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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 Link

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 Zhu
    Co-founder of UCDChina, and principal product experience designer at Alipay, a subsidiary of Alibaba.
    Current city: Hangzhou.
  • Junchen Wu
    Co-founder of UCDChina, and director of products at Tuniu Travel.
    Current city: Nanjing.
  • Lytous Zhou
    Visual designer, UI lead at CK Telecom and author of the book UI Evolutionism.
    Current city: Shenzhen.
  • John Woo4
    Lead of the user-experience team at Google China.
    Current city: Beijing.
  • Rex Song5
    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 MFM
MFM Moliyo, 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 Oven

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 Link

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 Link

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 China6 and Google US7:

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 Vive 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 Vive

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

Cool Bear

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

Cool Bear Progress

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 Fang8, 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 Fang9

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.

Shoebox, 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 O1 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 O1

Artlans, 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 Design, a design studio that uses Flash in full swing.

Idea Design

2. Designing for Entertainment Link

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 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 Tea10 features a “Hug Relay” game that you can play right on the website. Hug your friends by validating your account on Renren11, 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 China13 also uses an online “relay” game to engage visitors to its website.


I Love G3, 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 G3

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 Link

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).

Yoho, 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 Visual15, 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 Visual16

NetEase17 (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.com19, 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 Link

When asked, “Can the world learn anything from Chinese web design?” Lytous Zhou answered without hesitation: “Culture. The Chinese respect Dao20, 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 China21, 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 Hut22

By comparison, Pizza Hut US23 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 US24

Same with McDonald’s China25 website, where one main menu is dedicated to the “Happy Family Party.”


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


Six Station27, whose home page is a Chinese ink and watercolor painting in Flash, opens its creative and innovative mind to clients.

Six Station28

Dongpai Design29, 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? Link

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

UI Seven31
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 Cookies
Also uses Flash animation to promote its product line.

YouGuan Cookies

Xin Hongru33
An interactive design agency that uses both Chinese elements and Flash to showcase its work.

Xin Hongru34

Thinkpad Edge
A new product line of the Thinkpad laptop.

Thinkpad Edige

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

Moliyo MFM

361 Sports35
Borrows the theme of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games for its home page.

361 Sports36

Dove Chocolate China37
Uses Chinese elements and the lunar New Year to decorate its home page.

Dove China38

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


Brain Town
A personal portfolio website.

Brain Town

A platform to showcase the creations of members.


Jossy Jo43
A clothing brand.

Jossy Jo44

An interactive consulting agency.


Mole Lele47
A cartoonist’s personal website.

Mole Lele48

WEBE7 Enterprise Network Interactive
A portfolio website.


Sanshen Toscana49
A real-estate website that relies heavily on Flash.


Wotoon Design
A design agency.


Shaopan Film Studio51

Shaopan Film Studio52

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

X'mas tree

The GF Space
A design agency.

GF Space

A neat website for DIY home ornaments.

Haha DIY

Yimei Cross Stitch


Happy Basket
Designed for clicks.

Happy Basket

A pretty cool Flash website.


Chateau Junding53
A domestic wine brand.


Incorporates a family theme into its Flash design.


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

Magic Factory

JJ Ying
A neat personal portfolio website.

JJ Ying

Beijing Orange Advertising55
A creative showcase website.

Beijing Orange56

Another website rich in both games and Flash.


Yee Chino
A restaurant.

Yee Chino

Gold Chino
The sister restaurant of Yee Chino.

Gold Chino

Guoguo Diary
A fairly simple but creative personal website.


Rancho Santa Fe
A real-estate developer in Shanghai.

Rancho Santa Fe

Challenges Link

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 Nussbaum, 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 “guanxi57” 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 Group58 (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.

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 Truffes59

Whitecrow Zhu: I think Web design in China is moving towards integrating more and more user-generated content. Douban6860, 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. (Wikipedia62, 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 Link

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 Nussbaum (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).

Events Link

  • UCDChina Book Club Meetups
    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 Conference
    The first conference was held in Guangzhou in 2009. It’s free to attend.
  • UPA China Annual Conference63
    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 Forum64
    A biannual forum for designers and front-end developers in China.

Books, Blogs and Online Resources Link

Your Voice Is Important to Us Link

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!

