build website china webdesign best pratices

China is the world’s largest internet market with over 700 million netizens. Brands and marketers are often interested in how to optimize their websites for China and Chinese netizens, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what that entails. In this post, we’ll outline some of the most common misconceptions as well as best practices for optimizing your website for China and Chinese netizens.

  1. Chinese Language
  2. Graphic chart
  3. Live chat & contact info & payment option
  4. Mobile Friendly
  5. On site optmization for Baidu
    • CDN/Hosted in China
    • Avoid Blocked Elements/foreigns API (ex: google font / Gquery)

To create a website that will resonate with Chinese consumers, businesses must first understand their needs and internet scrolling habits as well as the specificities of the Chinese internet. Let’s dive into our best tips for an optimized website that will help you convert more in China!

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1. Obivous but…. In China you need a Website in Chinese Mandarin

  1. China primarly speaks chinese mandarin and mainland uses simplified chinese to write and read.
  2. Baidu, China’s number 1 search engines only supports Chinese and will always favor chinese results to english one.

Reminder as to why Chinese language is key in China

You wouldn’t want to enter the French market with an English-language website and expect results, so why do it in China?

Don’t bother with an English-language website if you want to sell in China. Most visitors will simply close the page as soon as they see that it’s not written in Mandarin, and then look elsewhere for what they need – And it makes sense. For instance, let’s say you are looking for a perfume and wind up on a Chinese website with no English language options what would happen? You would most likely close the webpage unable to read the content or think it is an eCommerce website for Chinese consumers, therefore not for you.

In the B2B industry, you’ll have slightly more success with a website in English, but and it’s a big but! keep in mind that many decision-makers across China don’t understand English well enough and would rather read about your services/products through their native language (especially if we are talking big money).

Content Localization for China

Not only does your website content has to be in Chinese but it also has to localized meaning that simply translating your content won’t be enough to break through and convince your Chinese visitors. You may need to tweak your content a bit, create a new one more adapted to your new target audience and ditch some other that is not appropriate for Chinese customers or Chinese laws and regulations for instance.

On top of that, the more localized & precise your content is, the best chances you’ll have to be indexed on your chosen keyword on Baidu. Remember, Baidu only exists in Chinese and its algorithm has become super precise and specialized in Chinese mandarin, making it crucial to master the language if you want any chances to rank at all.

2. Follow a graphic Chart & UX that Appeal to Chinese Netizen

ICBC Website – Desktop & Mobile
  • Praticability before eye pleasing design (Which you should certainly keep in mind for any websites but even more so in Chine, we will se why below)
  • Feature Social media and contact info

Chinese Typography web design rules:

In order to guarantee the visibility of Chinese characters on websites, it is indispensable to use a font of at least 12 px because there is no space between the characters. Why?

The Chinese script contains more than 40.000 characters, however, to have an acceptable level of literacy is only necessary to be able to read around 2.000 of those ideographs. The Chinese characters are divided into strokes but the number of them can vary between 1 and 60 strokes. It can quickly become unreadable if the font is too small or too intricate.

The Layout of a Chinese Website is not Cluttered but Taylored to Chinese language & Culture:

Chinese Websites and Internal Links:

In the early stage of the internet, search bars were not so well adapted to the Chinese language, the way to go around was to add as many links as possible to guide visitors through many levels of content. Although the search bar has evolved quite a bit, the habits are now ingrained. In short, web pages are designed for clicking instead of searching

2014 Version of Desktop Weibo – Links Everywhere

Newer websites are trying to stray away from this system to make it easier for their users, however, as you can see in the picture of a major Chinese website below (or above on the ICBC Website both desktop and mobile version), the fight for fewer links is not over.

Every Section is clickable on the Chinese News Website CCTV (Nov 2021)

Complex Layout & menu

Chinese readers are also used to complex “architecture” through their writing system, and what’s look complex to you looks very natural to Chinese users (you can actually find similar website buildings in Japan).

