Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Why I wouldn't like to design an Asian Website

Actually I wouldn't like to design any kind of website, that is not where my strengths lie. I would be particularly careful of making any design decisions on a website that was aimed at a culture I didn't fully appreciate though.

Taking Chinese as an example, a number of times I have directed Chinese users to an Internet site I like and then been surprised when they are completely underwhelmed by it. One reason has been that they feel there is not enough content. This screen shot above is from web-page of the Chinese television station CCTV, it is typical of many I have seen and to my eyes appears very text dense with lots and lots (too many links). It wasn't until a Chinese web friend told me that many Chinese Internet users had yet to get used to using search functionality that the penny dropped, navigating through and discovering new content via links felt most natural to them.

Also consider that a Chinese designer can typically choose a lot of two character words for links (or three / four character words/phrases) this makes it an awful lot easier to layout blocks of links that can be scanned much better than if they were written in English.

I am not advocating the CCTV site as a good example of any kind of web design, simply attempting to highlight the kind of issues that may need to be taken into account when looking at websites from different cultures. It has to be said that in my experience many Asian websites do a better job of catering for Western users (with language options and search support) than their Western counterparts.

Naturally nothing is that clear, many young Chinese will be familiar and used to Western style websites, many of them have gone through the language/culture mind-hack.

This post will be a small part of the background to my Bathcamp presentation Bathcamp presentation Twine(in progress).

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