Showcase Of Web Design In China: From Imitation To Innovation


China is a country with five thousand years of civilization. It is a multi-national entity extending over a large area of East Asia. China’s cultural influence extends across the continent, with customs and writing systems adopted by neighboring countries including Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

China has gone through numerous ups and downs and twists and turns, from wealthy and prosperous (as during the Tang Dynasty back in 618–907 AD) to powerless and colonized (as during the Qing Dynasty, just around 100 years ago). Now China is reopening its door to the world again, embracing the latest trends, concepts and technologies, the World Wide Web being one of them.

In our interviews with six well-known designers in China, each of whom wears different hats, the recurring theme was that China’s Web design industry is rising like a spiral from imitation to innovation and user-centered design.

Chinese Web Design: Dongpai2

State Of Affairs

The designers we interviewed had much to say about the direction of Web design in China, the status quo and trends. The individuals are spread out across four major cities in China, and they are:

  • Yu Guo3
    Former chief designer at Baidu, China’s largest search engine.
    Current city: Beijing.
  • Whitecrow Zhu4
    Co-founder of UCDChina5, and principal product experience designer at Alipay, a subsidiary of Alibaba.
    Current city: Hangzhou.
  • Junchen Wu6
    Co-founder of UCDChina, and director of products at Tuniu Travel.
    Current city: Nanjing.
  • Lytous Zhou7
    Visual designer, UI lead at CK Telecom and author of the book UI Evolutionism8.
    Current city: Shenzhen.
  • John Woo9
    Lead of the user-experience team at Google China.
    Current city: Beijing.
  • Rex Song10
    Freelance information architect; co-founder of UCDChina.
    Current city: Beijing.

The interviews were conducted via phone, Skype and Google Talk. Questions were sent to the designers before the interviews to give them context, but the actual interviews were semi-structured. Being interested in the scope of their thoughts, we asked them not to limit their answers to just “Web design.” The designers were told that Web design here refers not only to visuals, CSS and the front end, but also the back end, infrastructure, design rationale, cultural elements, user-experience design and research and so on. We wanted the designers to express their thoughts as openly and as creatively as they wanted to.

Moliyo MFM11
MFM Moliyo12, a game website.

Question: How do you see the status quo of Web design in China?

Yu Guo: Almost 70% of Chinese Internet users are under 30 years of age. They are young, open, and they adapt to new things quickly. They like to play games online and enjoy looking for ways to entertain themselves online. So, you may see visually attractive elements on many Chinese websites, the purpose of which is to cater to this group of users.

Whitecrow Zhu: About two years ago, we witnessed a huge trend where designers in China were imitating Korean websites in their use of Flash. Flashy and colorful design was once the trend. However, with the introduction of Web 2.0, websites in China are improving. Users are exploring the content as opposed to exploring solely the visuals. Visuals alone do not satisfy Chinese users any more. They are looking for useful and helpful content, and they want to contribute to the websites as well.

Junchen Wu: It’s on an upward trend, getting better and better, but like a spiral. In terms of Web knowledge and techniques, Chinese designers are on par with designers in Western countries, but they have not reached the point of fully utilizing that body of knowledge. An excellent example of this is user research. Many designers know the concept, but they hardly include it in their design practices. They know of usability testing, but they rarely do it.

Lytous Zhou: Well, two points. One, limited budgets are very common in China’s Web design market. As a result, Web design ends up with overwhelming visuals to attract attention. It might be flashy and pretty at first sight, but the information architecture might not be well planned, and usability can be poor. Regarding the second point, Chinese Web design tends to be very localized, as it should be.

Chinese web design: Midea Microwave Oven14

For example, Alipay, a byproduct of Taobao, became a successful standalone product because it took into consideration the purchasing behavior and psychology of Chinese users. China is a big country, and some websites are successful because they cater to particular geographical locations. The other side of the coin is that Chinese Web design is not quite international yet. It’s such a huge market and can sustain itself without even reaching out to the international market. You will see that and a lot of other Chinese websites don’t have English versions, even in their navigation.

