In my opinion, IKEA is the master of the global gateway. I’ve come across their gateway through a book called “Global Gateways” years ago. And they still keep making their gateway better and better.
The global gateway is the page that appears on ikea.com if you haven’t visited the page before. Actually it always appears, see rule 1. It’s where a visitor can choose which country website he wants to visit, e.g. the Canadian one, and which language he wants the site to be in, e.g. in French.
It’s sole purpose is to get the visitor to get to the right version of the website.
That means, we don’t blindfold and redirect our visitors as we choose, it means we let the visitor choose the correct version.
For that purpose, IKEA created a two way gateway.
Part 1, the part above the fold automatically detects the IP and suggests a country. But equally, they also show right away where to select the correct country, in case they got it wrong.
Part 2 of the gateway is where one can choose the country and language, in case IKEA didn’t detect the right country, or did not detect any country, which also happens as I noticed.
In this two way global gateway, IKEA really mastered the four rules of global gateways.
Rule 1: Don’t Redirect
Let your visitor choose his country, automated redirects get things wrong way too often.
There are usually two levels or redirects.
The worst thing you can do is a level 1 redirect. Meaning you automatically redirect visitors from company.com to a certain specified language version, e.g. the company.com/en_GB/ because you detected his IP to be from GB.
The second thing you could do is, once they chose a language, try to force them to keep it. The website cat.com for instance implements this. If you go to cat.com they have a good global gateway that follows most of the rules.
But if you choose a country, then go to cat.com you will be redirected to your chosen country.
Why is that a bad thing? Because the visitor just tried to access cat.com. There’s a reason he did not try to go to the chosen country but the gateway page.
The idea should always be to assist your visitor, but not to assume he is stupid. That’s the way I feel, when I get redirected to cat.com/en_US.html if I try to access cat.com, the global gateway to choose a different country.
Rule 2: No Interactive Maps
There is a trend introducing more and more icons. I wonder when websites will turn into no-text, all images and icons monsters.
Some companies assume, this trend means a country selector has to be a large map.
But a large map is, well, large, and it’s hard to choose from 200+ countries. It’s usually many more clicks than the simple list IKEA implements.
Rule 3: Use A Common and a Local Language
If I’m from China and want to select the Chinese website, chances are, I don’t like to read English. So there is no use in displaying all countries in English only.
On the other hand, it’s always nice to have them in English so you can sort them in some way.
IKEA implements this and also groups them by continent, alphabetically ordered.
But IKEA goes further, they do this for the country and the language. For instance the language selection for visitors from Belgium looks like this.
Rule 4: Prioritise the Right Business Units
Remember, the goal of the gateway is to make things easy to find for the visitor. For some companies that means, displaying all their business units, which may be hundreds, on a large scale gateway.
For a user oriented company it should mean to display the most important one (s), but also to display the other ones.
IKEA obviously chooses to display the websites for it’s furniture. But equally chooses to mention the links to all other IKEA websites in the footer.
By the way, those four rules also apply to the language selector on the country website. IKEA simply displays the two languages the Canadian website is available in plain text and in it’s right language.