The first thing to consider is the cultural differences between continents spaced so far apart. The technical side of designing a web page for Asian markets is the same as designing one for the United States or Europe. What will make or break your efforts are these cultural differences and how you navigate them.

Appreciating the Asian Markets’ Sense of Design

When you talk to someone who has either worked for or with a Chinese company or who has run a marketing campaign in China, it’s very clear that their sense of design is different than what you see in the West. Proof of this can be seen when you look at multinational companies that offer their brand in China. Look at their website on Baidu or QQ. You’re going to see something that looks very busy, full of text, full of links, and even animations, which to Western eye seems impossible to read.

Understanding why websites that target Asian markets are designed the way they are and learning to emulate this design style are essential if you are going to successfully market your product or service for the Asian markets. The following are a few tips that may be beneficial.

North American Web Design

In North America, the current trend in web design can be summed up in one word – “Clean.” The design is straightforward and elegant. Large images are the center of the design, with short and concise copy appearing on the page. It’s common for menus to be hidden away and only unfold when they are moused over.

Web Design in Japan

Japan’s style is markedly different. Less emphasis is put on pictures and more is put on text. Images are small, and menus are prominent, with the categories being listed in a static format. It is not uncommon to see the site’s complete menu listed in one column.

Web Design in China

The design aesthetics seen on popular Chinese websites fall somewhere between the extreme text you see in Japanese websites and the scarcity of text found on many North American websites. There are large images, but there is also substantial text. Red and yellow are prominent colors. These colors signify good fortune and happiness to many in the Chinese culture. Flash-based websites are popular, but their use is on the decline.

The Benefit of Extra Graphics and Sound

In the Asian market, websites flourish when they are more direct. This is due to the High Context culture they are placed within. Messages have to be implied and the approach direct. Adding more visual elements, such as images, do more to talk about the brand and its values than anything else. Minimalism is not popular in Asia, like it is the United States and Europe. Remember, you are not designing to your taste but instead to the taste of your target audience.

Maximize the User Experience

From a Western standpoint, Asian market websites may seem a lot more complicated than what we are used too. However, the users are used to receiving information under this structure in the same way that Westerners are accustomed to receiving information under a Western structure.

They are accustomed to seeing a busy website, so they do not care how the site looks. What they are concerned about is usability and performance. An important part of usability is site speed and reliability. It can be beneficial to use websites that compare hosting data to help your small business or medium business find the right hosting solution to you.

Our friends at Hosting Singapore put together a great resource to help people sort hosts via performance tests.

Optimize Your Site for Baidu

Most SEO efforts are directed toward achieving ranking on Google and Yahoo, and sometimes Bing. However, Baidu is a popular search engine in China. It has not had a global reach, and that is why many people do not know about it outside of China. But China has more than a billion inhabitants. If you rank well on this site and if your target market is in China, it pays to optimize your site for Baidu.

The algorithm that Baidu uses is different from Google or Yahoo. It does not have the same sophistication, and it has algorithms that resemble what other search engines used a few years ago. That being said, here are some tips on what you can do to rank with Baidu.

Find the Right Chinese Words

Keywords are important for good rankings. Finding the right Chinese words to optimize for can be a challenge because there are number of dialects with the same word having different meanings in different dialects. However, Pinyin Chinese is the language of choice preferred by Baidu.

Structuring a website for Asian languages can be a challenge for Westerners. Thankfully, there are great resources that can help you design your website effectively.

Produce Quality Chinese Content

Even if the primary language on your site is not Chinese, Baidu views the Chinese content above all else. Follow the guidelines for acceptable content in China. Failure to do this could cost you your good rankings on Baidu and spell big problems for your site.

Use Simple Navigation Structures

Baidu refuses to follow links that are hidden deep in all kinds of sloppy code. It will not work with code that goes multiple levels deep within the same hierarchy.

Avoid Flash and JavaScript

Google does not love Flash or JavaScript, and Baidu hates them. For this reason, you should only use Flash and JavaScript if you are able to provide the alternative HTML versions of the content.

Understanding the Power of Language

There are more than 2,190 languages spoken in Asia. Of these, 10 are the most commonly spoken. These include:

  1. Mandarin, with 1.2 billion speakers
  2. English, with 400 million speakers
  3. Indonesian, with 240 million speakers
  4. Japanese, with 120 million speakers
  5. Filipino, with 90 million speakers
  6. Korean, with 80 million speakers
  7. Vietnamese, with 80 million speakers
  8. Thai, with 60 million speakers
  9. Burmese, 33 million speakers
  10. Malaysian, with 30 million speakers

Mandarin, English, and Japanese are the most used languages on the Internet. Creating quality content on your site in these languages will help you reach the Asian markets.

Although it may seem overwhelming, adapting your website or creating a website for the Asian markets is very manageable. You need to have a solid plan and know what direction you’re going to go in. Remember, approach China, Japan, and India in their own ways. Understanding their cultures and their perception of space and color will help you make a website that will flourish in the Asian markets.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.