LearnWhy Is Chinese Web Design So Bad?


writes on January 25, 2011

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:

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.

My Reaction

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.


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327 Responses to “Why Is Chinese Web Design So Bad?”

  1. Great post, the article is very informative and educative. Hope to see more update on this site

  2. 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 🙂

  3. Chinese is more pay attention to the traditional, and western culture is very different, no comparability

  4. “这个设计太过烂,我要高端大气国际范!”

  5. 同无语,不知道AIM什么时候released的吗?

  6. Roger on July 5, 2013 at 1:59 am said:


  7. 楼上,你真是奇葩,人家用英文回答怎么就不行了,再说人家也申明了自己英文不好了。

  8. 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.

  9. 看各位国人的观点,有些人强烈反对,我忍不住说几句我的观点:

  10. 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).

  11. Lauretta on March 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm said:

    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 !

  12. Perhaps you will love the design of http://catfan.me, a well-designed weblog social community. They use so many high-techs.

  13. Longjiang2005 on March 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm said:

    (craigslist + flash animation + pop ups) ^ 2 = Chinese web design

  14. Meimeitupian on March 7, 2011 at 8:02 am said:


  15. Anonymous on March 7, 2011 at 4:21 am said:

    Hi Sketchy Tree
    These are the most beautiful web site in china

  16. and thanks you to share your word with people.

  17. Hi,
    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…

  18. Volking on March 2, 2011 at 1:44 am said:


  19. 我是一个普通的网民,一个中国人,浏览过大量国内外的网站,为什么我觉得简体中文的页面看起来最舒服?还有这个页面我没有发现任何美感。
    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.

  20. Chai Nengjiong on February 21, 2011 at 12:13 am said:

    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!

  21. H2ah2ah2a on February 18, 2011 at 2:34 am said:

    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 。。。


  23. 此贴必火,留名

  24. As you comment on Chinese website, i decide comment your article in Chinese



  25. Yabbichan on February 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm said:

    My site: http://www.show0663.com/

  26. 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…)

  27. 文章说的的确是中国普片现象,我认为中国网站除外观不够美观外人性化操作也是不足的,但这个是中国国情,这应该是整个中国的情况包括台湾和香港,网站我看很多,我觉得外观可以吸引人但不是最重要的,重要的是操作,如何让访问者得到舒适的操作,然后就是有没实际有用的内容(这里不是说实际有用就一定是科研价值,是对访问者有用的,比如娱乐八卦信息都是可以,最重要访问的人群喜欢)

    这样把,看看www.uudisc.com 里面的操作不错,看看是否你们喜欢的风格

  28. 作为一名设计师,我们欲言又止. 但是我们还有那么一群人一直在努力.

  29. Zoehuang2008 on February 7, 2011 at 9:03 am said:

    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.

  30. 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


  31. 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.

  32. T9@chelseaNOW on February 3, 2011 at 8:10 pm said:

    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

  33. 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 !!!!!!

  34. yukirock on February 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm said:

    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?

  35. 398427261 on February 2, 2011 at 3:10 am said:

    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

  36. 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.

  37. Robinmartin Desuza on February 1, 2011 at 6:16 am said:

    Because Chinese are bad learner. They are dull and thief. They copy the idea, dont innovate.


  38. ¨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 .

  39. lanchino on February 1, 2011 at 1:37 am said:


  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. Anonymous on January 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm said:

    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.

  43. 首页就是用来堆广告的,大部分人很难找到需要的东西。

  44. 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.

  45. Driftstory on January 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm said:

    i can’t agree more
    but douban.com is nice…

  46. 这里相当多华人的评论可以跟鲁迅随感录38所列举的中国人对于批评作出的五种反应相对应:







  47. 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

  48. 许多中国人(华人)的评论很好地解释了中文网站为什么那么难看。

  49. Ricky Shih on January 29, 2011 at 9:46 am said:

    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.

  50. 彪悍的人生,不需要解释! understand?

