Homepage of a Chinese popular online shopping site - www.taobao.com. What’s your first impression?
Homepage of a popular Chinese web portal site - www.qq.com. What’s your first impression?
Busy? Complicated? Cluttered? Confusing? Colourful? Wow Any of these?
Must look complicated ? Must have lots of links ? Links must open new windows ? Must use flash ? It’s easy to just look at a few Chinese sites and make quick assumptions and Must look busy ? conclusions about them. These are the most common assumptions made about Chinese sites. But are they true? If they are, then why? If they are not, then why?
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Links must open new windows Must use flash Must all Chinese sites look Must look busy complicated? Let’s think about why they look complicated.
You can see two things in one - a young lady and an old lady. It’s an illusion. Could those complex Chinese sites be complex and simple?
BBC News site: UK version Tidy layout, easily scanned.
BBC News site: Indonesian version Similar layout, same alphabets. But might look a bit more complicated.
BBC news site: Russian version Tidier layout, but look more complicated than the English version.
BBC news site: “COMPLICATED” Chinese version Is it really complicated? Same amount of info as the other versions and similar layout. Westerners think it’s complicated because they don’t understand what they are looking at.
BBC news site: “COMPLICATED” Chinese version To Chinese users, it’s not complicated. It’s as simple as the English version because they are taking the same amount of information as the West.
Tan Chui Chui 11 8 15 15 strokes strokes strokes strokes Chinese characters are formed by strokes. It can be from 1 stroke 36 64 strokes to over 60 strokes. strokes nàng (Snuffle) zhé (Verbose) My last name: Simplified Chinese: 8 strokes Most strokes Most complex characters found Traditional Chinese :11 strokes in modern Chinese dictionaries My first name: 15 strokes each
目前Twitter的“Tweet”按钮已经遍布网络，能 让用户个人 更加方便地分享信息。而“Follow”按钮则致力于建立更加 密切的社交互动服务。这一功能类似于Facebook 的“Like”按钮。Twitter推出的双按钮概念其实不难理 解，“Tweet”按钮主要负责分享信息，而“Follow”按钮则是 让Twitter用户与提供相 信息的用户或网站建立远程联 系。 No capital letter in Chinese writing. No space between characters. Hence, it look more intense with less breathing room.
目前Twitter的“Tweet”按钮已经遍布网络，能 让用户个人 更加方便地分享信息。而“Follow”按钮则致力于建立更加 密切的社交互动服务。这一功能类似于Facebook 的“Like”按钮。Twitter推出的双按钮概念其实不难理 解，“Tweet”按钮主要负责分享信息，而“Follow”按钮则是 让Twitter用户与提供相 信息的用户或网站建立远程联 系。 But, it doesn’t look complicated to Chinese users because they are used to read it.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Links must open new windows It’s not completely true that all Must use flash Chinese sites must look complicated. It’s an illusion your brain created when you don’t know what you are looking at. Must look busy It’s also because of Chinese characters which can be complex and Chinese writing which without space between characters.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Links must open new windows Must use flash Must look busy
They DO use a lot of links. WHY?
Designers suggested it’s because typing in Chinese on an alphabet-based keyboard is hard. Hence sites are designed for clicking as opposed to searching. I DON’T agree.
Standard Chinese keyboard Chinese use the same keyboards as the West. They use ‘Pinyin’ to input Chinese characters using these alphabet-based keyboards.
*This page was modified to replace a video showing how to use ‘Pinyin to input Chinese characters. Beijing(北京) Fei(飞) Niuyue (纽约)
There are shortcuts. Instead of typing ‘beijing’, *This page was modified to Chinese can just type ‘bj’ and replace a video showing how to choose from the list. use shortcuts to input Chinese Similarly for ‘Niuyue’ [New characters using ‘Pinyin’ York] where they can just type ‘ny’.
It’s fast and easy. It could be slower for Chinese to type in English than in Chinese. Chinese also complain about not being able to find what they are after on a page due to the overwhelming content and links. Instead, they choose to use the search box and skip the homepage.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Links must open new windows Must use flash A lot of links is what most Must look busy Chinese sites have. But it’s not what Chinese users like.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Just for now Links must open new windows Must use flash Only for now where links open new windows. Must look busy Internet connection speed will be increased in China in coming years and Chinese users’ browsing behavior will change.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Just for now Links must open new windows Must use flash Must look busy
[Go to sina.com.cn - a infotainment web portal covering news, entertainment, games, blogs and microblogging. Look at the number of flash banners on the page.]
They are all adverts. This is how China current economy situation is like at the moment. Their main profits are from adverts. The best way to get users’ attention to these adverts is via flash adverts.
For example, Taobao’s main revenue is from its adverts (
more than the profits they g
et from their services). But it is starting to change now in China.
Look at www.douban.com - a new Chinese online library site for books, music, movies, etc. There’s no flash or no adverts. But it’s doing well in China.