John Woo: China has not formed one distinctive Web design style yet, because the country is big, and Chinese users are complicated in many ways. The impression of foreigners of Chinese Web design might be that it is busy and flashy, but I take it as practical. When Flash design was the fashion, many designers (or their bosses) wanted to use Flash to make their Web pages attractive. When SNS was booming in the US, it was soon introduced in China, together with the Facebook and Twitter design styles. When it’s practical and useful, many Chinese people will just borrow the concept and develop it further. Baidu, QQ and Taobao won business and respect this way.

Rex Song: China has a large population, and the saying “the more, the merrier” applies to its Web design. You will see some Web pages that are busy and cluttered, with designers or stakeholders trying to put everything on the page. The other thing is that, currently, the primary motivation to go online for the average web surfer in China is entertainment. So, Web designers in China tend to make their websites play-ish, SNS-ish and visually attractive, as we saw with the popular trend back in 2004 to imitate Korean Flash websites.


Chinese Web Design In A Nutshell

So, do you now have a rough idea of the status quo in Chinese Web design? Although our interviewees tended not to reduce Web design in China to certain patterns, we summarized a few bullet points based on the topics most frequently mentioned in our interviews.

1. Flash-Heaviness: Born of Imitation

Flash design has been a source of constant debates for years. The fact that optimizing Flash objects for search engines can be difficult is a major turn-off for some designers.

However, Flash was called out, and it’s the most frequently mentioned keyword in our interviews. Back in 2004, when Korean websites were all in Flash, Chinese designers and business owners considered Flash the “fashion.” Rex Song mentioned that when this trend was extremely popular a few years ago, you could even download ready-made Korean-style Flash ZIP files from online stores for little money, so that you could do it quick without spending a lot of effort.

Google is renowned for its focus on simplicity. But take a peek at the nuances that distinguish Google China17 and Google US18:

Google CN US

The design of Google China is a bit more vivid than that of Google US, with a hint of animation added to the former to enhance the richness of Google search. By the way, this concept was first implemented on Google Korea and Japan, although both of them have since reverted to a more static interface.

Although Flash implementation began as imitation, it is now increasingly featured in the portfolios of design studios and freelancers, on websites to launch new products and for products geared to the younger generation.

Shanghai Vive19 is an old Shanghai cosmetics company that is trying to rebrand and attract high-end consumers. Its branding uses Flash heavily, depicting an elegant and high-class life.

Shanghai Vive20

Cool Bear Hi21, one of the product lines of Great Wall Motor, has a Flash website to promote its new car release.

Cool Bear22

To accommodate low-speed Internet connections, Cool Bear Hi does a good job of showing the progress of the loading Flash.

Cool Bear Progress23

The text below the car on Cool Bear Hi changes as more Flash loads. With the chipper text there to assuage visitors, the loading Flash doesn’t seem that boring to watch. Above are a few screenshots we took, and below is what it says at various points in the loading process:

  • At 4%: “Choose Cool Bear Hi. Share your happiness.”
  • At 22%: “Wear a smiling face every day, and say Hi to everybody.”
  • At 41%: “Cool Bear is impatient, ‘Why hasn’t anybody taken me home!’”
  • At 70%: “Book a test-drive appoint. Get your special gift and reward points.”

Mian Dian Fang24, a ready-to-serve breakfast company, also uses heavily Flash on its corporate website. The animation gives the steam bread and “baozi” a human touch, having them do morning exercises and other activities. The metaphor persuades customers that the company serves a healthy breakfast.

Mian Dian Fang25

Let’s look at how Mian Dian Fang shows its loading progress:

Mian Dian Fang progress

The loading animation parodies the yeast process: the flour gets bigger and bigger, until you can see a full-blown website.

Shoebox2616, a shoe brand for the younger generation in China, uses Flash across the whole website to show its grasp of fashion. In addition, the sketched art on the home page and old brown newspaper color for the background set up Shoebox’s philosophy: taste is an attitude of life; start with the simple; fashion is a kind of sport; start with Shoebox.


Lenovo Mobile O128 takes advantage of personalities and embeds their stories in Flash to present the features, functionality and usefulness of its new product, Lenovo O1.

