I’d like to begin with a disclaimer. My opinions on the following topic are merely that, opinions. Opinions formed by observations and interactions with the Chinese culture over a brief period of about two years during my time living in the Henan province in Central China.
I have no formal education or training on the subject of Eastern or Western cultures, sociology or cross-cultural communications whatsoever. Additionally, I will interchange the terms “Chinese” and “Eastern”. I recognize that my generalizations are merely that, generalizations. Japan, for instance, has been heavily influenced by the West (and vise versa), so many of our affinities, in design and otherwise, overlap.
How it all Started
Upon my arrival in China in the summer of 2005, it wasn’t long before I began to notice some of the intricacies of the cultural differences between the Chinese and the West. Sure there were obvious differences like language, physical appearance, governmental philosophy, etc. But what really began to emerge were subtle differences like sense of humor, interests and artistic preference.
I noticed that I simply could not find a Chinese website that was visually appealing to me. Out of curiosity, I began to ask around and put together a list of websites that Chinese natives frequented and thought were well designed / useful.
I’m guessing if I asked this question to the common web surfer in the West I’d get sites that weren’t well designed (cough-facebook-cough-amazon-cough). So the caveat here is that I may have received different feedback had I asked Chinese web designers. Either way, the answers I received back from the Chinese were sites like the following:
- Baidu (China’s Google)
- Alibaba (China’s eBay)
- QQ (China’s AIM/Google Talk)
- Ren Ren (China’s Facebook)
- Sina (China’s Yahoo)
With the exception of baidu.com (who blatantly copied their design from Google) and renren.com (who clearly copied their design from Facebook), the common theme among most Chinese sites seemed to be ludicrous amounts of characters (e.g. text) with either a misuse of graphics or the complete omission of graphics altogether. I was baffled. How could this be acceptable? How are the Chinese able to consume all of this data, filter it, and decide what they want and don’t? Why do they even tolerate the fact that this is standard practice?
Moreover, it’s common for Chinese sites to have multiple, simultaneous animations, popups, overlays, sliders, etc… they regularly practice many of the fundamentally understood bad design principles that Western designers strive to avoid at all costs. I honestly felt like I was back to 1995 all over again.
Of course, being the pompous Westerner that I am, my initial reaction was “Oh, they are a developing nation and simply haven’t caught up to us yet.” Well, that could be the case. I suppose there is merit in the truth that design and artistic preference evolve over time and with prolonged exposure. An example of this could be that I personally wouldn’t hang a Renaissance style painting in my house today; though I most certainly would have during that era. As a culture, our preferences have evolved. Perhaps that is where China is currently positioned along the fabric of design evolution.
Another possibility, however (and my personal theory), is that nurture has trumped nature and Chinese web design preferences are being formed from upbringing and cultural influence rather than prolonged exposure and natural artistic evolution. Of course, artistic evolution is rooted in cultural upbringing, but my argument is that Chinese web design preference, while evolving and advancing, is not playing catch-up to Western web design. Rather, it is simply taking its own course, being guided primarily by Eastern culture and only mildly influenced by the West with basic IA concepts.
Why I Formed this Theory
I spent most of my time in China at the University where I taught. During that time I noticed that the general rule of thumb for Chinese students was to memorize information and really not be bothered with actually understanding it. They figured they had the rest of their life to spend thinking about and grasping the information they were learning in school and now wasn’t the time to actually analyze it. Quite different from our views on the University experience here in the West, huh?
I think this insight into how most Chinese learn might be a key component to how most Chinese read and interact with websites as well. As Westerners, we desire and expect enlightenment, an “ah-hah” moment, an understanding, even entertainment (whether that is the intent of the website or not). Easterners don’t operate that way. They acquire data first; they indulge in it later. The premise of my theory is that when Chinese are accessing a website, they are in data acquisition mode. It’s all about input from the site to the brain, and not nearly as much about interaction, reaction or understanding.
Another aspect of Chinese culture that became frustratingly obvious over time is that they are extremely indirect. Unlike Westerners, Chinese become very uncomfortable when people get right to the point. There is a sort of dance that occurs among Chinese during conversation. As a Westerner, this is extremely frustrating and confusing, but for Chinese this is simply the most acceptable method of communication. I don’t think it’s too much of a jump then to carry over this behavior to website interactions as well. A concise, to the point, call to action just simply is not what resonates with the Chinese culture.
Keeping it Real
Now, in the spirit of remaining the transparent realist that I am, here are a few bullet points outlining my feelings and understandings:
- This does not mean that I now see the beauty of Chinese web design. For me, it still reeks of 1995 Western design. And 1995 design practices, while tolerable at that time, are now objectively bad and should not be revisited.
- I do not believe that Chinese web design should or could catch up to the current trends we are seeing in the West.
- I do not believe the artistic preference timeline is linear across time and cultures and that all cultures pass through the same points. China is on their evolutionary path and the West is on theirs.
- We can and should appreciate that our cultures are different, but we do not and should not (currently at least) agree on best practices in web design.
Cross-cultural web design is extremely difficult if not impossible. Beyond language barriers, there exists an insurmountable artistic preference barrier. This is not a bad thing. Everyone is different. Every culture is different. Though I do believe in cross-cultural interactions and communications, there are some things that must remain accessible only within that culture. Web design is one of them.
Great post, the article is very informative and educative. Hope to see more update on this site
Hey, I like your post and I’m a Chinese. There’s one thing I want to mention is that the majority of the population in China is still in rural area or just work in city but resident in rural area. For this huge amount of people, they all have smartphones ( to contact the family), but they don’t always have computers ( that’s a luxury). So that explains why the websites have all the entries to the subpage on the index using only text without any design or images. They use smartphones instead of computers to surf the internet, data is expensive for them. As you say it’s not only about design, it’s also a cultural and marketing issue.
Luckily, this fact is changing rapidly like everything in China. More and more people start to consider things from not only financial aspect, but also the spiritual aspect 🙂
Chinese is more pay attention to the traditional, and western culture is very different, no comparability
Personally, as a “white” American, I love the look of Chinese web sites like the ones you posted. The Chinese characters are so neat looking and they fit the page tight; I wish I could have English characters that fit the page columns like that. Like others have said, English design is not the standard. In fact, IMHO, contemporary web design in the Americas is kinda getting played out. I love looking to Japanese and Chinese design for some my inspiration. Good article though. Thought provoking.
Remember there’s little to no copyright and IP protection in China, and therefore very limited innovation in all areas, including web design. Put yourself in the position of Chinese management. If you put time and money into an original design that your competitor copies immediately, you’ve just spent company time and money on your competitor’s behalf. How’s that gonna look to your boss? In China you get ahead with quantity and speed, not quality (generally speaking).
Tired of caotic chinese design?
Search for a website called AMICINA ( http://www.amicina.com )
the only one chinese website (a new and cool social network) I met which is really cared in design. WONDERFUL !
Perhaps you will love the design of http://catfan.me, a well-designed weblog social community. They use so many high-techs.
