It might seem that Chinese users are totally different, but our experience doesn't reflect that. Still, there are some key differences that Western marketers should be aware of.
Do a quick search for Chinese web design trends, and you'll find many articles claiming that Chinese users prefer dense, text-heavy designs over clean ones, mostly based on screenshots and speculation.
Our direct experience with Chinese clients does not support this — though Chinese users have a higher tolerance for clutter, they do not intentionally seek it out based on some kind of cultural behavior
Efforts to market to Chinese users should focus mostly on content localization. Depending on your brand and business model, in some cases, a direct translation may be perfectly adequate. An example of this is Apple's China website, which is mostly a mirror of its Western version.
In other cases, it makes sense to reevaluate what content to include. Imagery of Western people and places may be replaced with Chinese counterparts. News, team, and product sections may have different regional content altogether.
It is also important to be aware of sensitive political and cultural issues. Involving Chinese team members in the localization process can provide cover for most basic concerns.
Based on our experience, Chinese clients tend to focus more on first impressions, and less on depth of content.
Our designs for Chinese users emphasize the homepage — in particular, the key visual — and include other attractive, fun touches to make the website stand out. Even among our corporate clients, few will accept a site design that appears boring.
On the other hand, meaningful and consistent content, especially on inner pages, may be given a lower priority relative to Western websites.
Chinese users may be averse to excessive white space unless they specifically have a luxury/lifestyle background. Given the opportunity to review a design, it may appear to them that something is "missing" and needs to be addressed.
Additionally, typography-focused designs are unlikely to work well in direct translation. Compared to Western web design, Chinese web fonts are extremely limited, and do not work well as a design element unless converted to image format.
Based on analytics data, along with client reviews and our own experience, we find that desktop/mobile usage breaks down according to B2B/B2C lines — that is, Chinese people use desktops at work, and phones personally.
Though this is also true in the West, it is more pronounced in China, due to the dominance of mobile apps for social media, personal shopping, and payments.
Our observations and recommendations are based on working directly with Chinese clients for over 15 years.
Without the ability to interview a wide range of users directly, we make the assumption that our clients' tastes are a reasonable representation of the customers they market to.
China is a large country, with a broad demographic range of users and diverse personal preferences.