Lenovo Mobile O129

Artlans30, an interactive design studio, also uses Flash, especially for its menu buttons, the call to action and the language switcher. Design studios may not want to use Flash all over their portfolios, but rather in a few key places to show their skill at using Flash for clients.


Idea Design32, a design studio that uses Flash in full swing.

Idea Design33

2. Designing for Entertainment

We really liked our one-on-one interviews because not only did we hear different stories from different people, but we also heard certain other stories from everyone. For example, Whitecrow, Lytous, Yu, and Rex all talked about the “entertainmentalization” of Chinese Web design. “When a social networking website comes to China, it must become a game website,” said Whitecrow.

A case in point is a feature provided by Kaixin.com34 (Kaixin means “happy”), which recently spurred a social phenomenon in China: “Stealing vegetables.” Kaixin pretty much copied Facebook’s navigation and user interaction. But it’s different in what it allows you to do: set up your “Happy Farm,” build your house, grow your own vegetables and then steal your friends’ vegetables when they are ready to be harvested. Some dedicated players even made Excel spreadsheets to track their friends’ harvest season in order to expedite stealing. It’s like any other video game but embedded on a social networking website, allowing you to play with a wider variety of users. “Stealing vegetables” became so popular that it drew the attention of censors from China’s Ministry of Culture. Under pressure from the Ministry, the game is now called “Picking vegetables,” a less offensive euphemism for mainstream Chinese culture. Online players still prefer the more accurate name.

Happy Farm

Happy Ranch

Happy Orchard

The application was recently added to Facebook, but it is only for Chinese-speaking users at this time.

Lipton Milk Tea35 features a “Hug Relay” game that you can play right on the website. Hug your friends by validating your account on Renren36, another social networking website in China, and gain hug points.


Once you accumulate enough hug points, you can shop on the online store and purchase gifts, an incentive to maintain momentum in the game:

Lipton Superstore

Like Lipton, M&M China38 also uses an online “relay” game to engage visitors to its website.


I Love G340, a website from China Mobile to promote the 3G network and 3G cell phones, presents an animated Flash questionnaire for users to play around with.

I Love G341

After you have answered a series of questions such as, “How would you kill time on a train?” and “How would you cross the ocean?” the system analyzes your personality and recommends 3G cell phones to match you:

I Love 3G

3. Designing for Clicks

Unlike Latin and Germanic languages, Chinese is rooted in hieroglyphic characters. Typing in Chinese on an alphabet-based keyboard can be slow, especially for middle-aged and older users. So, you will see that some website user interfaces are extremely busy: text and image links everywhere—”the more, the merrier,” as Rex Song points out. These websites are designed for clicking, as opposed to searching (although keyword search is an essential component of any information-rich website).

Yoho42, an online shopping platform for the younger generation, takes advantage of every sliver of real estate on the page to promote its products. Yes, a search box is in the top-right for you to search, but with all of these images and hyperlinks, it’s more enticing to just click, click, click.


It’s the same with China Visual44, a visual design resource portal. The home page presents all sections of the website as text and image links, giving you a quick peek of the content.

China Visual45

NetEase46 (aka, one of the largest news portals in China, takes full advantage of the Web reading pattern of Chinese users: i.e. clicking.


Above is a screenshot of NetEase’s home page. The Chinese lunar New Year was approaching when we were writing this article, and you can see that this website uses red, a color symbolic of festivals, for the background. The page is filled with headlines of news and featured articles as well as ad spots. You can perform a search at the top of the page, but by scanning the entire page, you get a sense of what’s happening today. And if you’re interested in any of the headlines, just click—that easy.

All that said, many websites are working to unclutter their UI, increase the font size and line spacing and enhance readability. “Sina.com48, if you have been paying attention to its redesigns all the way back to the late 1990s, is doing better and better at information design,” said John Woo, lead of the Google China UX team.

4. Designing for Culture

When asked, “Can the world learn anything from Chinese web design?” Lytous Zhou answered without hesitation: “Culture. The Chinese respect Dao49, and we have our own set of values and mores. Websites targeted to the Chinese market should follow the online habits and aesthetics of Chinese users. For example, cultural symbols, calligraphic elements and festivities: all of these could be integrated into a Web design if applicable. A lake may just be a lake, but associating a fairy tale with a lake makes it prettier.”

