Blinking items, bright colors and plenty of links –This is what seems to be characteristic for a Chinese website, while German websites are known to be conservative and rather simple. But do the colorful, flashing features also apply for corporate websites in China? How is web design developing in the People’s Republic and what have foreign companies to consider when setting up a local website in China? Around 45 participants discussed these questions at the 8th Sino-German Communication Forum in Beijing, initiated by Storymaker and organized in cooperation with the German Centre Beijing and the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.
Around 45 Marketing and PR professionals attended the 8th Sino-German Communication Forum in Beiijing
Over 4,500 German companies have a branch in China and the number is constantly growing. Vice versa, more and more Chinese companies are investing in the German market. Both have one thing in common: They need to attract local users and promote their brand in the internet. But websites in China and Germany do not look the same and users have a divergent taste for graphic design and different habits. Experienced industry experts from China and Germany followed our invitation to the 8th Sino-German Communication Forum to discuss the challenges of setting up a local website in a foreign country with the Sino-German audience.
One central message is that the less-is-more principle still does not apply to internet users in China. “Chinese websites show more content on one page, especially the homepage”, reports Rupali Steinmeyer Managing Director of MetaDesign China Limited, a subsidiary of the global corporate design and branding agency MetaDesign AG. “Local users in China are still not used to navigate through several levels. Instead, they prefer to find their content via links, scrolling down one page. Western websites on the other hand can usually only be scrolled down up to three screens.”
Marc Finsterlin, Managing Director of aquarius asia limited, a subsidiary of Munich-based aquarius consulting with offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, agrees: “Chinese websites are designed for clicking”. Behind this lies the aim to offer all the information in the simplest way, but also the low bandwidth and the prevalence of Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6. “For the ease of browsing, the website should be designed to display all main content only to be loaded once”, Marc explains. That the right explorer is important was also stressed by Robert Liu, Vice President Marketing and Solution of Beijing Topsec Network Security Technology Co. Ltd., the leading Network Security Enterprise of China which has a localized English website: “If you set up a local website in China, you also need to take into consideration that your design can be displayed by QQ and 360 as well.”
Source: MetaDesign China Limited
Next to the Chinese’ gusto for clicks, Marc emphasized the design for entertainment and the tendency to flash-heaviness as another central characteristic of local sites in China. ”Chinese business owners have considered Flash a „must have“ since 2004 and this trend is continuing. And most of the Chinese users want to be entertained online”, he says.
But corporate guidelines often interfere with the localization of websites for the Chinese market – not always for the good of their own brand. “The best practice of brand translation should be able to localize the content to be of relevance to Chinese and yet remain the brand’s tonality”, explains Marc. And Rupali takes global players like the German Lufthansa as an example to show that it is possible to follow a corporate design and at the same time comprise with local habits. According to Robert Liu, this also applies the other way round: “Chinese companies who want to be successful in attracting a foreign audience must adapt their international websites to Western standards”, he advises and is surprised how few Chinese companies have taken this important step into account. “If you want to promote your brand online in China, you have to get to know the habits and requirements of Chinese users and give controlled flexibility to the corporate design”, Marc sums it up.
Source: MetaDesign China Limited
About the question if they are observing a „globalization of website design“, the three speakers agree that standards will shift and Chinese websites will „clean up“ to a certain degree. But local requirements will remain valid – as does the global principle: Bait the hook to suit the fish, not the fisherman.
The next forum will take place in autumn and will host a discussion about the hot topic Social Media from a corporate perspective: How companies in China can promote their messages through new media. The invitation will be announced on www.storymaker.de. Stay tuned!