Please Mind The Gap: Chinese and American Site Design Concepts

The Melcher Ruwart clan has an interesting view on a topic that could be paraphrased with “nicer language” — the question Why do most Chinese sites look like crap?”.

And we quote:

Whenever I show Chinese websites to American friends who don’t speak Chinese, the friends universally have the same reaction — “Wow! That site sure is crappy-looking! Guess those guys haven’t learned how to design a good website yet, huh?”

The full article has a deeper look at the “busy-ness” of Chinese sites such as Sina instead of the “cleanliness” of sites such as Yahoo.

Here’s the techblog86 view of things, though. We smell a Gap… to mind:

• The Chinese are all about content. The same holds true in the West, too, but in the Chinese World, things are a bit different. “Crammed content”, so to speak, is perfectly OK on the Chinese part of the World.

• The Chinese are more character-based. Even offline, roadworks signage is almost always in Chinese as in characters; few signs are all-icons (although an increasing number of non-roadworks related signs are). In Europe, in particular in Switzerland, all-text signs are a rarity; instead, icons are given center stage when possible. In the same vein, “crowded characters” are more a Chinese sight than a Western sight.

• There’s something about Chinese websites as in the amount of content. In the West, we’re used to being zippy and brief. A page that goes down for ten screens is often given hell. The very opposite happens in China: if a site is too “short” on content, netizens are more likely to go: “Is that all? (I was expecting more!)”.

• Even outside the main home pages — if we move to individual articles — most Chinese portals (Sohu in particular) see the text meander around ads — even interactive Flash ads, which could potentially be a no-no in the West. Western news sites are more “all-text”: the Swiss SF 1 Tagesschau news page shows continuous paragraphs full of text.

• Anyone remember teletext? Probably the best way to compare the Chinese Internet is to this rather dated technology. Page 100 on a teletext service is most likely “all overviews, some pics, and a few ads”. Things get crammy (but then again, TV real estate is limited). Want to see teletext in action? Try the Swiss home page, and see if that’s any different from any major Chinese portal.

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