True, if you add a fairy tale and human touch to a lake, the user’s perception of it would change.

Pizza Hut China50, which is an example I like to use every time I explain cultural differences, uses Chinese elements heavily all over its website: in the color scheme and family theme. Warm reds and yellows are colors symbolic of festivity in China, and the family dinner is highly regarded in Chinese society.

Pizza Hut51

By comparison, Pizza Hut US52 highlights fast food and online ordering on its home page. Red is also Pizza Hut US’ theme color, but it’s more solid, darker and cooler than the warm red on the Chinese website.

Pizza Hut US53

Same with McDonald’s China54 website, where one main menu is dedicated to the “Happy Family Party.”


Tong2 Studio56 has a unique look and feel with this traditional Chinese floral pattern on its background.


Six Station58, whose home page is a Chinese ink and watercolor painting in Flash, opens its creative and innovative mind to clients.

Six Station59

Dongpai Design60, an interactive design studio, has an interesting mini-website that borrows from the “Three Kingdom” story (a period of Chinese history) to communicate its design philosophy and values.


While John Woo points out that incorporating national and cultural elements into design is not limited to the Web, he acknowledges the practicality of Chinese Web design—that designers will borrow anything that might be useful to them or their users.

Want An Even Bigger Showcase?

Not enough visuals for you? Here is a whole bunch of more websites to give you a better sense of design in China.

UI Seven62
A design studio.


A personal showcase that records the designer’s 12-year love affair with his girlfriend (now wife) and his own professional growth as the Web evolved during those years.


Youguan Cookies66
Also uses Flash animation to promote its product line.

YouGuan Cookies67

Xin Hongru68
An interactive design agency that uses both Chinese elements and Flash to showcase its work.

Xin Hongru69

Thinkpad Edge70
A new product line of the Thinkpad laptop.

Thinkpad Edige71

Moliyo MFM72
An online video game website, designed for clicks.

Moliyo MFM73

361 Sports74
Borrows the theme of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games for its home page.

361 Sports75

Dove Chocolate China76
Uses Chinese elements and the lunar New Year to decorate its home page.

Dove China77

A snack company whose website is rich in games and Flash.


Brain Town80
A personal portfolio website.

Brain Town81

A platform to showcase the creations of members.


Jossy Jo84
A clothing brand.

Jossy Jo85

An interactive consulting agency.


Mole Lele88
A cartoonist’s personal website.

Mole Lele89

WEBE7 Enterprise Network Interactive90
A portfolio website.


Sanshen Toscana92
A real-estate website that relies heavily on Flash.


Wotoon Design94
A design agency.


Shaopan Film Studio96

Shaopan Film Studio97

X’mas Tree Workshop98
A mini games website where you can create your own Christmas tree and send it as an e-card to your friends.

X'mas tree99

The GF Space100
A design agency.

GF Space101

A neat website for DIY home ornaments.

Haha DIY103

Yimei Cross Stitch104


Happy Basket106
Designed for clicks.

Happy Basket107

A pretty cool Flash website.


Chateau Junding110
A domestic wine brand.


Incorporates a family theme into its Flash design.


Magic Workshop114
A kids clothing company, using Flash-animated cartoons to capture the company’s culture.

Magic Factory115

JJ Ying116
A neat personal portfolio website.

JJ Ying117

Beijing Orange Advertising118
A creative showcase website.

Beijing Orange119

Another website rich in both games and Flash.


Yee Chino122
A restaurant.

Yee Chino123

Gold Chino124
The sister restaurant of Yee Chino.

Gold Chino125

Guoguo Diary126
A fairly simple but creative personal website.


Rancho Santa Fe128
A real-estate developer in Shanghai.

Rancho Santa Fe129

Challenges, Opportunities, Trends


When it comes to challenges in the Internet industry, one of the frustrations mentioned by Whitecrow, Junchen, Rex and Lytous is government censorship. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr are all blocked in China because some of their content is considered “inappropriate.” And for compliance purposes, “Sina Microblogging has a team of humans whose job is to censor content, in addition to machine filtering,” says Whitecrow.