You may be interested in the following related posts:

About the Authors Link

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

Kejun Xu84, 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 UXRnD85, 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 tips86, including website building with blog software, strategies, hosting, social media, Web writing, design and more. You can also hire his team at Marketing Loop87 to build a Web presence for your business or personal website. Stay in touch with Hendry by following him on Twitter88.


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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

    Nice stuff. But, since people were so gracious as to point out Israel’s political misgivings on another, similar regional post, I’d like to point out the same with China – arguably the biggest human rights violators on Earth.

    David Kaplan

  2. 2

    jezzz super cool! very different than the western style!

    • 3


      March 16, 2010 3:10 pm

      Very good read. Interesting to think that there are Chinese middle class banging away on keyboards and mouse clicks, trying to get one symbol into one frame and code the AS just right.

      You can do more with flash. You can get closer to a profound visual experience. So what if Flash sucks for SEO? You get a better site, a better brand experience, an improved overall experience of the web…if it’s slow for you, your computer sucks. Evolve or die.

      Their typefaces look different, but they look just like western websites. There isn’t a big cultural difference, other than the visual elements.

      I want to know about web sweatshops!!!

      • 4

        Website Design

        April 5, 2010 2:03 pm

        Was in the design biz in Beijing for 6 years and it’s a very different market. I found 9 out of 10 local Chinese companies did not see value in professional designs. Most customers were foreign companies entering China who expected the same design principles as in the US. Not one out of hundreds of clients requested flash only sites.

    • 5

      Yes very cool, i like Chinese designers. I think WEBE7 Enterprise Network Interactive is one of the best one.

      Best regards

  3. 6

    so I guess China will prevent Flash from dying? :P

    Great showcase, thanks SM

    • 7

      Heh! My thoughts exactly. I HATE Flash-heavy sites… one of the links above took about a minute to load up on a very wide connection to the internet.

      • 8

        J Pancras Gomez

        March 16, 2010 3:28 am

        A lot of flash stuff YES. Flash may not die after all. There is a lot of character stuff happening on the sites. Good to see a different set of designs. Cool stuff.

      • 9

        Sorry about the wait.

        Well, Flash serves its purposes in many ways. Many Flash sites are aesthetically pleasing. From the psychological perspective, people like beautiful things. They stir our emotion, whether we are aware of it or not. And many humans beings’ decision making are outside of our consciousness. I am not going to expand about this but there are lots of research out there talking about emotional design.

        In addition, for product promotional sites that cater for the younger generation or whose target audience/users may like motions and interactions, Flash is not a bad choice.

        So emotional design and product intent, or product requirement.

        Although I don’t deny the fact that some Chinese and Korean websites sorta abuse the use of Flash and make their websites flashy and slow, which is not a good use of their developers’ time, and users’ time.

    • 10

      Unfortunately seems like that, and not only Flash but also IE6.0, so we western web designers in China still have a difficult life for years to come :(

  4. 11


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    Nice Collection !

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  7. 15


    very interessting guest posting. I love articles like this. Thanks for all the showcases of international webdesign, this helps alot to get an impression of WORLDWIDE web!


  8. 16

    Absolutely need to support this article as a Chinese. Good job!

  9. 17

    Once again a very nice, inspiring post..

    Love how you’ve taken websites from all kinds of industries and how you’ve compared some Western style website with Chinese websites.

    And, wow! The NetEase website. I really dislike such sites, but it seems to be typical Asian style to design in such style for content-heavy website with loads of links.

  10. 18

    Cyril quatrepointzero

    March 15, 2010 9:10 am

    Great showcases
    It’s a nice way for discovering website design from all over the world,
    Keep up the good work. ,

  11. 19

    Paula is QuiteCurious

    March 15, 2010 9:52 am

    Great showcase! It’s always interesting to see websites from other countries. Props to Chinese designers for using Chinese characters on the web – it looks tough to design with characters that need to have a large minimum type size (or am I wrong?)

    • 20

      Not only that, Chinese web-typography is extremely limited by the fact that the fonts are so large (having to accommodate at least 4000 individual characters). This means that there are really only 2 “web-safe” fonts (the equivalent of ‘serif’ and ‘sans-serif’… one is bold and blocky, the other is thin and has small flourises at the end of some strokes) which you can be sure everyone will have installed on their computer. The size of the font files makes any sort of font-replacement method unfeasible.

