What are the new web design trends in China? As the Internet environment in China keeps on evolving, it is increasingly important for websites and e-commerce platforms to keep their presence up-to-date and meet the demands of the consumer.
Knowing web design trends in China is especially crucial for western companies who are expanding their presence into this market. Just translating your existing website into the Chinese language and hire Chinese developers without any guidance will not help your business. The structure and design of your western website will most likely not be successful in addressing the cultural differences and consumer behaviors typical of this market.
In this post, we will not try to determine whether Western or Chinese web design is better or more effective. Our aim is to help you understand how people perceive, or use the web in China. The following points will provide you with valuable insights which will make your web design appealing to the Chinese audience. To achieve the best results in China, it is crucial to be assisted by a web designer with a firm grasp on the local market and a good sense of successful web design in China.
Why Web Design in China is Different
If you have surfed Chinese websites before, you may have been overwhelmed by the number of links and text you may find on a single page. At times, Chinese sites may make you feel like you are stuck in the year 2000 when overcrowded and confusing web pages were the norm.
The lack of development in Chinese web design has been perceived by many as if the country had been left behind, or as a symptom of poor quality. In reality, there are specific reasons for these significant differences between Western and Chinese web design.
One critical reason is the nature of the Chinese language and how it is handled by the “search” function. The “search” algorithm is amazingly effective in English or similar languages. With typing a single word, the algorithm can easily refer to a large amount of related content making your research for additional information very simple and efficient.
Things become more complicated in Chinese because each word is not a sequence of characters, but instead, each word is represented by the shape of the character. For this reason, getting accurate results from a search is much more complicated and the results are often quite poor. As a result, in the past, web designers often opted to have as much content as possible displayed on a single page to make it easier for users to explore content.
However, what we will consider next, is our assisting in this new trend that we have seen of more web designers in China switching to a minimalist design.
Another factor that has hindered web development in China is the reluctance of many Webmasters to explore new solutions. Many businesses simply looked at successful websites as a reference point. The majority of the time, they requested to build their platform following the same design since they believed that was the only way to succeed. Therefore, new solutions were often rejected unless they were first implemented on major websites and this approach has led to slower changes.
New Web Design Trends in China
Concerning the use of colors on websites, it is worth mentioning a trend that is getting more and more popular. We are talking about the use of gradients.
Of course, gradients are not new in web design. However, lately many designers have started playing with them a lot when adding visual impact and creating some depth to a website layout. Even though the switch to minimalistic design has proved very successful in previous years, users today are looking for something more.
How can you preserve the clarity and ease-of-use of a minimalistic design without boring your users? The answer has been found to be in playing a lot more with visual elements. Currently we see gradients used in backgrounds, over images and illustrations, in buttons and call to actions, and other functional elements like menus and similar things.
The advantage of gradients is that although they are pretty simple to use, the visual impact they create is very powerful. Moreover, gradients work very well on both desktop and mobile devices, thus making it very useful in China.
Video Clips on Homepages
We do not need to talk extensively about the power of videos. It is widely known that Internet users prefer to watch videos instead of reading content. Images are easier to follow, more entertaining, and can stir emotions more effectively.
Videos have become a primary tool to promote content on social media and in 2019 we saw them used on website homepages. We believe that this trend will continue even in 2020.
A video added to the homepage doesn’t necessarily need to be a long one. Sometimes, it is only a short clip of just a few seconds, played on a loop. What is important is that the video must be of high quality and capable of conveying a main idea quickly.
If used insightfully, videos will increase the time users spend on your page, giving you more opportunities to generate conversions.
WeChat H5 pages are gaining amazing popularity in China. Users like to be entertained and to have as personalized an experience as possible. H5 pages allow you to satisfy these needs of the user.
This is especially true if you are planning to launch a marketing campaign in China or you need to engage your visitor more. In these cases, an H5 page should be in the pipeline. These pages come with several advantages, for instance, a faster and cheaper development compared to other tools, like WeChat Mini Programs.
H5 pages are highly interactive, making them utterly likeable. For these reasons they are currently widely used in China and they are a powerful tool to close sales. Not to be overlooked is the fact that H5 pages allow you to collect a wide range of information about your visitors that you can then use to adjust your marketing strategy and make it more focused.
Products designed in dark mode are increasingly popular in the western world and we can expect this same trend to gain traction in China as well.
Especially for mobile apps, the ability to choose between light or dark mode offers the user the opportunity to customize their experience. As major companies are implementing dark mode with greater regularity, people are getting used to this new visual effect which comes with several advantages.