(craigslist + flash animation + pop ups) ^ 2 = Chinese web design
Hi Sketchy Tree
These are the most beautiful web site in china
and thanks you to share your word with people.
It’s a great topic not because it’s a 100% correct but It’s raise a valuable discussion here.
I’m from china and I see there was lots of improvement of design on Chinese website.
We have our own understand of UI and it’s may not 100% equal with west style, but it got reason and we may keep going for that. just like fashion, art and food…
I am an ordinary Internet users, a Chinese, a large number of domestic and international websites visited, why do I feel Simplified Chinese page looks the most comfortable? I did not find this page there is no beauty.
This one is interesting. It pointed out the commonality among Chinese homepages. but the insight of the reason behind the bad design is still western.
Grown up as a Chinese and with all the other Chinese, my theory is that most of the designers don’t have a decent artistic view. The persuing of a sence of beauty is not among the list of goals for a student back 15 or 20 years ago, while the country was very underdeveloped at that time. Now that they become the developers for the websites, that’s the reason you will find the bad design of the pages. One thing bothers me most is they use underscores at every line all the time!
扯淡 你也不看看在中国决策的是一些什么人 让你试试中国的客户 中国的领导 你就知道为啥中国的设计这么烂了 。。。
I THINK IT’S VERY VERY BAD……..I HATE THE DESIGN STYLE…
what a joke
As you comment on Chinese website, i decide comment your article in Chinese
My site: http://www.show0663.com/
why a narrow view designer so easy to post a blog or comment with strong word?
(read all the content for this link then thinking…)
Web design in China—the taste and style are Chinese elites’.
What are Chinese elites—have an wife in law and several lovers(fixed or temprorary), kids(most Chinese families have only one kid), cars, apts and villas(with rotted decration design—in my view), friendly to foreigners, look down on own people……
Cultures, like web design, are their tastes.
Hi,Nick, I am a Chinese, they design very bad,I think so ,and many other Chinese also think so.
I read your article and found you think that caused by what chinese netizen need and the culture. that’s
ture but not all.
first ,they need PageViews, you may say all portal websites need PV, but in China, the environment
refuse “innovate” , sina, sohu, qq and so on they have fierce competition,and they all didn’t want to be
the Guinea Pig ,so they keep the “1995 design” on 21st.
you will found that the subdomain design is much better than the ugly homepage in these site, that’s the
Second, Chinese internet development was unbalanced, some high-end user and many more low-end users.they
keep 800*600 design (width 760-800) untill 2008 olympic games. in fact at that moment many chinese
netizen’s screen resolution was 1280*x , and many netbar users still use 800*600 .
3rd, Chinese people like “keen on face-saving”(面子) , many information on the homepage ,more like a portal
website instead of a small website, that’s just what Chinese people think. and they could insert more
ADs in it.
they may very bad design(I think very s^k) , but not bad in their business in current environment in
your post has been translated into chinese and has been reprinted to Cnbeta( the most famous I.T. website in china) via:http://www.cnbeta.com/articles/133543.htm.
the web page make you confused?it works! you konw what im talking about.
ps:ads is the only way to get money in China,lol
That the Chinese saying, you are “NC” (brain damage). Web site does not a matter of how good-looking, but in content. like in your country to those sites, not the content, a pile of garbage !!!!!! despise despise !!!!!!
in fact, since you have been in china, you should know that a large amount of social websites are banned for political reasons. most of them are well-designed but unavailable. designers lack an access to those good examples from which they can learn from. cant we say that it is an undeniable reason for the poor designs?
现在这几个网站就百度有点点击率，其他的根本不上，Do you know, in China can not get youtubee facebook
I think, chinese web design really depends on hieroglyphic thinking. Chinese’ve got another way of perceiving the information. They can perceive multiple things simultaneously.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any chinese web design community (freelance) for discussion and mutual support in design. It suggests stagnation in chinese web design.
Because Chinese are bad learner. They are dull and thief. They copy the idea, dont innovate.
¨QQ (China’s AIM/Google Talk)¨，腾讯公司成立于1998年11月。the qq Im client first release in 1998.so, Do you when the Google Talk first release?—-2008. You are so funny. A father copys its son .
QQ is from ICQ. Do you know that?
无语啊，人家的WINDOWS LIVE 前身MSN出了多少年了
The websites you mentioned are indeed the most frequented ones. I’m also wondering that why the web portals like 163, Sina or QQ remain the same as 15 years ago. As far as I know, most people never visit the homepages of these sites. They only use some service of these sites. Douban might be an exception. It is notworth a try. I believe those imitations are fated to be losers.
I am a Chinese people, but also a developer.
I’m agree with a part of your viewpoint.
Do you know?Countless people is using IE6 browser in China.
There are many factors that hindered the Chinese characteristics in China’s development in Internet technology.
My English is not good,so can not express what I mean.
I’d like to add that “web design is simply not importent”.
It it was, then sina would have evolved. If you look up the shareholder distribution of big websites, it usually involves very deep and indirect political interaction.
In other words, websites are not competing on design at all, if you know what I mean.
Just like construction companies are not competing on architectural design, same thing.
Now, In fact, usability couldn’t support design absolute in china, That’s different from west cause the culture. But the designer are trying hard to change the current situation which have the passion. I have seen the progress.
i can’t agree more
but douban.com is nice…
There is no doubtful that a good web design can attract more attention than poor one. But I believe Chinese netizen（just like me) hardly care about the design of the web o.O
We Chinese do not have to cater for your taste. Don’t you know the differences between Chinese culture and Western Culuture? Yours is not the standard. So how do you define bad design? Only western desgin can be called good desgin? Don’t ask Chinese people to do what you want us to do based on your western criteria.
Chinese websites’ designs are entirely bad. I’m a Chinese.
幽默， 你的 明白？
Hi Guys, don’t be so rude.
I think his point is right. From my own experience, I don’t like the layout of most main chinese website after I spending 1 year living in US and surfing their Web like WSJ, NY times and so so. Basically their web is more organized and user-friendly. It’s not hard to find the breaking news or useful info. But on chinese site there is just too many BIG characters and you can’t find the info you need.
So we should take this as a good suggestion and try to make our web better. I will be glad to see some changes or improvements on Chinese website.
I agree with your opinion. I think the reason that causes bad Chinese web design is no innovation in China.
Never judge others by YOUR OWN STANDARDS. It’s not only arrogant but also ridiculous. You are not the GOD, the customer is. What do you think if I post several screenshots of western websites and ask why western web design is so bad? Frankly speaking, the western web design IS ugly to most of Asians not only just Chinese. Simplicity,which you might think is good design compared with most portal websites in China, may work in your country, but it won’t fit others in other countries.
Different people have different concepts of good design. I assume it’s basic knowledge but apparently and sadly, you don’t know it at all.
