Different Strokes: Design Preferences in U.S. and China

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 19 Apr, 2012

Digital marketing agency Acquity Group has released its Global Usability Study that surveyed American and Chinese consumers on their website preferences to better understand online shopping behaviors of consumers in China.

The findings revealed that both groups of consumers favored the American-style Web design over the Chinese-style design, especially on the homepage. American consumers gave the American style a 78-percent approval rating while Chinese consumers gave it an approval rating of 72 percent.

Different Web Experiences
Three Web page layouts were shown in both American-style and Chinese-style designs. Separate versions of a hypothetical ecommerce apparel site were created based on a set of generally accepted design principles for each market. Participants were asked to evaluate the three pages from each style of site - a homepage, a category landing page and an individual product detail and order page.

The American-style design featured a clean homepage with a large, branded image, limited selection of promotions and information, with little or no scrolling capabilities, and similarly structured product category landing and detail pages.

The Chinese-style site was much more information-heavy, characteristic of that market's typical retail website. Product images, descriptions and promotions were all included upfront on the homepage, with long pages and opportunities for continuous scrolling. This was consistent with the category landing and product detail pages.

American audiences tended to rate both design styles an average of 5 to 10 percent higher than Chinese audiences (75-80 percent, versus 70-75 percent), indicating that the Chinese respondents had a slightly more critical perception of Web design styles. Chinese respondents pointed out the American-style design's use of "Big pictures can drive attention, but the information was not enough", and that the Chinese-style had "Too many product pictures on the homepage."

Chinese respondents also noted a lack of advertised promotions more readily than Americans did, and were more frequently affected by price points.

"Creating a positive and rewarding Web experience is a complex formula of design best practices coupled with cultural preferences," says Dominic Lee, Acquity Group's creative director. "Although we went into the study with general cultural assumptions, the insights we collected about consumer preferences in both countries were unexpected. The cultural styles were not as easily categorized as we initially believed. This tells us that it is time to cross-pollinate the international ecommerce space."

Entry into Foreign Markets
The point of the study was to generate analytics for marketing and IT officers as they continue to evaluate their digital channels in foreign markets. It revealed that consumers in the Chinese and U.S. markets have distinct tastes when it comes to interacting with digital channels, suggesting that marketers will need to explore new ways to merchandise a site and display product information when moving their brands into foreign markets.

"U.S. companies can save on costs by re-using designs and functionality from domestic-style home pages and landing pages, but winning over the Chinese consumer will require a product-page redesign to enhance both the quality and quantity of product information, which will likely prove beneficial to their home market as well," says Lee. "Most Chinese companies launching in the U.S. should start from scratch with a new U.S.-style home page, but also keep in mind that U.S. consumers value the enhanced information featured in Chinese-style designs."

The entire Global Usability Study can be downloaded here.