China How To: Design a website for China
Given the capital and time-intensive process of establishing a physical office in China, online channels are a popular option for international retailers and especially SME’s to reach Chinese consumers. E-commerce platforms such as Tmall are a popular entry point for international consumer brands to test market demand, develop brand penetration and outsource operations, including online payment and customer delivery. Listing on a Chinese e-commerce platform offers enormous market potential for overseas brands. Meanwhile, given that low barriers to entry (in comparison to offline retail) and growing competition, brand trust and reputation are becoming increasingly more important than country of origin in determining long-term success. Chinese consumers pay a considerable amount of attention to product quality, safety and brand reputation. As a result, new customers typically crosscheck and browse multiple touch points before buying a product or service. Popular touch points include online forums, social media channels, online question and answer platforms, family and friends, and of course the brands’ official website.
Having a company website optimized for China is a vital touch point to build trust and improve online and offline conversions. As Chinese customers are thousands of miles away from your production facilities or offices, having a China-friendly website is one way to validate that your business is legitimate and to communicate your brands credentials. Remember it’s not uncommon for potential clients to want to visit your offices, simply to check you really exist and have a business licence.
What is a China-ready website?
A China-ready website is a dedicated online portal with localized content for Chinese consumers to access information about your business or brand. Your China website should ideally be a stand-alone website with a China (.cn) domain name, integrated with at least one Chinese social media account and hosted on a China-based hosting server (or Hong Kong server is you don’t have a legal presence in China) for optimal performance. At China Web Designers, we can arrange the optimal set up to get your business or brand in front of your potential clients.
Can I just add a few pages translated into Chinese to my current website?
This is an alternative option and works as a quick fix from a content perspective. However you will run into a series of compatibility and design issues. Firstly, many foreign website use technology that is simply incompatible with China, namely the Google API. Secondly, websites which are integrated with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google Fonts etc. will experience delayed load speed as these elements are inaccessible in China. This can have an adverse effect on the user experience and aesthetics of your website. Thirdly, your website load speed in China will be delayed if your website is hosted outside of China, and especially if hosted outside of Asia. Finally, website design fundamentals differ widely between western and Chinese websites: clean minimalistic design, is not the norm, Chinese users expect very detailed orientated websites, focusing on content. Take a look at what we did for London Designer Outlets as an example of this:
Popular international website building platforms such as Wordpress, Drupal, WooCommerce, are all accessible in China. However if you want to use a website builder such as WIX with integrated web hosting, you will run into trouble. These days, Wordpress and WooCommerce are the two best international options to create an expandable China business or e-commerce site. Strikingly has a strong emphasis on mobile design and offers the option of integrated China hosting. Wordpress can also be used as a website builder but hosted on a third-party web hosting platform in China. Magento, Strikingly and Wordpress are our suggested platforms for building an e-commerce integrated website. However, for all of these you will need to ensure that you disable the Google API. English Heritage and SAM Labs China are a couple of examples of optimised Wordpress sites for China.
Website design priorities are somewhat different when catering to a Chinese audience. Chinese corporate websites tend to veer from minimalistic website design found in the West, and instead focus on content-heavy designs, as well as vibrant colours with traditional significance and Flash promotional banners. We at China Web Designers, generally try to find a middle ground, focusing on content but maintaining Western design principles. James Cropper Paper is a site we particularly like for this, also Brand Energies.
Chinese consumers tend to trust corporate websites based on the depth and authority of the content provided rather than on navigational and aesthetic design. As an international business your main focus should be building a website that communicates your brand credentials and values to potential customers. Important features to highlight via text, images and video include your business registration, compliance certificates, awards, government relationships, customer testimonies, strategic partners and memberships of industry-based organizations.
When translating content into Chinese characters it is important that you use a quality translation service to translate and localize your content. Machine translations are simply not good enough yet to provide fluid and colloquial/formal texts.
Localising your website design and content for a Chinese audience may seem daunting and time-consuming, but it all adds up to a competitive edge over rival brands in China. As mentioned, Chinese consumers are extremely street-smart and detail orientated when it comes to brand and company research, skipping corners on your online presence can cost your company potential business. In order to build trust and generate enquiries from your website, it pays to employ a professional service provider to assist with design, content editing, translations, social media integration and SEO optimization.
Managing Director, China Web Designers.