My answer on Quora to: Why Is Chinese Web Design So Different? http://qr.ae/o3wq
I’ve seen Japanese websites full of Japanese characters and that is even *worse* than the Chinese ones. My point is, full of text is not that bad as long as the page is well-organized (cnn.com as example), so apprently the problem about sina.com and qq.com is that their designers didn’t manage to make the page well-organized (the pages are verbose and sick-formed in fact).
As to the excess amount of animations, it’s the result of gaining prohit and technology compromise, though I hates sites like those, too. As commercial websites, they have to find a way to gaining profit and the *best* way is by advertising. The business environment of Chinese Internet is harsh (I just cannot explain why here, this cannot be explained in an essay-length article), so for sites of huge traffic, putting great amout of ads is their way of survival. Flash is widly adopted as means of advertisement because 1)the runtime is installed in most clients; 2)Flash is mature and is able to express rich content. The websites you inspected are enterprise *commercial* ones, not the start-ups living upon venture capital, they have to balance their revenue and expense. The public just wont care whether you are using Flash, or Silverlight, or HTML5, so they have to deploy the best technology they can afford. There are websites in US which also uses huge bunches of flash ads, dont deny it.
However, they are great sites with intuitive and aesthetic design in China. My example woule be http://www.guokr.com. And more and more companies have UCD/UED department now. The Chinese websites are making progress in such fields of design, slowly or rapidly. Let see. 🙂
Wow! It is ashamed that the author couldn’t read Chinese to understand such an excellent article! Thumb up;)
“Dear” Johnson, I wanna send you four words in Chinese call “井底之青”, and you’re supposed to understand what means before you write such article .
Unfortunately it should be “井底之蛙”. Definitely you are not a Chinese.
chinaese boss is BIG SB~SB~SB~SB
FUCK YOU ANIMAL!
really hate guys like u the conflict inciter.
I’m a Chinese netizen.
Deeply agree with you
Tired of webpages with a lot of words and photos
Hope a well-designed site
15′ crt + 1024×768 + opera路过
dont give urself too many excuses, designers, thats ur faults, u’re designers, if the web design get bad, u take all the reponsible. the only thing u can complete is the time limitation, if not, shut up and do ur design by heart. no more excuse, u’re the designers
You know any web agency/company is not comprise of “designer” only? There are many other roles(your project manager) who could criticize or turn down a nice design by multiple reasons, such as marketing, funding, advertising issue… It is not an excuse, it’s the REALITY.
the reality is ur boss was not happy with ur creation, so he told u to make sth like want he said, and u made a copy of everything. and then complained that u have difficulties, who didnt? did u reach the levels? why ur creation rejected everytime. u just didnt know what the problem was, and thought everyone was firing against u.
I just want to simply clarify that there are multiple reasons behind a designer’s final work. Did I mention that my boss ever turned down my design before? Don’t acting like an arrogant person. Ask yourself first, do you reach the “level”?!
Someone just threw 400 billion dollars to you guys. What you expected for?
Just thought I’d translate some of this. If I’m not mistaken, he said that all those sites were created in a time before Google and Baidu when information wasn’t easy to find, which is why they try to present as much info as possible in a single page.
As a Chinese, I think the most important site is useful, followed by human, if a site re-design good-looking but not practical, it is very failed, of course, this is only for commercial Web sites, as mentioned several landlord Web site is all business, and the second, why google, yahoo, ebay success in China is not it? Why Baidu, sina, alibaba, renren able to succeed in China because they know better, they just copy the model number of sites, but they have been minimally, so that they can succeed, despite any technical level of the United States leads the world then However, the center of China’s future is the Internet, so there will be more of these successful web site to learn Chinese!
all of your collections about chinese website in this article are bad.. however, some people found some well-design chinese websites..
check these out: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/03/15/showcase-of-web-design-in-china-from-imitation-to-innovation-and-user-centered-design/
我认为 Darryl Snow 说的很有道理， 我认为这个应该叫中国现状，究其原因，我认为是贫穷（或者说高物价）和教育水平低（或者说公民&企业素质低）导致的。
I grown up in China, and totally agree with you.
I think one of the reasons why the web site listing so much information is that we Chinese users have never thought enough about what ‘I’ want.
As a Chinese student and a web designer, I totally agree with you too! The Chinese web site alway full of junk info.中国的网站，大多都是以盈利为目的！不管是门户还是什么类型的站点，不是弹窗就是茫茫多的广告！再者，中国的盗版站点太过严重，缺乏自主创新，身为中国人我也不得不承认这一点！大量的信息充斥着这个世界，然而，在信息爆炸的当今，我们很难在中国站点找到人们想要的信息，sina（新浪），腾讯，这两家中国最大的门户，本是中国的代表，然而，我们却很难从中获取我们最想要的信息，反而甚至要用到搜索功能来搜索…真的是很悲剧！
Chinese big company care much about making money, supervision and control from government make them use more conservative design
Great article to highlight the cross-cultural aspects of webdesign. I’ve lived in China for many years (working as a frustrated web designer in a Chinese company for 2 of those years – I just had to get out!) and agree with all your points. I think it is fair to offer a critical analysis like this because there are cultural differences that people should be aware of (many countries in asia are bustling, crowded places where lots of flashy animations that we in the west might consider distracting would probably be more effective, as another poster pointed out regarding Indian websites) but we are all still humans and there must surely be certain usability principles that we all conform to.
I do think Chinese web design is flawed even in the Chinese market as you only have to watch a Chinese person try to use one of these websites to do something they wouldn’t normally do (e.g. test them to find something that they don’t instinctively click on every time they go to sina.com) and watch them struggle. My wife spent an hour on the Chinese version of groupon the other day just trying to work out where she should click on each page in order to complete the transaction. If a design makes something more difficult that is necessary that you can surely call it bad design?
I think the main obstacles to usable, standards-driven websites in China are:
1) the education mentality
people who learn to make websites aren’t inspired to seek creative solutions to problems, but rather copy what their predecessors have done
2) low salaries
all the web designers i’ve ever met in China have been paid an average unskilled office worker salary… some of them have studied overseas and when they come back their salary offers no encouragement for them to put in the extra effort needed for a fully usable website – if they can demonstrate that it works on 1 computer then that’s good enough for the boss
3) the poor reliability of the software
mostly IE, pirated, hacked, and modded so as to be quite unpredictable – no point trying to adhere to any standards
4) the lack of accountability
as with most things in China, responsibility is always palmed off as much as possible so if a website doesn’t work there’s rarely any way to report it let alone get someone to accept the responsibility to fix it
5) typography limitations
chinese typefaces usually include at a minimum around 6000 unicode characters, making the font files very large and thus modern font-embedding techniques are useless. This is one of the reasons why flash is so prevalent as it’s the only way for a designer to really offer varied or appealing typography.
6) client mentality & face
client mentality is exactly the same as in the west in 1995 – people want a website because they think they should have one… they don’t know why or what they want to use it for… they just want you to make them an online brochure, just like the one they had printed a few years ago. The designer or agency must know their place otherwise someone will risk losing face – they can never suggest to the client that they might be wrong in their approach, nor can they make any recommendations to the client, but must remain simply servile and submissive.