The international debate on how free and open the Internet should be is ongoing (see Nussbaum130, 2010), and there is still no universal “policy” for the Internet. But without an open environment, China could be impeded from learning from and catching up to other countries.

Still, every coin has two sides. “It limits your freedom,” says Whitecrow Zhu, “but meanwhile, it has a positive effect on UI design and content presentation. There is less room for gimmicks. It forces you to concentrate on useful content and how to present your content.”

The other challenge mentioned by Junchen Wu and Rex Song was the lack of quality educational programs: “Vocational schools might teach you how to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver and how to code in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, but they may not teach you design thinking and the logic behind design. The World Wide Web is still young, and at higher-education institutions we have not seen any Information Architecture or User Experience Design degrees yet.”

Our interviews did point to the fact that designers in China have not yet taken full advantage of rigorous research methodologies. Take what Junchen Wu said about the status quo of Chinese Web design: “Many designers know the concept, but they hardly include it in their design practices. They know of usability testing, but they rarely do it.”

And in response to the question, “How do you convince stakeholders that a design is right?” Rex Song brought up the notion of “guanxi131” and trust, and he thought the concept A/B and multivariate testing was “Western” and might yield a “low ROI.”

This is understandable on the one hand, because China has a long history of interpretive reasoning, be it Confucianism or Daoism. On the other hand, Chinese Web designers in general have a long way to go in using hard data to back up their design choices.

One might argue that the designer’s job is simply to design, the fact is that you need reasons to support your decisions that affect layout, color scheme, positioning of elements, user interaction and so on. Only “25% of the designers who relied on their personal opinion were right. A research study conducted by the Neilsen Norman Group132 (2009) concluded that “you’d be better off tossing a coin than asking advice of these people.” This cannot, of course, be said of everyone, but it speaks to the importance of data.

Opportunities and Trends

We were inspired in all six interviews by the discussion of the opportunities and trends in Chinese Web design.

Question: What trends do you foresee in Chinese Web design?

Yu Guo: E-commerce, I would say. Do you know Taobao? Some of my female colleagues have bought soy sauce, pickles and snacks that I’ve never heard of at Taobao. They love it. This is the market in China, and there is demand. I think every company should take advantage of it.

[Authors’ note: Taobao is one of the largest shopping platforms in China to connect buyers and sellers of “baobei” (treasures). Out of curiosity, we searched for chocolate on Taobao and found those seasonal truffles that are sold around Thanksgiving and Christmas exclusively at Costco, the largest warehouse membership club in the US.]

Taobao Truffes133

Whitecrow Zhu: I think Web design in China is moving towards integrating more and more user-generated content. Douban146134, an online book and movie club, is a good example. Like YouTube, the majority of the website’s content is user-generated, and it has been pretty successful. Douban existed before YouTube, by the way.


Several years down the line, e-commerce in China will be in full bloom. E-commerce is not tied to any ideology other than simple economics and consumer interest. It has less of a chance of being censored, and people demand it.

Junchen Wu: Creating more value for customers. Listen to what they say, look at what they do, do what they do and think what they think. My belief is that Chinese Web design is getting better and better, in an upward-spiral trend.

Lytous Zhou: Focus on users and your service. I don’t think we’ll see anything unnecessarily extravagant, like crammed content and excessive visuals. Features, functionality, industry standards and meeting customer needs are the trends, I believe. And you’ve got to think outside of the box.

John Woo: Functional, useful and usable. Making websites flashy, with lots of reds and greens, is absolutely unnecessary. Focus on user essentials and user needs. Though not a website, the Tianyu (KTouch) cell phone is very popular in China these days, and I bought six for my family: four with big font display and handwriting input for my parents and parents-in-law, one with 3x optical zoom and an 800 MP camera, and one that looks like lady’s powder case (see picture below). Tianyu was a “Shanzhai” manufacturer but is now a registered company with a pretty good share of China’s cell phone market. Why? It focuses on user essentials and basic needs. Websites are no different.