The filling of white space on the website reflates the Chinese urban landscape quite well as well where each inch of space has a purpose. White spaces are not necessarily seen negatively (although it could be seen as your company has not much to show) but like a waste of opportunity. Instead of being blank, a space can feature important information. In China, less is definitely not more, if you do not believe me, visit some of their most popular websites to see for yourself.

Chinese users care about the features, usability, and user experience of the site not about how the site’s layout looks. Some may not like this busy layout, but that is what all major websites and eCommerce (Tmall/JD) platforms use in China.

These platforms are so big, that they do and undo China UX rules and the good news for those of you that prefer minimalistic design is that Tmall and JD seem to be moving away from the ultra cluttered layout for more breathing design. However no changes insight with the menu which is still ultra-complex

3. Live chat & Contact info & Payment option

Website in China is rarely the place where consumers will convert but more an obligatory passage to check the authenticity of your brand/company and/or get the necessary information to go further into the potential transaction.

Having a live chat available is something we suggest any business with a website in China gets. Why? Chinese consumers appreciate getting instant answers to their questions. In fact, they are used to it, I would almost dare say spoiled by the biggest platforms that all offer instant messagerie services to their users. Getting an instant messagerie is a game-changer and can often make the difference between winning a customer or losing the attention of a visitor.

In the same vein, have your contact information visible and easy to access. As I just said, your website will most time be an intermediate step in your customer’s journey. Visitors will expect to find contact info such as your company address and phone number, as well as your WeChat account (and other Chinese social media).

If you have a shop or sell services directly through your website (additionally to a WeChat mini-program would be preferable) make sure to have your customers favored methods of payment available: WeChat pay and Alipay. This will smoothen the transaction and make visitors less reluctant to convert.

4. A mobile Friendly Website

The vast majority of Chinese scroll the net on their phones and if your website is not optimized for smartphone usage, you will be losing a significant part of the business.

Obviously, if you are doing B2B, and most leads contact you through desktop then the loss won’t be as terrible but having keep in mind that like google, Baidu now favors mobile-friendly websites. When you design your Chinese website, just have both done.

5. You need China Internet Compatible Website

Many of our clients ask us to simply translate their website and create a subdomain (often cn.com) so they can keep everything in the same place. And we understand why they do not want to spend resources on designing a new website just for China. However, most time it doesn’t work and the reason is simple, your global website is built using API that is blocked in China.

There is a simpler solution to designing a whole new website. Make a copy of your existing website, migrate it to a server in China (or close to China) et modify the copy to make it work with China’s internet regulation. Don’t worry, each foreign APIs that are blocked here, all have a Chinese alternative!

Loading Speed Optimization

  1. CDN: CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. Its a set of web servers deployed throughout the world, all pointed at one site and help deliver content very quickl and increases download speed for anyone no matter where they are in the world.
  2. You could aslo have a website Hosted in China or nearby country. The only “downside” with hosting your website in China, is that you need an ICP licence that is only obtainable for companies registered in China. But it would get you a .cn domain.

Avoid Blocked Elements such as Google API

This one seems pretty straight forward but if I refer to the number of people contacting to simply duplicate their global website into Chinese and publish it as it is for the Chinese market, it appears it is not.

For those of you sitting at the back of the classroom, I repeat, Google is blocked in China so are google API and many other western developer tools.

To give you a few examples, you’ll have to find alternatives to:

  • G-Query
  • Google Font
  • Google Map
  • Youtube Videos
  • and so on

Not only avoiding using any blocked content in China will make sure that your website does not appear broken to your visitors but will also help with loading speed.

We can also mention tracking tools – although this won’t impact your website loading speed, not being to track properly your traffic, for instance, can be an issue.

Need to build a reponsive website for China?

gma - DIgital Marketing Agency China

Contact-us, we have solutions for you! we’ve assisted hundreds of companies designing whole new websites, localizing their website to be more appealing to china users or even just simply migrating servers or registering for an ICP License.

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3 Comments

    1. Hi Lee,
      Thanks for your compliment.

      While Chinese do read blogs indeed, it is not what they like most. They are far more likely to read content shared and posted on social network. When it comes to websites they will prefer to get to the point : expert views about a product they want to buy, price, reviews.

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