How to Adapt your UX for China
Got a digital product and looking to launch in China? Read on. Having started MING Labs in China in 2011, we have seen a big development from the old-internet world of overladen landing pages, to digital products of world-class defining design today. In parallel, we have seen the move from clunky desktop applications with small user bases, to the mobile-first B2C revolution to the rise of the super apps that are the new all-encompassing ecosystems in the market. Throughout those major shifts in digital products and behaviors, some preferences have remained constant that differ from those in Western markets. Understanding what is actually different, and what is just a different stage of development, is an important factor when launching your product in the market. From key differences in UX requirements, to the preference for larger ecosystems and a different understanding of value, China is unique in many aspects (as are other markets, to be sure). Over the years, we have helped many startups and MNCs to launch their products, built and validated in their home markets, into the Chinese market. We have thereby seen many of those differences in action and came to certain conclusions on what a good approach of scaling into China should be. This article is therefore mainly aimed at those thinking about, tasked with or actively working on expanding into the Chinese market, and who are wondering what that means for their digital products and services. When launching in a new market that has some important dissimilarities from your home market, essentially you have three choices in product adaptation: Minimal: At the very least you will have to translate the interface into Mandarin, to make your product accessible. Additionally, there might be certain legal requirements for your industry you will have to adapt to if you want to do business in China. Replacing certain pieces of technology might also be necessary, in order to get through the Great Firewall (many Western services are blocked). Localized: At this stage, you might be redesigning the UX of your product to fit the local market tastes or you might port your product onto local platforms (such as the WeChat and Alibaba ecosystems). In the Marketing you might also adapt your messaging to emphasize the points that would resonate more with Chinese customers. China Business: In some cases, it might be necessary or advantageous to pivot your target audience or business model, which will result in a very different way of doing business. Your core value creation might still be relevant, yet other parts of the business have to change drastically. We call this “China Business” as the local operations will be very dissimilar for your other operations in a China-focused approach. The trade-off here is that with an increasing China customization you are reducing your Economies of Scale, as a very localized business will not be scalable into other markets and will need a lot of local, dedicated resources, whose learning you can’t leverage in your global expansion. At the same time, a low level of customization will stay highly scalable, yet might not yield success as it is a very specific market. That trade-off and decision is by no means trivial. Finding a good answer typically requires taking on a beginner’s mindset (going back to the Exploration stage) and first testing your product and value proposition locally. » Read More
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