For instance, the dark mode is less tiring for the eyes as the device brightness adjusts to the external light conditions. Moreover, when in dark mode, the device consumes less energy, thus extending the duration of the battery which your users will not fail to appreciate.
Voice Search Features
Voice search is what allows users to search the website content without typing on the keyboard. They just need to speak to the device and the desired result will pop up.
Voice search is super popular in China for good reason. The Chinese language counts around 80,000 characters. An average user needs to understand around 2000/3000 of them to read and use the Internet. The complexity of the Chinese language has always been a challenge for web designers.
Thanks to Voice search, users do not need to type their queries on the keyboard. They just need to speak them aloud, thus simplifying the process considerably. No wonder this feature has become so popular in China, making it a priority for each website to be optimized for voice search.
Since 2018 we have seen an increase in minimalistic web design in China. Many businesses are following the pattern set by some big companies like, for instance, Lenovo who has redesigned their platform with a minimalistic approach.
This signals a major change from overcrowded web pages to a more relaxed design. Nowadays, Chinese websites tend to look similar to what we see in the western world.
However, the habit of having massive amounts of links and information on a single web page continues to affect the user’s behavior. The Chinese still love to have as much information as possible upfront.
Nielsen Norman Group has conducted an interesting study that revealed that today the average Chinese user prefers a simple web design while maintaining a considerable amount of information upfront.
Therefore, web pages shouldn’t be too minimal, otherwise, users may think the company is trying to hide information, or has nothing much to say. Therefore, even though the overall design is minimalistic, hyperlinks and previews must be more descriptive than in the western world to instill confidence in the user and provide them with the experience that they are looking for.
Enhanced User Experience
User experience is as relevant in China as it is in the western world. Navigation must be easy, intuitive and quick. However, even in this case, a Chinese website must comply with some local basics.
Even if a minimalistic approach to web design has solved the problem of overcrowded and complicated web pages, the problem with the search feature we outlined before still persists.
Therefore, the design has to be well thought out and implemented in a way to give direct access to as much information as possible. This can be done by creating multiple levels of navigation that redirect to shorter web pages instead of long ones (which is often the case in the western world). It is customary on native Chinese websites to make large use of sub-menus and sub-sub-menus.
Moreover, navigation menus must be organized not vertically, but horizontally, since the horizontal structure is easier to scan in the Chinese language. Especially if you are creating a Chinese version of your existing website, you must seriously consider completely redesigning the navigation system altogether instead of replicating the existing one.
Careful attention must be given to the language. Automated translations do not work at all in Chinese since the language is way too complicated. A poor or grammatically incorrect translation will demean the trustworthiness of your business and could be perceived as disrespectful. Therefore, we warmly advise you to hire a qualified copywriter, fluent in the local language, to translate or, preferably, rewrite your content.
Responsive design is now a priority in web design. However, in China a mobile-first approach is not enough, so a mobile-only design is what you should aim for.
According to the Internet Network Information Center’s (CNNIC) Internet Usage report (2017), 95% of Chinese users access the Internet from a mobile device. The report shows the large role that mobile devices play in China.
You should expect your user to visit your website primarily from a mobile device and you must focus your web design on that. Given the extensive use of mobile devices, all major companies have an Official WeChat Account connected to their business, which represents another significant trend in China, as we will explain later on.
Compared to a few years ago, designing a website for the Chinese market has become more exciting because it now allows more room for designer creativity. Chinese web developers now have more opportunities to experiment with new solutions. In some respects, China has gone from being a follower of the western world to becoming the leader for several new trends.
When we compare how popular Chinese websites appeared a few years ago to what they look like now, it is evident how much has changed in this market.
However, there are still some words of caution that every web master must consider. Although Chinese websites now have a more western look, they are still different in several critical ways. For this reason, if you are planning to enter this market, it would be a mistake to think that just translating the content into the Chinese language is enough. Most likely, the design of your website needs to be adjusted in some way.
Having a tight grip on the understanding of the local culture and customs are still critical to making your website appealing to local customers and effective in generating conversions. There are still web behaviors that are unique to this country and failing to match with them will hinder the performances of your website.
For these reasons, trying to approach web design in the Chinese market on your own will seldom ever contribute to good branding and will frequently leave you disappointed. Having the support of a web design agency in China with a thorough understanding of local web design and culture is the most effective solution to pave the way for your success in the Chinese market.