[Authors’ note: “Shanzhai” literally means “villages in the mountain with stockade houses.” The use of shanzhai became popular with the outstanding sales of shanzhai cell phones. Although shanzhai companies do not use branding as a marketing strategy, they are known for their flexibility in design to meet specific market needs. Shanzhai cell phones can be sold at prices much lower than normal cell phones. (Wikipedia136, 2010)]


Rex Song: In terms of online trends, we will develop our own Web design style using the backdrop of Chinese culture. Formatting-wise, we will be in line with the mainstream world, creating more user-centered designs and offering a better user experience.

Wrapping Up

The Web in China is young, and Chinese designers are playing catch-up. Despite the challenges, we see even more opportunities: smart people, a big market, increasing demand, flexibility and innovative and user-centered design thinking.

On many Chinese websites, we’ve already seen the “upward-spiral trend from imitation to innovation and user-centered design”. Innovation in China is a constant goal. It is being pushed in President Hu Jingtao’s State speech all the way down to classroom curricula. Says Bruce Nussbaum137 (2009), “To its credit, China has made design a national priority and is pouring billions of yuan into design education.”

Through our interviews, we also collected some resources that our designers would like to share with Smashing Magazine readers (including those in languages other than Chinese).


  • UCDChina Book Club Meetups138
    These monthly meet-ups occur on the third Sunday of every month in China’s eight major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Xiamen and Chengdu. They set a topic for each month, and club members can borrow the books from UCDChina library and return them at the next meet-up.
  • UCDChina Annual Conference139
    The first conference was held in Guangzhou in 2009. It’s free to attend.
  • UPA China Annual Conference140
    The UPA China Chapter conference, different from UPA International. The conference is usually held on “Usability Day” every year.
  • Designer and Developer Front End Technology Forum141
    A biannual forum for designers and front-end developers in China.

Books, Blogs and Online Resources

Your Voice Is Important to Us

What do you think about the Web design in China? We couldn’t cover everything in one post, and we are sure we have missed some perspectives. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Related Posts

You may be interested in the following related posts:

About the Authors

This guest post was written by Kejun Xu and Hendry Lee.

Kejun Xu164, an information architect devoted to user experience research; a user researcher dedicated to user-centered design; a usability engineer engaged in making the Web easier to use; and a translator and interpreter who loves inter-cultural communication and bridging people together. She designs for her users, making their lives easier and hassle-free. She blogs once a while, about UXRnD165, to record the auto parts and loose diamonds, in case she forgets.

Henry Lee helps people overcome strategic and technical challenges in starting and growing their blogs. Read more of his blog tips166, including website building with blog software, strategies, hosting, social media, Web writing, design and more. You can also hire his team at Marketing Loop167 to build a Web presence for your business or personal website. Stay in touch with Hendry by following him on Twitter168.



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Kejun Xu, an information architect devoted to user experience research; a user researcher dedicated to user-centered design; a usability engineer engaged in making the Web easier to use; and a translator and interpreter who loves inter-cultural communication and bridging people together. She designs for her users, making their lives easier and hassle-free. She blogs once a while, about UXRnD, to record the auto parts and loose diamonds, in case she forgets.

  1. 1

    哇 终于轮到天朝了

  2. 52

    非常好的文章! Great article guys! I have been spending the last 10 months researching this exact topic for my Masters degree… its been an amazing time, even got to go to Shanghai twice for the practical part: i designed a Chinese culturally adapted website for a New Zealand company in Shanghai.

    Brilliant people, brilliant country, brilliant design!

  3. 103

    The first time ,I found lots of Chinese designer are here ~~另,豆瓣改版了:)~~

  4. 154


  5. 205

    Wonderful… Very colorful & Spicy as chinese food…..

    • 256

      It’s a “Aha” moment. ^_^

      Seriously I wasn’t aware of the correlation at all!

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  8. 409

    Hi nice collection, check out my personal portfolio and send me email with comments on that

  9. 460

    nice article!

  10. 511

    Great article and a topic that really hits close to home. I currently work as an art director for a design agency in Taiwan – the “renegade province” considered to be part of the mainland depending on your political views. I’m often asked by friends and colleagues back home (in California) what challenges we face in working in the creative industry here and whether there were opportunities for them to tap into the greater China market. I think this article provides great insight in answering a lot of these questions – especially in the interviews with the Chinese designers.

