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7 Important Localization Tips to Design Websites and Apps for the Asian Market

Posted by Gummy Tran on February 21, 2022.

Designing websites and apps for the Asian market will get easier with 7 localization tips revealed in this post.

As you may already be aware, localization does not mean translating words into your target language. There are a lot of things more to do to ensure your design aligns perfectly with your target user’s expectations. 

These include User Interface, User Experience, images, icons, fonts, etc. that are customized under careful consideration of condensed cultural and historical influences in many Asian countries.

So, let’s see what localization tips you should grasp to have tailor-made websites and apps for the Asian market.

#1 – Image symbolism and the importance of the visual

Not all gestures, signals, or pictures are universal. In certain cultures, an image of someone patting a child on the head might be seen as approval. Whereas in others, people would never touch another person on the head or shoulders, especially a child.

Similarly, the level of importance placed on the verbal or visual rather than the textual differs depending on where you are. In certain regions of Asia, contracts in business are almost always verbal, so your word is your bond.

This preference extends to digital design as well. There’s a lot of focus on the visual – a lot of images showing people enjoying using your products rather than text presenting how fantastic those products are – and what’s implied by context.

 

#2 – Localization tips: Color symbolism

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The colors you use have distinct importance and meaning, especially in China, and throughout most of East Asia. For example:

  • Red: Red normally indicates happiness or prosperity and is frequently used in events such as weddings or the Lunar New Year. It also represents the entire People’s Republic of China. Since the French Revolution and beyond, the red color has been used by revolutionaries to signify “the people.”
  • Purple: Purple in China contains overtones that are akin to “imperial purple” in the West. It also has a connection to the Taoist notion of immortality.
  • White: White, rather than black, is the color of death and mourning in China.
  • Yellow: Yellow is a risky color to use since it might link to adult content as well as being the signature color of various Chinese emperor dynasties. It can, however, also indicate nourishment.

Thus, you have to be well aware of the importance of the colors you choose for your UI. It’s possible that you’ll need to completely rebrand for the Asian market.

 

#3 – The role of icons, emoticons, and playfulness

If you look at a bunch of Chinese or Japanese applications in a row, one of the first things you’ll notice is the abundance of characters or mascots. Most brands, especially in Japan, will have mascots that are comical and cartoon-like.

When it comes to icons, you should know that they are not universal, just like the subjects of images. 

Many Western apps, for example, might utilize an arrow to indicate a map direction or link. An arrow may signify “explore” or “discover” in several East Asian applications. Or the gear symbol is commonly used in the West to signify “settings” but in some Asian countries, people will use a wrench instead.

Thus, localizing websites for the Asian markets necessitates a thorough understanding of regional implications for specific symbols.

 

#4 – The high complexity level of design

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This is an important factor to consider in Asian website and app design.

  • Western websites have a reduced information density: very few larger images, cleverly targeted advertising text, a single simple menu, and several pages of extra information.
  • Asian websites have more information density: more images of people using the product, longer menus, more sounds, auto-playing videos, animations, and graphics. A single page should cover a lot of content. 

This is most likely due to the fact that most Asian cultures are considered “High Context” rather than “Low Context.” This is an anthropological theory presented by Edward T. Hall, an American scientist, in which:

  1. Low Context cultures (such as the US or UK) prefer direct communication.
  2. High Context cultures (such as China or Japan) favor implied or indirect communication. They don’t always consider additional features and densely packed information to be clutter. Rather, people are more likely to see this as a sign of quality and that a website is correctly catering to its target demographic.

Take a look at the websites of big brands in European, American, and Asian regions, you’ll soon see where and how brands like Coca-Cola or Pepsi have adapted their branding and website design for Asian markets.

However, that’s not to say that you should go for maximal complexity in all of your Asian app designs. Some Asian brands and apps designs, Mercari – a Japanese e-commerce site, for example, have gained huge success with comparatively minimalist design.

Hence, besides considering the high complexity level of design for the Asian markets, you’ll need to study your target customers carefully, define your brand and tone when entering a new market, and implement many more tasks to have a suitable approach.

 

#5 – Localization tips: All-in-one pages and menus

As previously indicated, when domestic companies develop websites for the Asian markets, the common preference is for everything to be on a single page. Even if this makes the website appear cluttered and unclear to someone who is used to a more Western design approach.

There appears to be a tacit understanding that if something isn’t on the page, it isn’t on the site. As a result, Asian app designs are more likely to offer a menu that displays everything at once. Again, instead of depending on text to guide customers or lay emphasis, the focus is on employing visual cues, symbols, and images.

 

#6 – Localization tips: Asian fonts 

Asian typefaces provide a number of difficulties, some of them are:

  • Since certain Asian languages have thousands of distinct characters, fonts can’t be embedded due to their size.
  • There are no bold or italics to utilize for emphasis in most cases.
  • In several Asian languages, the compact nature of the characters lends themselves to densely packed writing.

 

#7 – Localization tips: Cultural knowledge

Many East Asian civilizations are centuries old. China has a long history of 5000 years, which makes it very different from the history of Europe or America, for example.

Furthermore, many Asian cultures, like many Western countries, have values that are derived from religious beliefs. To individuals who are familiar with other regions of the world, these will seem slightly different. They may be evident in things like respect for seniority and elders. The patriarchal nature exists in the majority of East Asian societies, and what is considered right and wrong is often seen from a moral perspective.

 

Summary

Adapting and building websites and applications for Asian markets is an excellent approach to significantly increase your reach. We hope that these localization tips will be helpful in your way of localizing content to these promising markets.

Localization Tips

If possible, you should seek the help of a professional localization agency that has years of experience working in your target market. The knowledge of localization is immense, and a specialized partner who knows this sector deeply will save you time and money.

If you have not found that reliable website and app localization provider, look no further than GTE Localize. With a strong focus on the Asian market, we have helped thousands of companies successfully win the target audience. 

You could check out our previous project here.

For a free quote or simply to discuss your project, contact us now.

For more localization tips for the Asian markets, you could download our free whitepaper here