Do Chinese People Really Like ‘Chinese Style’ Websites?
When entering the Chinese market, one of the first things you’ll need is a website. Perhaps you already have an English website, or perhaps you’re planning on creating a completely new website for the Chinese market, but either way you’ll have to answer the same questions: How can I better tailor my website to the habits of Chinese Internet users? How can I make them like us? How can I make them want to buy our products? These are essential questions to ask yourself at the beginning of the website localization process.
Western marketers that we speak to at NMG often ask us what type of website style and layout Chinese Internet users prefer. Both Chinese and non-Chinese marketers probably have an idea about what Chinese Internet users like – huge pages, tons of links, ads everywhere, floating boxes, scrolling text, etc.
As an example, let’s take a look at the foreign real estate website http://www.bon-top.com/. It looks like a very ‘Chinese style’ website, doesn’t it?
We can see some of the clearly ‘Chinese’ characteristics on the homepage:
- It almost looks like they’re trying to fit their whole website on one page. The page is extremely long.
- Lots of ads.
- Several online chat boxes. There’s one on the left, three on the right and one pops up right in the middle as you browse.
- The page is extremely crowded.
- The navigation structure isn’t very clear.
- Little focus.
- Bright, diverse colour scheme.
I’ve noticed that a lot of marketers think that it’s a good idea to design Chinese websites like other Chinese websites. But in my opinion, this type of website is a mess! I don’t want to rely on my opinion alone though so I surveyed a bunch of Chinese Internet users about their opinions on two websites. The first website is the Bon Top site I just mentioned, and the second site is one of NMG’s client websites: www.goldenroofproperty.com. Both websites are in the foreign real estate niche.
My survey questions were as follows:
Of the two websites, which style do you prefer?
- “Golden Roof has a nice design. The colours and layout make it very clear. It’s easy to use.” – Xin (Copywriter)
- “Bon Top is too messy, I couldn’t tell what it is that I’m supposed to be looking at. At first, I didn’t even know what this website was about.” – Jiang (Event Planner)
- “Bon Top has too much on it. I didn’t know where to start. But Golden Roof clearly emphasizes their service. It guides you. I know where to find the information I want.” Red (Website Editor)
- “Bontop has more content on the homepage, looks like there’s lots of information. And the other website looks too simple. I don’t find Golden Roof to be as attractive. Plus, the contact method isn’t as obvious.” Fang Yuan (Civil Servant)
- “Golden Roof looks too simple. From the homepage, it looks like there isn’t that much info. Also, I’d like it if it had an online chat feature so I could interact with them.” – Vivie (Legal Counsel)
What do you think a good website should look like?
- “It has to have a good design, that’s how to gain my trust. The pages shouldn’t be too messy because that looks unprofessional. The navigation should be clear so that I can find what I’m looking for right away!” Zhou (Real Estate Agent)
- “It should make me want to learn more after I see the homepage! B (Civil Servant)
- “It should be simple and tasteful, easy to read and have clear categories.” Yanzi (Editor)
What is a Good Website for Chinese Visitors?
I didn’t do this survey to determine which of these two websites is definitively better. Everybody has their own tastes and preferences. Also, design aside, these websites are both quite different, so this is not necessarily comparing apples to apples. My goal with the survey was to sum up some of the preferences of Chinese Internet users to help guide the web design process for Chinese-language websites.
In my experience as a website user and Chinese copywriter, the typical, electric Chinese homepage is usually not the ideal design in the eyes of Chinese Internet users. This type of design may be useful for some types of websites and some user demographics, but in general this type of super busy style is used much too much in China. A great number of Chinese Internet users welcome designs that are clean, simple and elegant.
Of all the response I received for this survey, there is a clear preference for websites that have the following:
A delightful, simple design. Design and layout matters.
A clear topic and clear navigation. An appropriate website title, page headers and navigation will help draw visitors further into the site. A well-organized, hierarchical structure makes it easy to navigate the site.
Fresh, professional content. Great, fresh content makes the site look alive, useful and trustworthy.
Easy access to the website staff. To make it easy to gain more information or make a purchase, a contact page is necessary. For sales-enabled websites, it’s best to have an online chat feature on the site.
Of these factors, the more you can meet, the greater the number of visitors that convert. Don’t be scared to design a website for Chinese visitors that doesn’t look like the stereotypical ‘Chinese style’ websites of your competitors.