For ease, to save on cost, because we like our English-language website. Those are the main reasons many companies produce a carbon copy design for the China market, just passed to a translator with the English substituted for Chinese. It’s the easiest way to get a Chinese website. But is it the best way? Will it generate interest, enquiries and reinforce the image you’d like for your company in China?
It seems the most obvious thing, but if you’re considering this question, the first thing to do is check out what domestic Chinese websites look like in your sector. It’ll help you formulate your opinion as to whether you need a radically different design from your Western website.
You’re in the jobs recruitment sector, for example. Check out popular Chinese websites like http://www.51job.com/. Whoooaa! Different, right? Unlike the cleaner, minimalist websites of key Western players, it looks very busy, right?
So does your company need to ape Chinese sites or stay true to your Western design? What factors need to be considered?
If you don’t read Chinese, a Chinese website looks busy and cluttered. But remember, your target market do read Chinese.
In China, the preference is for presenting huge amounts of information on the landing page rather than have the user navigate to relevant content. Chinese internet users are used to this format, so are less susceptible to information overload than Western users.
Although this content-heavy approach might cause Western users to leave a site, in China the reverse can often be true; if a landing page isn’t familiar and doesn't contain enough information for them to understand what the site is about they are more likely to think the site has little value and dismiss it.
Also, remember, Chinese characters are not letters. One character can represent a whole word. SO you can get a lot more information across in the same space.
So, unless your business is well-known or your service is instantly obvious to the average Chinese user, you may need to move away from Western clean, minimalist design and make sure there’s enough text to keep the user onsite regarding what you are offering.
Website speeds have not been traditionally fantastic in China. Due to the size of the country and the nature of ISP provision in China, download speed is often not brilliant today. So, whereas in the West, we drill, drill, drill for information, quickly scanning and moving on to get the information we’re after, in China a page load can take longer, so you need to make sure there’s something worth reading once loaded rather than requiring the user to click again.
There's no denying that from consumer-focused websites to the dowdiest B2B engineering sites, you’re likely to get pop-ups in China.
Chat and instant message windows are common, calls to ‘enquire now’ or pick up the phone. Everyone likes a deal, and this is especially true in China, so the latest offers and calls to action flash and vie for attention.
In the West, we may find this tacky, cheap, un-corporate and unappealing. But China online is about trust. Whether B2B or B2C, will you help me pre-sale and do I trust that you’ll be there for me post sale also? Showing how available you are to potential customers is important whatever your sector and something which Western firms often don’t get.
Use of colour on Chinese websites can be a little less conservative than on their Western equivalents. Eye-watering use of strong colours, often in contrasting schemes, is commonplace. Bright colours are a chief tool in attracting visitor attention.
That doesn’t mean your website should copy, but it’s good to be aware of how domestic competitors use colour.
Many websites think red and gold are good colours in China. But this is more due to our Western associations of China, its flag, New Year celebrations and maybe even Mao and communism. We use red for our logo on this website. But for our China-facing content, we don’t. Our staff don’t think it is appropriate for a business like ours. So we change for China.
Is one of your company’s important sales points that you are Western? Maybe due to associations with quality, innovation or fashion. If so, then it’s good to keep certain elements of your Western design. Aping a Chinese site makes your offering less believable.
There are always ‘norms’ for a website in a specific sector. Navigation structures, methods of contact, presentation of information, ways of interaction usually follow a pattern. So don’t be a trailblazer. It’s all about trust. The user doesn’t need to take a leap of faith to use your website – make it like others in your sector. And not Western websites in your sector – Chinese ones (still bearing in mind the previous point on ‘Westnerness’)
In China, the net is always changing. So what we write here will probably soon change. As Western websites become more common in China, especially with the popularity of Western luxury goods in China, familiarity with Western websites increases. SO Chinese websites in a certain sector or those want to appear more ‘global’ to their Chinese audience may start to display Western characteristics. Take this travel website, for example. Here’s a snapshot from a couple of years ago.
Here’s a more recent one
There’s definitely a move to a more Western feel here. Oh, and don’t forget mobile. Mobile devices are used massively in China, so everything should be top notch for your mobile display.
Consider your competitors in China and their designs. Consider if your 'Westerness' is part of your USP. Consider what navigation and interaction methodologies are the norms in China. Consider if it’s obvious what you do and there’s enough info per page without requiring the user to click further. Make sure getting in touch or buying from you doesn’t require a leap of faith from a Chinese user.
Then start your design!
To support your future development, Backbone IT Group has a track record in Chinese website design and localisation. This also includes digital market research, virtual office and message response, among other services. Get in touch now and we’ll look forward to helping your team.