  11. 562

    Great article.

    I just want to add that flash is good solution for chinese web . There are 2 reasons:

    1. Typography – there is no much choice in terms of system fonts. I dont think anybody uses more than 1. And sorry to say this – bold, italic, too small chinese font – looks like crap…

    2. IE6 is still pain in the ass . On some of my websites 70% users browsing with IE ( 50% of that is IE6) – so sometimes is just easier to make everything in flash

  12. 664

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with this article. The ‘Chinese web’ is all about flash and is all aimed specifically to engage Chinese users.

    What is difficult to grasp for many Western readers is that I think the way people engage the internet in China is soooo different in many ways. As the article points out, the vast majority of Chinese internet surfers aren’t looking for goods/services/information but rather games, entertainment, and social interaction.

    It can be frustrating when you’re searching on Baidu for something simple like local cinema listings and sudenly you’re not faced with a webpage for your local cinema but rather endless blogs or BBS pages with extremely cryptic URLs containing a wholly unmemorable mix of numbers and letters.

    Chinese people are less likely to have their own personal websites on but will go for pages on blog rings like sina or msnlive. They will also rarely engage with any western websites but rather have the option of using a Chinese immitation (usually a carbon-copy… see ) where there is a demand for that service.

    The 2 main limitations of the ‘Chinese web’, in my opinion, do not have anything to do with the censorship, which barely affects any one in China (why would they want Facebook when they have Kaixin? Why would they want Twitter when they have Zuosha and Fanfou? etc.) to the point that few people are even aware of it. No the main limitations are, as I said in a previous comment, the typography – ‘web-safe’ Chinese fonts can never do justics to such a beautiful form of writing that could potentially be used so creatively. The other HUGE limitation is the prominence of IE6… which I obviously need not go on about. These limitations in themselves drive Chinese designers/developers to rely more on flash as a cross-browser and creatively flexible option. Oh and excellent point about the lack of education programmes as well… hadn’t though of that.. that’s another big limitation :p

    Having personally worked as a web designer with various Chinese agencies for many years, I have seen little progress towards more user-friendly, standards-compliant, cross-browser compatible front-end markup I’m afraid to say. The emphasis is still very much on sticking with the status quo in terms of static html pages that resemble those we would have seen in the West in the late 90s, only serving IE users (for instance try doing any online banking or shopping in China without IE…), or otherwise going all out with flash.

    There are universal design principles that I don’t think can be ignored or justified by saying ‘the page is designed for clicks’. Glaring colours, distracting animation, poor navigation, poor content layout, bulky and non-semantic code… These are all things that serve to make a webpage less usable no matter what language it’s in or what culture it’s geared towards.,, etc. have barely improved over the last 10 years and still remains a very ugly and hard-to-use site… they remain popular due only to market dominance. Try testing someone to find something on any of those pages that they wouldn’t normally look for and you’ll see them straining their eyes.

    While I enjoy making flash sites and I often see some really impressive flash-work coming out of Chinese agencies, I can’t help but suspect it must be frustrating for so many people, possibly in busy internet cafes or rural areas, who must endure the slow load times.

    Hopefully this hasn’t sounded like a long rant… if so here’s a positive example of a well-designed non-flash ‘cluttered’ page that is presented in a clear and friendly way, with smart typography. It’s a forum to connect freelance designers and design agencies with clients and shows off some fantastic work from Chinese designers.


    • 715

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was very well thought and written.

      Considering the fact that,

      1. the thoughts of these designers I interviewed may not represent all of designers’ thinking in China;

      2. it were semi structured interviews and I was the only person to do the data analysis and there wasn’t any inter coder reliability guarantee;

      3. I see it as a qualitative study and the sample size is not statistically significant,

      this article provides the insights to those well known designers in China, but it’s really the readers’ responsibility to judge if they want to generalize the findings to the greater application.

      Thanks again and your comments were very informative!

    • 766

      I agree with Darryl.
      ‘the page is designed for clicks’ is really bad.
      I always browse which offers tons of stuff at affordable price however it is almost impossible to find something without using search function so…why does the designer put thousands of link and flashy banner on the homepage?