What thoughtul observations Darryl. You make some very interesting points. And the article is thought provoking as well!
Pirated IE? Really?
In China, most website designing processes do not separate coding from design, and it’s usually programmers who do the design as well (i.e. someone calls himself a spring ‘Designer’) This is more of an issue with IT industrial standard procedure than anything cultural (our culture never says “hey, design some crap websites”). I’ve been living in this English speaking country for several years and reading their website still gives me headache. You probably know how to read Chinese yet you’ll need to read the whole sense to know what it means, and the massive amount of Chinese characters on the website start to hurt your eyes – that’s how I feel about reading English websites – it’s nothing to do with our typography, it’s to do with your mastery of that language.
“5) typography limitations
chinese typefaces usually include at a minimum around 6000 unicode characters, making the font files very large and thus modern font-embedding techniques are useless. This is one of the reasons why flash is so prevalent as it’s the only way for a designer to really offer varied or appealing typography. ”
I’m raising this with fontface … but this is certainly not why flash is used everywhere. If someone pays you some $20000 to put an ugly flash on your website, will you do it?
point was that Chinese typography can be so beautiful – just look at printed designs – but that currently can’t be implemented easily on the web. Chinese characters always look quite ugly on screen (compared to if they were written / printed), especially if using a Windows computer, whether you’re accustomed to reading them or not.
And if someone were to pay me $20,000 to make an ugly flash site, I wouldn’t do it without telling them the pitfalls of using flash, how their goal can probably be achieved better without using flash, and the fact that everybody is making flash websites is perhaps more to do with technical and typographic limitations rather than customer expectations. All the customer wants, whether Chinese or not, is a fast and usable website.
In all honesty, if there are problems with the font used, you should use less of it and convey more of the meaning through imagery and graphics. Webfonts still aren’t a common practice in the western world either, so we’re pretty much locked into 8 fonts total to design all our websites. We can use images instead of text, but that doesen’t sit well with search engines of course. So we use as little text as is necessary and as much as is needed. I don’t see why chinese webdesign couldn’t do that.
Thanks for your thoughtful post. And thanks for actually reading the article instead of just the headline before responding 😉
Hehe it seems from the comments here a lot of Chinese people don’t take criticism very well and react quite hastily… another reason why web standards are being held back in China perhaps? :p
All you stupid trolls stop being so defensive, this article isn’t bashing China
Thank you. You are correct. I like China. I appreciate the differences between cultures.
PS. have you heard that the net speed in China is among the lowest? Guess no. haha
Maybe this is why there are so much text but not flash or sth. on our page.
BTW, give you a site http://www.softstar.net.cn/products/pal5/index.html
这位爷，您说“你说的对”说明你同意他的观点，并且他也确实认错了（虽然没有认错的认为所有中国人都是死不认错 — 这是个悖论，没法承认），怎么属于死不认错了？
Why Is US Web Desigh So Bad?Full of “The connection was reset”. Twitter 观光团.
ahahahhaaa. here’s one mainland poster with a great sense of humor!
Sorry, Your evidence doesn’t have statistic relevance linking to your caption. In China, we call it “the title party” which represent a group of people who like to capture the reader’s eyes by their article’s title. And we call the article style like yours “the LuXun style” which is referred to a late Chinese Writer named “LuXun” who used to single out several examples as a widespread phenomenon.
Hey man, I need to tell you most of the comments below(writen in Chinese that maybe you couldn’t understand) are not friendly and not agree with you.
But I think you are totally right, we Chinese are all busy, busy for life, busy for struggle, busy for fucking GFW, we don’t have time to make things for beautiful, we have the worst goverment of the universe, everyone spend half of their life to do ugly things because of it.
One good sarcastic comment.
as a chinese, i feel terrbile about all these things….
Doesnt this beautiful? You foreigners would never know what we know about CHINESE CHARACTERS
I CAN SPEAK TO YOU YOU ARE A PIG
I agree with you
Wow~~ its awesome. just cant believe this interesting article filled with op’s own opinion pissed so many my fellow chinese design people~~ to be very honest, i agree that most example mentioned are just bullshit, well representing chinese design quality which is very bad. lol
okay except where’s your off button for the music? dang.
Hey there, you made a mistake. These websites are not for Chinese people. They are for you! You know why? Because we never care about these websites, it’s just like the sky, you know, always in gray. We ignore them by default. And for the internet , I assume the western people like India people to help you guys to build up Call Centers, Software development , websites building and so on. So I don’t think you guys have a very beautiful “ability” to appreciate the arts. And don’t even think that there is no Chinese people can make the “interaction, reaction or understanding” websites. We do have. However , you don’t know them. What a shame!
Another thing is these websites are mostly like used condoms and we may use them to make the gum to export to the West. an “ah-hah” moment happened.
By the way, I am a Salesforce.com consultant. We do know what’s popular and the trends in west.
总结一下,我们这些网站的确tmd很丑,但是我们已经无视了,我也不认为西方人搞了一堆东西给印度阿三做,就非常的好看了? 这审美观真是太有问题了. 另外, 这些网站就像我们用过的避孕套一样,把他们做成了口香糖,出口给了西方而已.
再来说下，这次我坚持要用中文留言。就正如开头楼主自己所说的没有了解过中国文化（I have no formal education or training on the subject of Eastern or Western cultures, sociology or cross-cultural communications whatsoever…)，所以自然就不知道中国的文化内涵所在以及中文字体的韵味。有料才能自大（Of course, being the pompous Westerner that I am…)，楼主认为中国网页设计差也是有技术含量的才敢放话的，百度，人人那些copy google 和facebook的谁的都知道，可是楼主别穿上皮鞋就忘记自己也穿过草鞋（哈哈，估计老外是看不懂的啦）。中国网页设计漂亮的也有差的也有，哪个国家都一样。其实说来说去就是创意这玩意，没创意谁会喜欢，copy来copy去这世界迟早要变一样。
google 和 facebook什么时候草鞋过了？ 当时copy谁？ 你想表达什么？ 这个“可是”的转折关系是神马啊？
你看过多少中国网页，如何就写上个chinese， 请你拿国外的同类型网站和中国的对比下再发表看法。 facebook前端和人人页面对比，界面有差距吗？
I like vip.xunlei.com!
i think its a good design~
tell you,im a designer,im a chinese designer, im a niubi designer
Wow, this is hateful.
so, everybody can see *this* is the very fact about the quality of Chinese education.
“Chinese sites seemed to be ludicrous amounts of characters (e.g. text)”
True, silly websites like 265.com, hao123.com, etc. sell themselves for millions of RMB(big money for small sites run only by a few people). And actually it’s Google who bought 265.com.
Dude, we common Chinese netizens are lazy people. We like EVERYTHING on the same page.
BTW, I’m not among the “we common Chinese netizens”.
