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The evaluation of independent global airlines websites

Client: UXAlliance
Duration: 2 weeks
End Date: January 2010
Medium: Web
Service provided: Website evaluation for competing airlines

With Internet usage topping over 1.7 billion people worldwide, the era of the World Wide Web is truly upon us. The Internet is quickly becoming the primary port of call for information, products and services.

Although most Internet users have English as their native or secondary language, with computer ownership and access to the Internet most rapidly increasing outside of Europe and North America, a substantial portion of Internet users are from non-English speaking countries. This fact has brought the importance of Web site localization to the fore - ideally, Web sites should be as usable as possible across all potential users, regardless of their location, language, business practices, or cultural issues.

It is crucial that any business wanting to reach beyond national markets, towards an international customer base, should consider Web site localization. Essentially, Web site localization is the process of adapting the information according to specific linguistic, cultural and business rules of target audiences in specific locales (country/region and language).

As highlighted by Neil Payne (2006) from Kwintessentialii, if done well localization can earn 3 main benefits:

  • Web site localization crosses language barriers. Web site localization breaks linguistic barriers and opens doors to other continents.
  • Web site localization builds credibility. Localization demonstrates that a company is truly an international player, who understands, values and respects different countries or regions.
  • Web site localization increases revenue. Most Internet users will naturally feel more comfortable and understand a company better, if information, products or services are presented in their native language. They will also be more capable of completing the task at hand (e.g. booking a flight). Web site localization therefore allows access to potentially millions of new customers.

Essentially, the global nature of the Internet and potential differences amongst disparate cultures dictates the way the web content should be presented and adapted. Reliance on a single, one size fits all version of a Web site, if it is used across cultures, may lead to user dissatisfaction.


For this user centric study, UIDesign Group and the partners of the UXAllianceOpen in a new window evaluated the websites of independent global airlines. The objective was to assess how well each one had been designed to serve customers in their local markets.

The list of evaluated websites
The list of evaluated websites


More than 70 user experience professionals from 17 countries evaluated the websites of the ten airlines shortlisted for the Skytrax Airline of the Year Award 2009, including Thai Airways, Singapore Airways, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates Airline, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Asiana Airlines.

Each researcher reviewed the websites against 30 localization criteria, classified into seven categories: visual design, typography, language/terminology, localization, features and scenarios, technology, and overall rating. Reviewers rated the websites on these criteria while performing a series of use cases.


UX researchers found that Emirates airline was the most effective at localizing their web service, while Malaysia was the least effective. Researchers rated websites highest if they were both usable and culturally sensitive. To appeal to local users, the website must be technically easy to use and be available in the local language with a localized URL. Symbols, images and tone must also be culturally appropriate.

Efficiency rating of airlines website localization (based on z-scores)
Efficiency rating of airlines website localization (based on z-scores)

The UXalliances extensive international reach allowed this study to comprehensively examine various airlines online appeal to potential customers. Each partners local and cultural evaluation and expertise can be harnessed and compared in a comprehensive international framework.

Please email mail@uidesign.ruOpen in a new windowto request this full, 20-page white paper.

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