      No matter what size they are displayed, the on-screen characters always appear ugly (especially on windows machines) and can never do justice to what is (or at least should be) an extremely beautiful and creative form of writing. If you look at traditional Chinese calligraphic paintings you can see that they conform to all the principles of good design, conveying the content so clearly and elegantly, and yet this cannot easily be transposed onto the web. This is yet another reason why Chinese web designers choose to use so much flash, so that they can incorporate custom-designed type.

    • 21

      Yes, you are right, We can not use font-size smaller than 9px。It’s a problem。

      • 22

        有几个宋体(pmingliu or 细明体)可以设置到11像素,但已经是最小的用法了,再小就看不清楚了。
        There are several songti(pmingliu or MingLiu) can be set to 11 pixel, but has the smallest usage, and then the small is not see clearly.

      • 23

        for Simsun(宋体), I have to use 12px, I think this is the smallest font-size.

  12. 24

    Hector Hurtado

    March 15, 2010 10:05 am

    Very interesting article, thank you SM! My wife and I are in the process of relocating to Asia, so as designers, this article came right on time.

    As a “Western” designer, I really liked the Chinese approach of branding through culture. This should be more widespread in the West, where it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate one country from the next. People are in search of identities tied to their perimeter, and the idea of linking modern information to historical or fantasy-related facts is a big plus.

    • 25

      Hi Hector! We are entering a Chinese market with a new project and would be interested in cooperation with you as a web designer. Will you please mail me.

  13. 26

    This is a brilliant article. A great read for this evening, thanks to all the authors and SM team!! I love you :)

    I also think there are many beautiful websites presented in this showcase. To me [not a designer] Chinese web design is distinctive and different from others I’ve seen through this SM’s post series. I would say it’s more vivid and kind of cheerful.. many websites are rather cluttered, or maybe I’ve been spoiled by minimalist websites that have been on the wave lately.. not sure :) Yes, I see the heavy use of Flash, but as long as flash website loads fast (as most of them do today) I see nothing wrong with this. Thanks again for the post guys, I enjoy learning more about World WILD Web :)

    • 27

      Thanks indigo for the thorough comment. East or west, a lot of designers whom I talked to like minimalism design. But I guess when it comes to putting the design into wires and visuals, it really depends on the business requirement and your stakeholders. You may use user research to change your stakeholders’ mind but if the business case requires cluttered design, we might then need to design for it. Take a look at msn news, google news, ebay, AOL, they are all busy, at different degrees. Then designers’ job is to uncluttered it using better layout, more meaningful navigation and information design.

      Just my two cents.

  14. 28

    I love chinese art…

  15. 29

    走出中国,感动世界!Step out of China and inspired the World.


  16. 30

    anonymous (berlinerin)

    March 15, 2010 10:44 am



    “Chinese is rooted in hieroglyphic characters. Typing in Chinese on an alphabet-based keyboard can be slow”

    Chinese isn’t really hieroglyphic / pictographic, though some older characters are or are derived from. And character entry on an alphabet keyboard can be very fast depending on the input method. Even a standard mobile phone it’s possible to enter all common characters with only six keys.


    Chinese women designers?

    (Yes, I’m complaining about this again.)

    • 31

      Smashing Editorial

      March 16, 2010 2:36 am

      No worries, we are preparing two articles about women in the web design industry, so please just stay tuned.

  17. 32

    Google is considering leaving China because of the many demands China had for Google. China is unwilling to do any concessions for the search engine. It looks like china looses the war on censorship on it’s searchengines.

  18. 33

    Thanks guys for the compliment! I appreciate that!

    To Berlinnerin, yes it’s fast for tech savvy and frequent web surfers in China to enter Chinese characters at keyboards but if you do a little bit of user research, it’s not the case for the average users esp. middle aged and seniors. (My dad goes online but he doesn’t type fast.)

    You know what, I was trying hard to locate a female designer but there are so few I can select that have web presence…

  19. 34

    creative design inspirations from chines designer’s gallery.

  20. 35

    ali hong kong

    March 15, 2010 11:47 am

    I’d love to see a resource for good typographic practices when building Chinese HTML sites. If you know any, drop me a line at !


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