I agree with you as a IT guy from China. As you’ve been China a long term before, I guess you should know that we are blocked to visit a lot of famous western websites due to some self-evident reasons. Maybe it cause the text-oriented design partially. Personally, I prefer to western style websites those which are composed of many kinds of factors besides text.
even the best web design area may exists a bad designer, i think you just pick up some bad site to explain this point and the point is not reliable. Check it out pls http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/03/15/showcase-of-web-design-in-china-from-imitation-to-innovation-and-user-centered-design
習慣是一種很可怕的力量。作為我而言。 habit is a terrible power。英語很爛。╮(￣▽￣”)╭
I don’t see any detailed analysis all your blog through. You may once analysed the design of sina.com ( it is really disgusting thought ), you just give a couple of screenshots of several popular website, and then just keeps talking about your big theory on culture difference as if you could criticize every website designer in China.
By the way, you are using a really obscure Chinese font. You may try to find a proper font to re-analyse all your word and then post the blog is much better.
Maybe you should visit these sites with Adblock plus 🙂 I’m a Chinese and I appropriate the concentration of my friends that they can keep focusing on the contents without disturb by the ads. IMHO, it’s better to introduce some good design of western website so we can learn from each other.
We have good UI designers and the pages they design are much more creative than you’ve been seeing. But have you ever known Chinese style and custom？ Please show respect for designers no matter you like their style or not.
But I have to say ” fuck you ” and ” fuck your whole family “…
个人感觉 腾讯、人人 的设计还可以
个人感觉 腾讯、人人 的设计还可以
Chinese Netizens’ quality is low. So they don’t pay attention to what the website look like.(oh my poor english)
You don’t know what A Chinese “Word” means.
XXX, why fucking related to the Chinese “Word”.
进来一趟还真不容易 审美这东西要看个人感觉了 而商业网站自然要以盈利为目的了
Take Sina, Baidu, Tencent, RenRen, Alibaba, as example; transferred a large number of Chinese at once.
fonts is very important！
yet another comment deleted.
salaries in china are too low, there is not enough motivation and inspiration, there are technological limitations (particularly where typography is concerned)
IE 6 to be precise
The best looking Chinese site is http://www.xiami.com
Because they use IE
And because they use “Win XP” and “IE6”
Everything is decided by LEADER and BOSS.
most of us use chrome now.
Wonder how many people click such links on these homepage to visit what they want. Are there statistics information about it?
asshole you deleted my comment.
好多人说豆瓣好 好在哪儿 谁给我解释下.. 搜个电影必须去电影频道. 不登陆点几百次tab键才能定位到搜索框. 脸在哪儿呢?
I think between China and Western country, they have big difference in user experience, so no good or bad.
come on ?! baidu.com is a fucking american company , dude!
哈哈，a fucking china company too
in brief, a fxxking company.
You didn’t choose the good examples of China .
You nailed it!!
you should have a look at douban.com — a culture-oriented sns and social media that got great popularity among university students, young professionals and artists. It could be a relatively good example. By the way speaking of the bad cases, no one is worse than sina weibo (t.sina.com.cn) — china’s twitter. You can’t understand how they managed to make a microblogging site as ugly as that.
Someone commented “you did not spent the time to understand your students beyond the classroom.” I echo that. Chinese students need to memorize to pass an exam. That’s true, but only true in classroom! In their spare time, they lead a far more colorful life! They read widely, write diligently and engage in various extracurricular activities, although none of which will be graded or even noticed by their “teachers”. Someone mentioned Douban. It’s only one of the websites where they show their critical spirit, sense of humor, even bravery and courage!
I think you are misinterpreting this article to mean that I don’t like China or the people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I acknowledge that I don’t understand every intricacy about the Chinese culture. Far from it. The truth is, I absolutely loved living there and hope to have the honor of doing so again in the future. China is a deeply rich culture with extensive history and insight on life. A truly wonderful people.
Has anybody pointed out your ethnocentrism in your lifetime? …
That’s the whole point of this article. It is an evaluation of Chinese web design from a Western web designer’s point of view. It is clearly stated. I’m not sure why it comes as a surprise. Beyond that, I am encouraging people to embrace the fact that cultures are different and that there is nothing wrong with that.
My comment never made it. You either have a problem with your comment system (Disqus?) or with the first amendment/censorship.
Wrong theory unfortunately. Look at rakuten.co.jo …or other Japanese websites. Same high info density there. Nothing to do with the 90′
We completely disagree. Look at rakuten.co.jp ! Your theory is unfortunately wrong. You’ll have to find a better explanation
Why are so many comments getting deleted? I spent a good deal of time considering the article and writing a long and detailed response that was neither offensive or inflammatory, just my take on the analysis of the web design industry in China after years working here as a web designer. Unbelievable… I was River Crabbed!
haha you’re so cute~
Your point about data aqusition is quite valid. But there is an important issue that you did not touch upon in your analysis. The differences in reading Chinese and English contribute a large part to the web design. In English, you have to read a sentence from start to finish and then compute it’s meaning. If you pick up in the middle of a sentence, it many not necessarily make sense. However, when reading chinese, the reading speed is much faster and if you are native, reading and understanding comes instantly. When I surf or read sites like Sina or Alibba, it only takes a few seconds for me to read and scan the entire page. Where as if I surfed a site that’s full of text in English, reading and understanding the content will require finding beginning and end of sentences, pargraphs, etc. While it is only a differneces of mere seconds, but it makes all of the difference. It is annoying to try and gather information from a messy english website, sites like sina and alibba actually looks pretty organized (not necessarily well design).
Ping, interesting point. Just another reason why Chinese design should be left to Chinese natives (or at least Chinese native reading/writing proficiency).
What do you mean by “left”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have a specific question: I notice that in a lot of the popular sites (as categorized and ranked by Alexa) whenever I click a link in qq, NetEase, taobao, sina, etc – it always opens a new tab/page instead of just redirecting. Is there a reason for this? I personally found no use for this… as I use the back button on my mouse – maybe its due to the slower web page loading?
From what I’ve read so far, it’s because the Chinese people tend to open multiple links and read them one by one while others are loading… it’s because of slow connections.
i’m agree with you ,guys.
but only with your eg..
the taobao.com,douban.com,is better than them.
And there are more beautiful sites in China.
you can find them in Smashingmagazine.com.
Saint, now that you bring that article up, I do remember it… there are less than 5 sites in that collection that I personally would consider “good” as a Westerner. I am assuming that you are Chinese… how many of the sites in that collection would you consider “good” as an Easterner?
yeah,none of them.
but. what is your opinion about QQ application?
for example the iPad QQ and QQ for iPhone.
i’m agree with u .guys
In China, deciding on the appearance of a web site, particularly big sites, is far more complicated than in the west, not to mention running an IT company, because of the broad range of users, whose various kinds of interests and different levels of cognition can never be overrated to be complex.
That’s why it’s not hard to find well-designed personal or small sites, even though big sites actually employ a lot more good designers.
