When localizing an existing website for China, or creating an entirely new one, here are the key points that Western marketers should consider.
Many China residents are accustomed to a crowded and lively environment full of visual stimuli. Chinese brands and products need to make more of an effort to stand out. Comparably, certain Western designs may come across as dull and drab.
When designing websites for Chinese clients, we often focus more on key visuals, graphics, animations, and other small touches that attract the user's attention and create a positive impression.
Chinese design, and culture in general, tends to be softer and less confrontational. Designs that are heavy and dark, or edgy and aggressive, may convey an uncomfortable and unexpected impression.
As with all types of branding, exceptions to the rule exist — so consider it a general guideline for mainstream brands only.
It's not just general advice, but in some cases a legal requirement. Companies have been punished for referring to people or places by the wrong name, or using a map that doesn't conform to national standards.
Besides politics, it's also necessary to understand the traditional symbolic meanings behind certain colors, numbers, dates, and superstitions. Involving native Chinese team members in the process can provide cover for most common issues.
It may go without saying, but for brands targeting Chinese customers, it's helpful to include imagery of Chinese people, interacting in a familiar China environment.
On the other hand, being a Western brand in China can be a mark of prestige. In some cases — for example an imported luxury product — including Western imagery may be relevant and beneficial.
For technical reasons, Chinese web fonts are limited, so it's not possible to include a diversity of font styles in headlines and body text.
On the other hand, custom Chinese characters at large sizes, converted to image format, can make a striking visual element.
Chinese headlines and body text take up only 60% of similar Western text, making lines and pages shorter. Text of similar font size (for example 18px) will appear relatively larger and blockier, as Chinese characters are sized similarly to all-uppercase letters.