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New FAQ: Global Gateway

From: John Yunker <jyunker@bytelevel.com>
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 10:32:35 -0500
To: <public-i18n-geo@w3.org>
Message-ID: <ILEHKMMCGBGOJFEDFGPCEEACDMAA.jyunker@bytelevel.com>

Hi all,

I'd like to submit the following as an FAQ on global gateways. It is quite
long (perhaps too long) and needs a bit of work yet - please send me your

I'd also like this to be a starting point for discussing best practices in
global navigation - something that we can incorporate into the "Authoring
Techniques" section on navigation.



Global Gateway FAQ

My company has developed a number of country-specific Web sites. How do I
ensure that visitors to our global “.com” home page find their
country-specific sites?

You need to develop a “global gateway” strategy. A global gateway is an
umbrella term for the visual and technical devices you employ to direct
users to their locale- and language-specific Web sites.

A global gateway may employ one or all of the following devices:

1.	Localized URL (country- and/or language-specific)
2.	Content Negotiation
3.	Splash Gateway
4.	Permanent Gateway

Ideally, the elements are used in concert to ensure that Web users find the
sites they need as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Here is an overview
of each device:

Localized URL

The URL is the most direct path to a localized Web site. At a minimum, if
you have a country-specific Web site, you should register for a
country-specific domain, such as www.foo.fr for France or www.foo.br for
Brazil. Country-specific domains also help your site perform better in local
search engines.

Companies may also register domain names in non-Latin scripts (sometimes
referred to as internationalized domain names). For example, a company in
Korea, Netpia (www.netpia.com) offers support for Korean-language domain
names. However, be aware that the DNS currently only supports a subset of
the ASCII character set; all non-Latin workarounds are just that,
workarounds. Keep an eye on ICANN (http://icann.org) for developments on
internationalized domain names.

Content Negotiation

A Web browser, by default, will tell a Web server what language it prefers
when it requests a Web page. If a Web server has multiple language versions
of the same Web page, it may be configured to respond with the matching
language; this process is referred to as content negotiation or language
negotiation and is invisible to the Web user.

Google (www.google.com) relies on content negotiation. To test it out, using
Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Internet Options > Languages and set a
different language preference. The language at the top of the list is the
one you want delivered to you first. Using Netscape Navigator, you select
Edit > Preferences > Navigator > Languages.

(Iinclude screen shots of both browsers preference screens)

After configuring your preference, exit your browser. Open it back up and
visit Google. The home page should not match your first preference, unless
you picked a language Google does not support (Google supports more than 60
so far).

The downside to content negotiation is that many Web users do not know how
to re-configure their browsers should they wish to change their language
preference; this can be frustrating for multilingual Web users or people who
share a computer.

Splash Gateway

A splash gateway forces the user to select his or her locale before entering
the main page of the site. The benefit of a splash gateway is that ensures
that visitors know what locales are available to them; the liabilities of
this approach is that it draws attention to the fact that a company many not
offer many locales.

Splash gateways can also be annoying to repeat visitors. Therefore, if you
use a splash gateway, you should also rely on cookies to save the user’s
language preference so that the splash page is bypassed on return visits.
eTrade (www.etrade.com) uses a splash gateway and cookies.

(Screen shot of eTrade splash page)

Permanent gateway

If can only use just one global gateway element, this is the one to use. The
permanent gateway should be clearly visible on every Web page, ideally
located on the upper right-hand corner of the page (most gateways are
located in this area). A permanent gateway is critical because not all users
arrive at your site through the “front door.”

There is an art to designing a gateway – balancing creativity with
usability. A globe icon is becoming a default icon for indicating a global

If your site has four or fewer locale selections, it makes sense to place
direct links to each of these sites as shown here.

(Screen shot example)

If your site has more than four locales, you may need to use a pull-down

(Screen shot example)


Translate the links
Don’t forget to translate the names of the languages in the gateway. For
example, don’t use “German” when you can use “Deutsch.”  Always use the
native language of your user.

Avoid flag waving
Unless you offer a site specific to most countries, flags can be
troublesome. For example, what flag do you use to represent a region or a



Other links?

John Yunker
Byte Level Research
Received on Wednesday, 12 November 2003 10:25:51 UTC

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