Try alipay.com, it’s China’s Paypal, while far better designed from a web design point of view. Btw, by the time you open it up, the first thing you will notice is a “missing plugin” warning, which is just another one of the complexities I mentioned above.
so where is my commets
Deleted my comment? Niiice. I guess we’ve picked up a few cues on how things are done on the mainland.
Where is my comment?
A chinese designer here. I hope you can study more chinese users and chinese market before you write down this. It’s not as simple as you think. The reality is so much more interesting.
Curious, but please explain what you mean by “the reality is so much more interesting”
Coco. I don’t think it is simple and my continual use of disclaimers and words like “theory” should support the fact that I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject. This was simply and op-ed piece that I would encourage more people to do as well. If everyone waits until they are an “expert” on any subject, there won’t be any dialog or opportunity to learn.
Hi, I’m not sure why you or someone else deleted my reply on one of the topics, but I personally think this article is rather intriguing and growing up as a Canadian born Chinese, I’ve actually lived on both sides of the world, as my mother’s side of the family was brought up in china, while my father was raised in canada studying computer science.
But as an aspiring web designer/software developer, I really want to understand what the Oriental side likes in terms of interface – and was hoping I could get an idea of what they “like” and not what they are “used to”
Hi dc, I’m just a commenter like you – I don’t have any special access to delete or edit other posts… not sure what happened to yours. Sounds like you’ve got a big task ahead of you. I’d love to hear how you progress. Best, Nick
I see, its interesting to see how people respond to this article because like you, I found several of the sites posted in the http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/03/15/showcase-of-web-design-in-china-from-imitation-to-innovation-and-user-centered-design article… not exactly best in design material.
I found most of them had a lot more text than what I am used to, and the others have too much flash dependency – whereas I like to have quick, and easily accessible links, they have slow, animated and roundabout ways to get to an article.
“My opinions on the following topic are merely that, opinions. Opinions formed by observations and interactions with the Chinese culture ”…….
I’m a Chinese and an aspiring designer. Just want to point out that you haven’t seen any of the good designed Chinese websites, Chinese ebay that’s killed the real eBay is not alibaba.com, it’s http://www.taobao.com, which is belongs to alibaba corporation but it’s better designed both aesthetically and especially functionally(the flow/UI/search, at least by a mile) than the real ebay, which hasn’t evolved it’s design for ages. The chinese amazon before it was acquired by the real amazon, also had a better user interface and more intuitive flow than the real amazon. The other ugly portal websites like sina.com are like that because it is business driven-the result of a/b testing I suppose-all the upper part under the navigation are ads BTW.
The most well-designed Chinese big website that I absolutely love is http://www.douban.com . It’s totally original in concept and was copied by several western book reviewing websites like goodreads and librarything(was even mentioned by the owner once when he started). But it’s not nearly as fun as the original website which is much more than just book reviews. The information architecture of the website is second to none even in western standard in my view.
As an aspiring designer myself, I believe in the rationality of the presentation of information. The hierarchy of information, the font size/style/colors, the background for specific sections, the separators between different pieces of information are mostly highly rational decisions that’s connected to other decisions and could not be simply copied easily. Information need to be presented in such a way that is really easy to consume and find other relevant information. But when money/ad revenue are involved, decisions are seldom made in terms of aesthetics.
But I don’t really read lots of Chinese design websites, the mainstream websites do need to catch up in terms of aesthetics and other things, but some of them are doing a pretty good and sometimes better jobs in presenting information. Good designs doesn’t always win in Chinese Internet, there is still a blogging service called blogbus, which is much better in terms of design than sina blogs or qzone blogs(the big two), but it’s still a niche company in all these years, simply because of their lack of affiliation with big portal websites and good business strategies. What kinda of people are using it? Mostly highly educated elites/artists/writers, who care more about usability and aesthetics than accessibility(which in my term is the closeness to mainstream audience). My theory is that we have some super good designers already, but they are not so focused on the aesthetics right now, they are waiting for the people to get ready, when people just opt out using some ugly designed website and start to use some well designed ones.
Hi Shaomeng. I agree whole-heartedly that the “real” ebay is horrible. I should have included that with my slam on Amazon and Facebook. However, I will not agree that taobao.com is good. Better, sure. Good, no. For example, the animated logo only serves the purpose of distracting people away from actually buying stuff. But again, I am talking from a Western point of view which is kind of the point of my article. If Chinese like the design of taobao, then it is good – for them.
I hadn’t seen douban.com before. I do like the direction of the simplicity of the design. Much closer to something I would consider “good” as a Westerner.
Thanks for reading and please keep up the good work in researching and practicing as a designer.
Hey, Shaomeng, I’ve tried to search the four websites you have mentioned in your text, and for my point of view, I found alibaba.com is the best designed.
It’s a pity you taught in China, but never spent the time to understand your students beyond the classroom. The life of a Chinese student is about 500000 times more stressful than that of a student anywhere else – if they are no good at examinations, they are basically screwed for life, as it’s literally all a number, whether they get funding, or a future. By design similar to how most US large university freshmen courses do the necessity of weeding out students, there is literally no luxury of time, as they all try to compete.
Now, there’s another big problem with China – the average web designer makes less than 1/10th of what a US or Europe designer or developer makes. They’re competing with outsourcers willing to work for pennies on the dollar — heck, what’s worse is that these outsourced workers are their neighbors, so they can’t even gossip about them. It’s a matter of “get it done,” without much time for time to think up a creative or visually pleasing design.
If you’d look beyond websites, at the electronics that sell, you’d find that the design looks as sleek as US designs, and they (those who could afford it at least) love it.
To test your theory, you might try running a design op in China that pays as well as a notable web firm in SF or NYC. Or try a 99designs.com thing in China – i.e., set the econ potential bar to be equal (or comparable) to that of your pompous Western world
Hi Yo, my apologies for not communicating better in writing. Although it is impossible for me to truly understand Chinese students (because I am not one), I do have an idea for the differences in the experiences and difficulties Chinese students have. For example, Chinese student suicide rates are extremely high due to societal and family pressure to succeed – though the the State-run media won’t talk about that.
That is a good point about Chinese web designers making less money. However, I’m not sure its ok to connect the differences in Chinese web design with the fact that the profession is less lucrative. I never said Chinese web design is bad for the Chinese culture… just that it is bad in the eyes of the West. Are you implying (assuming you are Chinese) that you think Chinese web design is bad?
I think there is definitely a point to be made about the low relative salaries… imagine how fast the standard of medicine in your country would drop if it was suddenly decreed that all doctors would be paid the same as waitresses. Hyperbolic yes, but when you’re going to be paid pennies to do the bare minimum there is not only no incentive to do anything better or to learn new skills, and no sense of loyalty to the agency you’re working for or the project you’re working on.
I am an Chinese.
First it’s not easy for me get access to the abroad server, while commenting on this blog. i have used 10 coped pages. In case of the internet breakdown.