  51. 我最鸡巴讨厌的就是右下角强制弹窗,还是那种钓鱼式的。fuck中国特色

  52. 广告,弹窗,钓鱼,强制弹窗,etc,etc

  53. 这是俺们设计的错啊,我恨IE6

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. My answer on Quora to: Why Is Chinese Web Design So Different? http://qr.ae/o3wq

  57. Kavinyao on January 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm said:

    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. 🙂

  58. 别的咱不说,从你的博客风格就能看出你的审美品位也够烂的,甚至连交互也一塌糊涂。

  59. 典型的一叶遮目、以点概面,每个地区都有好的设计或者不好的设计,比如你这个网站就比较垃圾。当然我说这些中文文字,以你的文化修养是不懂的。

  60. 我不得不说几点:

    – 简洁,大方;
    – 导航清晰,容易分辨,内容易被找到;
    – 让人感觉舒服。
    – 网站所展示内容过少,大部分用户希望打开网页时就能找到所需要的内容,而不必再次点击;
    – 网站分辨率过大,过大的分辨率是不负责任的表现,及时是在美国也有分辨率不符合潮流的用户;
    – 网站图片过大或过多,这些影响着浏览速度和潜意识印象,西方的带宽很打,但图片过大依然会使界面停顿一下,只是肉眼无法识别而已,这样的停顿对眼睛不宜。

    – 因为用户需要以最简单的方式找到所需要的内容,例如:打开网页就能找到所需要的新闻,并经过挑选后才点击链接查看详细内容;
    – 使用图片只能展示少部分内容,而是用文字可以展示更多内容;
    – 网站经营者需要展示有用的信息,并且这些信息很多,同时,用户也希望能获得更多的信息。

    – 中国部分人教育低,部分人教育高;西方部分人教育低,部分人教育高;
    – 中国部分网页丑陋,部分网页美观实用;西方部分网页丑陋,部分网页美观;
    – 中国部分人不喜欢学习,部分人喜欢学习;西方部分人不喜欢学习,部分人喜欢学习;
    – 中国有好的设计网页;西方也有好的设计网页;
    – 中国有在学校里喜欢学习并理解知识的人,西方有在学校里喜欢学习并理解知识的人;
    – 中国人有中国的阅读方式;西方人有西方的阅读方式;
    – 阅读方式并不能代表中国人教育水平,他仅是个参考;阅读方式也不代表西方人教育水平,他仅是参考;
    – 请你学会如何说话,如何去评价一些信息时不使自己受到伤害。信息的直接传达易使自己的负面思想准确及时的传达给对方,但因为你传达的信息是负面的,所以对方很可能会对你进行报复。这点是你在中国必须学会的。

    – 你在中国两年后的中文差到了极点;
    – 你不会写文章;
    – 你仅看过极少的中国网页,所以你没有资格评论整个中国成千上万的网页;
    – 你在中国学会了一样值得你终身受益的事情,那就是炒作。


  61. 这博客的设计也不过如此

  62. ls只是一部分正解。。。

  63. 说实话我也觉得难看。。。

  64. chinaese boss is BIG SB~SB~SB~SB

  65. I’m a Chinese netizen.
    Deeply agree with you
    Tired of webpages with a lot of words and photos
    Hope a well-designed site

  66. 15′ crt + 1024×768 + opera路过

  67. 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”?!

  68. Someone just threw 400 billion dollars to you guys. What you expected for?

    转: 最近,有些人真牛逼呀!400亿美刀,塞了灶王爷的嘴,偷窥了人家的牌,攘外已成,可以放手安内了。

  69. Bigasshole on January 28, 2011 at 4:57 am said:

    我来告诉你是什么原因:网络刚兴起的时候,网站不好找,也没有google 和百度,大家只能上门户网站找自己需要的东西,所以那些网站(sina,sohu,etc)就做的很大很全,这个就是造成你谈论的这个问题。

    • 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.

  70. why?


  71. 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!

