretical at this point as ICANN has not yet released country codes to Sony.

But the very fact that this is a looming issue points to the utility of country codes.

Internet users understand country codes. Country codes are not going away anytime soon, just evolving into new usage scenarios.

But back to the question of why domain growth rates are declining.

Mobile is the real culprit here. I know of a number of mobile startups that could care less about registering country codes — because their services exist within the app itself. An Internet presence is a mere formality for these companies.

In addition, Facebook continues on its quest to swallow the Internet. And it will gladly help companies host all of their content within Facebook’s walls — country codes, who needs ’em?

But I do not think Facebook will swallow the Internet. I also think hosting your own website (and relevant country codes) is the best way to control your destiny — and smart virtual real estate to own. That’s not to say walled gardens such as Facebook and iOS aren’t worth playing in, but always keep in mind that you’re playing by someone else’s rules. And these rules can (and do) change.