      • 817

        But you cannot deny the fact that there is a group of users who would like to see these mass category links and well designed pretty banners. It’s an alternative way way of browsing information in addition to search. In usability, you want to offer different ways to look for the same information. Some people think linearly and some are exploratory.

        Also there are marketing needs behind the scenes. I am sure by tagging these banners you can get all the way to revenue.

        Just my $.02:)

  13. 868

    I am really excited to see such article about webdesign in my homeland! But in fact, many outstanding designers have not been mentioned. you may find them at

  14. 919

    Mr. Giải Pháp Số

    March 15, 2010 11:37 pm

    Wow! Very cool!

  15. 970


  16. 1021

    有些想法: 如果能多加些中国风的东西效果更佳。
    比如, 书法,水墨,中国结,剪纸等元素。
    呵呵, 个人想法~~

  17. 1072

    Great article!!
    Although I’m Chinese, I’m a fan of simplicity or minimalist. Anyway, I now understand why most of the web site in China are flashy and some sites are overwhelmed visuals and contents.

  18. 1123

    Interesting style with a lot of detail in some of them!
    Most of them are a bit too flashy for my taste – but I’ll guess thats just the way things work on the other side of the world :)

  19. 1174

    Nice looking websites, but EXTREMELY slow!

    • 1225

      They’re usually much faster if you’re in China :p

      but still yeah… big flash sites are always going to be relatively slow.

  20. 1276


  21. 1327

    Awsome! :)

    I can’t wait for Pland. We got heiz :)

  22. 1378

    Extreme professionalism n all designs….. Good Work guys

  23. 1429

    Kelga Creations

    March 16, 2010 2:53 am

    Awesome stuff! I’m a multimedia designer and Asian too. But never thought how different Chinese web designs are compared to Western web designs just with the difference in culture. This article points it out nicely and very informative!

  24. 1480

    含泪飘过,smashingmagazine 上第一次见china design 希望以后会越来越有影响力

  25. 1531

    Nice examples.

  26. 1582


  27. 1633

    This is the first time to see my chinese guys’s works here, well done!

  28. 1684

    让亿万网民淹没这里吧 竟然发现了国产的.

  29. 1735


    March 16, 2010 5:30 am

    显示您的山雀、 中国女孩 !

  30. 1786

    That Kaixin game seems almost identical with a similar farm game on the japanese mixi social network. Anyone knows if the two sites are related to each other in some way..?

  31. 1837

    Thank you for introducing Chinese web design to the western world. I’m from, a web site and forums for professional web designer and developers in China for over twelve years. You may check the url below: and to find more awesome designs from China. I hope I’ll see more articles from you to present Chinese web design on Smashing Magazine. If there’s anything I can help, you got my mail. :)

  32. 1939


  33. 1990

    Superb! 太正啦!虽然我不是来自中国,但太亲切啦!

  34. 2041

    very comprehensive! thanks

  35. 2092

    Interesting article and an interesting insite as to how the web works differently in the Eastern world to the West.


  36. 2143

    Well Done! guys. the title says it all.
    good on all chinese designers.


  37. 2194


  38. 2245


  39. 2296

    I really hate Flash-based site with no meaningful at all, but slow experience. I am living in China and a native Chinese. These sites just suck as they are though our culture and characters are great.

  40. 2347

    I will work harder for CHINA DESIGN!

  41. 2398

    Good Works of Chinese designers.
    Thanks for the post.


  42. 2449

    Wow! Gr8 article.. Thanks :)

  43. 2500


    I’m proud of being a chinese,I’m proud of being a chinese designer. FIGHTING!

  44. 2551

    哈哈 中国的web designer 加油!

  45. 2602

    some really great designs.
    i don’t like heavy flash use, but they do some awsome websites.
    keep bringing us more showcases…

  46. 2653

    This comment was deleted due to offtopic.

  47. 2704

    web designer come on!

  48. 2755


  49. 2806

    as a matter of fact, chinese portal sites contain too much typographical characters. it seems annoying. personally, i don’t like it.

  50. 2857

    Very Good Job ,中国设计


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