Abroad Web Pages
Visiting Western simple design is not as comfortable as you think ,here is a list of website I often use.
This page: it is the most beautiful page I have ever used. but there do have design problem. we can’t see the message we trying to reply so we go out of theme. in this way I have to use two page to complete the comment. it’s really awful.
springer.com it is, a very simple and useful webpage.
mit.edu I just have no access to google, so I used this website to make an substitution
It’s very useful for students of science.(fortunately not too many student have the same idea). The webpage is useful. but it is not as simple as you think. I have to make 20 copy of different link and open all of them at once with Chrome to make sure I can use it.
Chinese server is really fast, in most case you can use one page to get almost anything you want. but the ad is really disturbing. and you may attractive to something else ‘interesting’ may about sex skill or something else. Totally it’s really bad.
Awful, yes it is.
Problem: I do make design. but at here I am just an frustrating user. Most Chinese webpages is running in a commercial way. if you can have the authority to post ads in a corner in the most main page. it will just cost you only 3 minutes to be millionaire. And also most Chinese do not use ad-block it’s too complex for most user to installing software on computer. For you it’s like that you don’t know how to make installing packages in Windows.
As the design for the Chinese webpage. yes I do think it’s awful, the page designer is not actually the webpage user. At the universe, the library page is so complex that most people do not even visit them.(They just get too much setback,and think that they are not profession enough to use the webpage. we do have course to teach us to use this kind of useful but complex page, I have this kind of course for once there are just eight listeners compared to 7000 students in our school) It to difficult to find the useful information in this kind of complex page. and most commercial page is much awful than this.
How to make things better?
I don’t know. I do make some new and in fact reliable and useful webpage in just a few hours(I am an spare time programmer), but I used more than 2-weeks voluntary and frustrating work to persuade our library to use the new system. This come to an bed end. Because actually updating the system is much complex than I used to think. finally I have to quit. In doing this.The machine our school use is too old or I just not good enough,the time lag is really serious.
I got many lessons. Never just comment. to do something is really not as easy as you think. To draw the original design with Photoshop is easy(Maybe not for you), to program for it is easy(Maybe not for you),but actually build it is really difficulty.
Exactly. Actually I’m a fresher myself and I feel even more stressful than when I was in Junior 3. There’s just too much for you to do. We’ve always been told that you can’t have a leisure time at college, but it’s simply a matter of whether your university is among the best, or what you gonna be when you graduate.
One of the first usual mistakes we do is to misunderstand the characters density for lack of design. A first step often is to translate the page into another latin language and it suddenly feels better. There was the exact same discussion a few months ago on Zeldman Web site with the same misunderstanding. 😉
Read the comments on http://www.zeldman.com/2010/07/25/the-puzzle-of-japanese-web-design/
Disclaimer: I have lived 3 years in Japan. I’m very close for family reasons. And I will probably live again in Japan.
“A first step often is to translate the page into another latin language and it suddenly feels better” I hardly even think so. For one thing, you probably can not limit the titles to just one line to deliver the same amount of info. There is a reason why Chinese characters are designed to be somewhat complex – every one of them is very expressive (and you know how they’ve been adopted in Japan as well – but you are probably more familiar with katakana)
maybe you should go: http://www.mtime.com
I lived in Japan for three years and noticed the same things about websites there. Even though I was pretty close to fluent at the time, I found the sites nearly unnavigable due to the clutter and apparent lack of organization. As some commenters pointed out, it may be partly due to the value placed on complexity. Another possibility – and this is just speculation – is that Chinese characters and Japanese kanji are “read” in a different way from most Western alphabets. Since each character has an inherent meaning that is sometimes independent of the way or ways the character can be pronounced, it may be that Chinese and Japanese people can look at the clutter and glean a lot of information that our Western brains would take longer to pick up. For example, when I see a wall of text in English, it takes me a while to skim through, saying some of the words in my head and piecing together an idea of what the content might be. However, a similarly large wall of text in Japanese seems to yield up its basic meaning more quickly, even though I can’t read Japanese as well as I can read English.
Interesting article! 🙂
Interesting insight. Thanks Chelsea
True! The key meaning can be easily read from a wall of Chinese text. We read words in texts, you English people read context in sentences of texts.
I’m a Chinese and I promise you I never read sina’s homepage.
Different =/= Bad. When Chinese eat with chopsticks, they don’t look down on fork and knife 😉 A challenge for the writer: ask yourself how long it takes to learn one thousand Chinese words. One should at least understand something before comment or compare … Otherwise, where is the ground?
Ha. sometimes I do look down on fork and knife:) But for sure, fork and knife are just much more appropriate for cutting steaks…There is culture relativism in it’s all truthfulness, but there is also design universal principles…I don’t believe in “beauty is in the eyes of beholder”(yes, most times in fictions, rarely in real lives), that’s denying the everyday phenomenal of judging people by their looks.
Absolutely. The saying “to each his own” is appropriate here. 🙂
Hi Horace, I definitely don’t understand everything about the Chinese culture. Hopefully I communicated that with all my disclaimers at the beginning. It is ridiculously difficult to learn Chinese characters. I tried and failed. But I don’t agree with your statement about understanding something before commenting on it. If that were true, there wouldn’t be any dialog about anything because no one fully understands everything about everything. Thanks for reading though, Nick
firstly, it has to be noted that, China is made up of more than 1,331,460,000 people, and different people have needs different type of information from a website. plus, most of the website you are showing are portals, which is an information hub, serving information to very large population of China. also, China has very diversed population, and the concept ‘one size fit all’ just doesn’t apply in China. so the conclusion is, these website have to include as much information as possible into the website, such that all (or most) kind of people are served, and such that they don’t need extra clicks to find the right information.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I once had a discussion with an Indian developer on why Indian websites suck (flashing text, images, scrolling text, popups/ pop-under etc…). He said that is the way to get attention. Just like India – loud, crowded and crazy
I agree with Irving. I wonder how much of their design is simply influenced by the alphabets they use? To my western eyes, the chinese alphabet is highly cluttered. I wonder if being raised to distinguish subtle differences in complex characters simply lends toward a more cluttered sense of design over all?
I am afraid the question is not just about complexity. You just open a page. after you have used it for once or twice you will know where to find the things you want. then when you use the page more and more frequently it will be very efficiency. we do not have google to direct search for the information we want. Chinese’s Google (‘Baidu’ which is in fact just an rubbish ad company) is very different from Google, and in fact search in Chinese is very different from search in English. We have Great Firewall,the internet is in fact not an internet. To search for something is difficult so remember the function of a functional webpage is necessary to make your work efficiency. you will seldom find someone say that the 3ds Max’s interface is complex because it’s very functional.
I have to say, I’m having a really hard time appreciating this article and many of the comments. Nick, while you make a disclaimer, you are still making extremely broad statements about a tremendously diverse mixture of people, cultural practices, languages, AND from a very anglo-centric point of view. I don’t know what the point of this article really is.
