Report on China's Internet Population Reveals Opportunities and Challenges for Websites and Mobile Internet

April 28, 2008

A report released Thursday, April 24 by CNN revealed the Internet population in China grew to 221 million, “…tying the United States for the largest number of people online.” This is exciting news for websites that are currently in this growing market, or for companies that are looking to expand into China.

The mobile market, currently 520 million users, will also be widening its services when Beijing begins issuing licenses for third-generation, or 3G, mobile technology (CNN.com, April 24, 2008). This will allow for the support of video and web-surfing capabilities among mobile phones and similar devices, the result of which is an increase in the online population and motivation among international companies to target China.

It is vital to have a firm grasp on the culture and expectations of the targeted users when breaking into an international market. Many companies have tried without this understanding to access China's consumers, and they failed.

One of the ways to ensure that your website or application is ready for this important move is to conduct usability testing. Usability testing puts the website in front of Chinese users and observes how they interact with it, while gathering performance and feedback data. One day of usability testing can resolve weeks of discussions in a conference room.

In addition to actual testing, utilizing localization services is also beneficial. This adapts interfaces to meet local and cultural needs and habits, which may prove to be a critical consideration. The cost of testing is minimal compared to a failed effort to launch in China - not to mention the negative brand implications of failing to adapt to user needs.

User Centric has recognized China's potential to become a major player in the internet market and the overall impact China has on the technology industry. Because of this, User Centric, in corroboration with the Germany-based firm SirValUse, opened User Experience in 2006. User Experience became the first Beijing-based usability testing firm, offering usability testing, expert reviews, user interface localization, focus groups, and usability training. With a full-service testing facility located in the heart of Beijing's business district, User Experience is easily accessible and in prime location for internet users. For more information about User Experience and testing in China, contact Robert Schumacher by email at rschumacher@usercentric.com or by phone at 630.376.1188.

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