  72. 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/

  73. Nick Johnson,你好。


    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。

    当然中国也不缺乏优秀的Web Designer,我见过一些,而且我身边就有一些,但是他们的能力没有用武之地,多数的设计者和多数的企业追求的只有Money,他们并不在意设计有多烂,在中国,一个高级别的设计师的月薪可能都买不到半平方米的房子。

  74. Openkmfan on January 28, 2011 at 1:45 am said:

    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!

  75. Chinese big company care much about making money, supervision and control from government make them use more conservative design

  76. nice post!

  77. 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.

          • Bryant Miano on February 3, 2011 at 1:59 am said:

            What thoughtul observations Darryl. You make some very interesting points. And the article is thought provoking as well!

          • Pirated IE? Really?

      • anonymous on January 28, 2011 at 4:57 am said:

        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 😉

  78. 同学,你实在说得太谦虚了,中国(大陆)的网站实在丑到爆了

  79. All you stupid trolls stop being so defensive, this article isn’t bashing China

  80. 呃……我想说,

  81. 我了个去,这贴要火

  82. Windyblow on January 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm said:

    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

  83. Krqt Kndy on January 27, 2011 at 11:58 am said:


  84. Why Is US Web Desigh So Bad?Full of “The connection was reset”. Twitter 观光团.

  85. 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.

  86. 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.

  87. Twitter观光团

  88. as a chinese, i feel terrbile about all these things….

  89. Windyblow on January 27, 2011 at 11:38 am said:


  90. 782877160 on January 27, 2011 at 11:24 am said:


  91. I agree with you

  92. 大家喜欢就是好的设计

  93. anoy user on January 27, 2011 at 9:41 am said:

    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

  94. 挨踢女民工发来贺电

  95. 这个网站不用翻墙就能上,肯定不是好网站

  96. 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.

  97. 严重赞同,纯粹个标题党lol

  98. 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。

    • 全是屌字体现个屁韵味

      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?


  99. 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?


  100. forever! on January 27, 2011 at 7:29 am said:

    I like vip.xunlei.com!

  101. try this~~
    i think its a good design~

  102. 王三水 on January 27, 2011 at 7:08 am said:


    tell you,im a designer,im a chinese designer, im a niubi designer

  103. “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”.

  104. Solunar66 on January 27, 2011 at 7:04 am said:

    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.

  105. 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

  106. Yaojiesunao on January 27, 2011 at 6:53 am said:

    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。╮( ̄▽ ̄”)╭

  107. 景德镇难民 on January 27, 2011 at 6:51 am said:


  108. 老外没有就是论事,甩了几个网站截图,单纯分析了一下新浪首页(这个确实蛮丑),在开始大侃特坎文化差异;没什么深度,哗众取宠的标题党。。。

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

  111. 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 “…

    • Czykenji on January 27, 2011 at 6:46 am said:


      • Czykenji on January 27, 2011 at 7:00 am said:


      • 一、我很想看他的作品呢

  112. 个人感觉 腾讯、人人 的设计还可以

  113. 个人感觉 腾讯、人人 的设计还可以

  114. 中国的网民素质普遍比较低,所以对网页设计的追求也不高,再加上为了盈利,就诞生了一个又一个的垃圾网页.
    Chinese Netizens’ quality is low. So they don’t pay attention to what the website look like.(oh my poor english)

  115. 我只能说老外不能理解中国方块字的内涵
    You don’t know what A Chinese “Word” means.

  116. Hexybaby on January 27, 2011 at 6:12 am said:


    • china SUCKS on January 27, 2011 at 6:15 am said:



  117. Friskfly on January 27, 2011 at 6:11 am said:


  118. 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

  119. Take Sina, Baidu, Tencent, RenRen, Alibaba, as example; transferred a large number of Chinese at once.

  120. china SUCKS on January 27, 2011 at 6:02 am said:


  121. fonts is very important!



