With Western businesses and Asian markets mutually expand, at an increasingly fast pace, the need to reach far-flung audiences to promote and sell products is more and more actively. Nowadays, the web plays a huge role in determining the success of businesses, but is it really so easy to win the hearts and minds of customers belonging to such different cultures with just one click? What is it about web design in Bangkok that makes it so peculiar. And can it correlate with western habbits?
It is Flashy!
Despite the impracticality involved the use of Flash animations in Asian websites is overwhelming. As opposed to the sleek, uncomplicated design of British version and the Bangkok McDonald’s website may appear to the Western eye to be overcrowded, and is clearly characterised by the use of Flash (for example, for the rainbow heart logo on the homepage). A trend inspired by Korean website design, today Flash animations are still one of the staple elements found on Asian websites.
Following on from the symbolism aspect outlined above, another facet to factor in when localising a website for Asia is the use of colour. A striking and common feature of Asian websites is the use of many vivid colours on the page.
When visiting an Asian website you notice that there is so much happening on the front page. An interesting feature of the Asian web environment is the enormous amount of information each single webpage seems to carry within itself. We just need a quick look before feeling completely overwhelmed by extremely long chunks of text, overlapping levels in a busy layout, and a web-surfer’s worst nightmare… hyperlinks like there’s no tomorrow!
The main Asian web design trends, however, are not only the result of cultural differences, but they also stem from certain technical difficulties related mainly to the nature itself of the Asian languages. They have an extremely high number of characters (in the region of several thousands), as opposed to the relatively contained numbers found in alphabetical writing systems.
What this means from a practical point of view is that typing on a keyboard for Asian users is sometimes too much! Since it would be impossible to have a keyboard that contains all the characters found in these languages, the system used is a phonological one, whereby to type each character the user needs to type its pronunciation. Also due to the high number of characters existing in Asian languages is the poor range of fonts available. Developing new fonts in Thai means investing a lot of money and time on manually designing all the possible characters to reflect the new specific style the developer has in mind. That sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? That is why many web designers prefer lively images and animations over typographical variations on Asian websites. This also allows them to easily highlight certain words or concepts, which can be problematic if we take into account, for example, the fact that in Thai there are no such things as capital letters.