If we wonder why the field of web design is not more diverse than it is, we must look no further than fluffy, sweeping, armchair theorist articles like this. ThinkVitamin… put the Think back in there.
Ah, there you are… I was wondering when the mud slingers would show up! 🙂 Ben, I appreciate your opinion and input. Thanks, Nick
Totally agree, Ben. I’m interested in the discussion this article is creating, but the original article is a perfect example of the armchair theorizing and mediocre journalistic standards that show up on this blog more and more often.
Saying an article is opinion doesn’t absolve you from having to defend your opinion, especially when approved and printed through an editorial process.
Rob, I love defending my opinion. Wouldn’t have it any other way. Saying you don’t agree with something I’ve said without providing thoughts for why you don’t believe it doesn’t absolve you from armchair theorizing yourself. Best, Nick
Chill out, man. The author is not attacking anyone, he is just thinking aloud. Create counter points and discuss the topic. Don’t feel offended or don’t create a feeling of offensiveness. Let’s put aside those left-wing moronic issues, OK? Let’s talk openly.
I really like your brain, Nick. Like… a lot. In fact, Daniel H Pink actually taught this as one of six essential aptitudes in how to separate yourself from competition, and how to do things like Design in ways that computers couldn’t do faster and oversea outsourcing couldn’t do cheaper and/or compete against. For clarity, the 6 essentials were, Design, Story, Empathy, Symphony, Play and Meaning. Still, as much as I have known it for years, you are the first person I have seen that has actually put it into action as an example. good job man…. Good job.
Jason – thanks! I’m a Dan Pink fan, so that’s a huge compliment. Really glad you enjoyed the article.
Even better. Yes, I truly do like it. Keep up the good work bud. If you are looking for work in about 2-3 months let me know.
According to statcounter, 53% of users are using IE6, 26% IE8 and 10% IE7; in total that’s almost 90% on IE. That means that when designing a site, using any thing that won’t work in IE6 is basically pointless. The reason it feels a decade old is because 50% of users browsers literally are!
Richard, one word… pirating. Pirated software is the black underbelly of the Chinese economy. IE6 is so widely used because MS started including more sophisticated security measures with later releases/updates to Windows… hence, most people use IE6 on their pirated Windows installation.
If you notice most big Chinese sites (with the exception of Baidu/RenRen depicted in the screenshots on this page) not necessarily cluttered, but they just have EVERYTHING on their front page. Which for most “hip and modern” designers cringe at, since simplicity is so valued in cutting edge Western design.
And a lot of it, is definitely cultural. From what I have noticed (I am Chinese and I have been to China many times), it is that the users don’t necessarily like to click around. They want all their information on one page. Moreover, complexity is kind of seen as “better.” The more complex and more stuff on a page, they think it has more value.
Also, loading times. Chinese Internet can be very slow. It may take a long time to fire up pages, so it’s better to wait for the initial page to load with everything on it so they can take their time to read it.
I think you need to take your curiosity and observations to the physical texts. If you are to observe text input and layouts in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese newspapers, magazines, and textbooks, you will make similar observations.
As an educator, I have come across research that shows that there are significant differences in how information is presented and it completely derives from traditional texts (vertical writing and symbols instead of letters)
I must admit that there’s something I find quite fascinating from Eastern design. All of the above examples, though simple and graphic-less, are extremely complex because of the content. I like that. I like how the chinese characters look all around the site, although I do think they could be better arranged in most cases.
I also love the subtle details that can be found on most of them. See 1688.com, for example. Is full of subtle details all around. If you browse a little around the site, I’m sure you can spot more than one, and they’re all beautifully crafted.
I think the main difference here is, as you said, how we arrange information. We do love simplicity, and they seem to love specificity. It is also VERY different to write and read chinese than english, so design must accomodate for that.
Bottom line: I do not find the eastern design flawed. Design is a solution to a problem. We just have different problems and solutions.
Fascinating theory. I’ve seen and wondered at Chinese Web design before, but always figured, as you initially did, that their desigm was just behind. It’s nice to see an idea that pops that little bubble of accidental arrogance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It would be really neat to hear from a Chinese Web designer whether s/he feels any of this is true.
Yes, I really hope a Chinese designer comments here… I’d love to hear what they have to say.
i am a designer from china . @jiekchenid
An interesting post… thanks.
In some Far Eastern cultures complexity equates directly to perceived value. An example of this is white goods made for domestic Korean and Japanese markets with completely different (and much more complex) user interface. I saw an example of a Korean made food blender which had a simple on/off switch for the western market and a dozen different settings for the local market. Simplicity which is often desired in western cultures is regarded as cheap by domestic consumers. Could this have an impact on web and application design as well?
The reason these websites are so cluttered is because it’s harder for Chinese people to type their characters, so websites provide as many links as they can so users can click to their destination as opposed to typing.
I think Chinese people are pretty good at typing in Chinese. As far as I can tell and know anyway.
From my knowledge, American living here over 5 years, I frequently use these websites and this is the case. From my shopping to my browsing. Granted do they have an ability to improve, drastically. As more competition within the channels of distribution surface we will eventually see those that differentiate themselves from the others. Until than though, the land of copy thy neighbor reigns supreme (I do retail consulting and can’t seem to get most chinese retailers to understand the concept of differentiation).
Nope, it’s easy to type Chinese Characters than English words. There is a thing called Hanyu Pinyin.
I am afraid that you are wrong it you think that type Chinese character is easy, i myself is an traditional Chinese living in Henan (the same area the blog poster), there are many dialect in China, in the north is quite near to Putonghua(Standard Chinese) which can be typed in Hanyu Pinyin(Chinese phonetic alphabet) while in the south it’s quite another. the dialect they say is very different from the PutongHua which almost impossible to type in an effective speed.
Detail: if you type a ‘quite’ you just need to type a ‘quite’ but in Chinese you have to type
‘xiangdangde’ and then a few Character appear in the computer screen ‘相当的’ ‘想当的’and something else.
Detail 2: My name is ‘韩亮亮’ which is pronounced in Putonghua as ‘hanliangliang’, but in the south of china it may pronounced ‘hanniangniang’ which have similar pronounce to ‘hanliangliang’ but you can find the right character in your computer screen, so you have to type it again. Becau
Detail 3: We have only input methods but many pronounce. zh ch sh is syllables in Chinese but many people pronounce them z c s, or many else just pronounce something middle of them, they them-self can tell what they pronounce which is very familial to the former pronounce (I myself-an original Chinese can’t differ them, and may people have other problem)
Detail 4: You can’t just correct them by correct English word spell, if you type ‘quite’ ‘qurite’ you will easy find yourself mistake and you will correct it. but if you are an Chinese you pronounce zh and z with the same pronounce you can’t remember the difference just as the red-green blindness can remember what is green and what is red
I think the biggest barrier to break here is that the chinese letters simply doesn’t appeal you as much as the alphabet you are used to. (Hint: http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch09_Copywriting_is_Interface_Design.php )