    • 主要是字体的原因,如果把宋体换成“微软雅黑”或者“文泉驿微米黑”也是很好看的。但很多低档次的中国网民都不知道什么叫“Font”,什么叫“win 7”,什么叫“IE9”。不过话说中国的方块字确实不利于设计

      • 汉字只不过是难设计,但不代表不能设计好,国内不缺乏优秀的设计(只不过难看的设计都让大网站占了),你觉得韩文好看么?日文好看么?人家也不缺乏优秀的设计。

  122. 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)

  123. 因为在中国,领导是决定设计的人,而不是设计师。而领导的品味都是很差的。

  124. 大象希形!你不懂

  125. Wonder how many people click such links on these homepage to visit what they want. Are there statistics information about it?

  126. 国情不同,中国的用户已经习惯这样的设计,如果换成其他的反而会不习惯

    • Georgence on January 27, 2011 at 4:54 am said:


  127. asshole you deleted my comment.

  128. 单纯做个标记….

  129. 我也觉得很难看

  130. 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?

  131. I think between China and Western country, they have big difference in user experience, so no good or bad.

    • Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 3:45 am said:


  132. Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 3:34 am said:

    come on ?! baidu.com is a fucking american company , dude!

  133. Anonymous on January 27, 2011 at 3:25 am said:


  134. You didn’t choose the good examples of China .

  135. 我个人认为第一,东西方审美观的差异;第二,中国还没有一部关于网站标准的法律;第三,一个网站的设计决定权往往取决于公司高层的审美而不是专业的设计师;第四,中国互联网还没有形成良好的发展氛围,抓不住97%的“低素质”网民的需求,基本就没有活路了

  136. 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.

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. Anonymous on January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm said:

    My comment never made it. You either have a problem with your comment system (Disqus?) or with the first amendment/censorship.

  140. Wrong theory unfortunately. Look at rakuten.co.jo …or other Japanese websites. Same high info density there. Nothing to do with the 90′

  141. We completely disagree. Look at rakuten.co.jp ! Your theory is unfortunately wrong. You’ll have to find a better explanation

  142. 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!


  143. 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).

  144. 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.

  145. 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?

  146. i’m agree with u .guys

  147. 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.

  148. 很高兴老外同志给我们分析中国的网页设计,但是我想说的是,你有的说的真的是“血特”,你真正了解中国的文化和背景吗?你只是去比较,单纯的比较。还你高傲的西方人,唉,“悲剧”双-5,鉴定完毕!!

  149. Deleted my comment? Niiice. I guess we’ve picked up a few cues on how things are done on the mainland.

  150. 孬爷爷 on January 26, 2011 at 8:39 am said:


  151. 挨踢民工发来贺电

  152. 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”

    • “My opinions on the following topic are merely that, opinions. Opinions formed by observations and interactions with the Chinese culture ”…….

  153. 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.

    • Canik lei on March 30, 2011 at 6:35 am said:

      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.

  154. 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.

      • 韩亮亮 on October 27, 2015 at 8:30 am said:

        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.

        In adverse.
        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.

    • Windyblow on January 27, 2011 at 11:52 am said:

      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.

  155. 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.

    • anonymous on January 28, 2011 at 5:19 am said:

      “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)

  156. Goodidea2002 on January 26, 2011 at 2:36 am said:

    maybe you should go: http://www.mtime.com

  157. 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! 🙂

  158. 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.

    • 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

  159. wooncherk on January 26, 2011 at 1:37 am said:

    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.

  160. 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

  161. 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?

    • 韩亮亮 on October 27, 2015 at 7:12 am said:

      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.

  162. Ben Mauer on January 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm said:

    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.

  163. 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.

  164. 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.

  165. 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.

  166. 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)

  167. Enrique Ramírez on January 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm said:

    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.

  168. 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.

  169. 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?

  170. Katieful on January 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm said:

    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.

    • Chinafied on January 26, 2011 at 12:54 am said:

      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).

    • Aubreyliu on January 27, 2011 at 7:13 am said:

      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

  171. 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 )

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