“360 safeguard” is a Chinese Web security tool. One of its functionalities is to allow Chinese to filter adverts. It’s a popular tool in China. Chinese want to see pages without distracting adverts. http://middle.blog.sohu.com/159409841.html
Fonts Another reason why Chinese designers often use flash on websites is because of available Chinese Web fonts.
Limited font choices No way to emphasise font Restriction on font sizes There is no fancy fonts available. Minimum font size = 12px. Smaller than that can create readability problem (because Chinese characters can be quite complex) http://www.flickr.com/photos/vlastula/300102949/
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Just for now Links must open new windows Must use flash It’s how China economy works at the moment - heavily rely Must look busy on adverts for revenue. Flash is not necessarily what Chinese users want.
Must look complicated Must have lots of links Just for now Links must open new windows Must use flash Must look busy
Baidu - the biggest search engine in China 420 million users
Baidu has the same page design and layout as Google (simple and tidy layout design)
Google search result page
Baidu search result page has simpler layout as Google’s.
Weibo (Chinese equivalent Twitter) has 140 million users. It has similar page design as Twitter.
What makes it popular in China is not the busyness of the site, it’s the functionalities it provides that support what Chinese users want and their social behaviors.
www.taobao.com: Chinese users like it not because of its colorful, long page. It’s all about products Chinese can buy from this site with very low price.
It’s more about “What the site does to the Chinese users rather than how it looks.”
“Don’t like Sina’s sport site. It feels messy and cluttered. Can’t find anything.” “Really dislike local download sites. Thousands of download links. The one you are looking for appears to be so small. Whereas those messy adverts and rubbish tools are unnecessarily big. Chinese complained about adverts and that they are not being able to find what they are after. (These are updates from Weibo - Chinese equivalent Twitter)
“The user experience of AirAsia website is really bad....” “It’s really painful to book flights through Shenzhen airlines site. It has rather bad user experience.” Chinese users care about usability and user experience. “Douban has the most comfortable adverts that I have ever seen on a website. Good user But, they have to put up with experience can make adverts more designs which offered to acceptable.” them. They’ve no choice because all companies are giving them similar (bad) web designs.
So, if Chinese don’t like how existing Chinese sites are being designed and want simple sites (just like the West), then why we constantly see Chinese sites which are designed in similar patterns? There are a number of reasons. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kareneliot/2710464400/
Part of it has to do with Confucius (a Chinese philosopher died 2.5 thousand years ago). His teachings influenced Chinese culture and social behaviors. His teachings emphasised the important of social, moral order and hierarchy. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rob_web/466866299/
Hierarchy means respecting and listening to people who are older than you and your superiors. When bosses say something, it’s a command, not a starting point for discussion. E.g. If they want to put a lot of flash adverts on a homepage to gain revenue, designers have no choice but to follow. http://www.flickr.com/photos/19779889@N00/4455072054/
Another Confucius teaching: collectivism China is a collectivist society, hence social recognition is important. “Mian Zi” or Face (or prestige) is important. Chinese want to gain and maintain face in all aspects of their personal, social and business life.
How they are perceived by society is important as society’s endorsement define their values. It’s common companies try to squeeze as much content as they can on their site to give users the impression that they’re doing well and have plenty to offer. Just like Chinese host often order more food than their guests could possibly eat.
Chinese client still don’t understand much about the importance of UX. It’s fine for now because almost all Chinese sites are designed in similar patterns. Chinese have no choice but to put up with what they are given. Once UX becomes more popular and more Chinese sites provide not only good products but also good UX, Chinese will be less forgiven for sites with bad UX. http://www.flickr.com/photos/h4ck/4202513554/
Also, Chinese designers have very low salaries. They bear a number of responsibilities and often are given ridiculous timescale. Therefore they are likely to copy each other or existing sites. Hence, we tend to see Chinese sites with similar design patterns again and again. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cbcastro/477856025/
Design pattern: Similarities . Differences So, are Western and Chinese websites very different in terms of their design? Let’s look at these sites..
The NY Times homepage: a busy, long page with a lot of links and content.
The Sina news site (www.news.sina.com.cn): If you put it into a wireframe, it has tidier layout than the NY Times homepage.
What’s important is not just the site design, it’s more about what your site does to the users. It’s about providing what Chinese users want and supporting their behaviors and social elements. For example..
China is also an expressive society. They like and use a lot of icons - cute, animation icons. These seem to be unimportant elements but they have big impact on how Chinese use your site. You need to pay attention to these elements when providing a service to Chinese (via your websites or other means) http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/4582294721/
You won’t learn about a country in one presentation.
Things will change Because a society will change over time, including its economy, its users’ behaviors, etc. Browsing behaviour Use of adverts and animations Internet speed China economy Education & experiences in UX Font choice options Use of Design quality & graphics innovation
Make quick conclusions based on what you see Design your site by (blindly) following the design of others Chinese sites Understand why and look into the reasons behind Understand how Chinese users would use your site (behaviour, culture, social, economy)