Design - it’s not all the same

How the user interfaces of Chinese superapps differ from those we know and love.

A series of icons in circles connected with lines.

In our previous report, we analysed how high mobile penetration has established strong foundations for mobile-first markets in China and Southeast Asia.

This has led to the advent of superapps, where you can perform a wide range of functions, all without leaving the app. Chinese superapps like WeChat and Alipay pioneered this trend, establishing strong ecosystems, creating mini-programmes, and welcoming integrations with third parties.

With this full suite of functionalities, the interfaces of Chinese superapps are often perceived as complex and cluttered to the Western eye. Animated banners call for the user’s attention everywhere. First-time users are easily confused by which button to use or where to find the information needed. Critics might say that these apps were poorly designed, gaudy and loud.

Before mislabelling this as “poor user experience”, it’s worth considering that different cultures and social nuances are manifested in the design of digital experiences. At the same time, Chinese consumers’ interactions and expectations of digital services are being shaped as they spend more and more time on the most popular apps.

While many Western apps place a large emphasis on usability, superapp users are choosing eventual learnability, forgoing minimalism, and immediate intuition for high-powered function.

In this report, we explore Chinese superapps, mother of the superapp trend, and outline four experience principles we have observed as well as how user behavior patterns on these apps are analogous to their physical interactions and culture.

Download the report in full here.

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