Chinese UI testing - Introduction (Part 1)

Chinese UI testing - Introduction (Part 1)

A short introduction to the testing of the project with Chinese UI. What makes this task stand out compared to support of any western language? I will share some of our own experience and tell a bit about our Chinese-only projects.


For western software companies development of an app or site that is fully in Chinese is a relatively rare task. But sometimes you might find yourself in a project targeted specifically for China.

Even more commonly Chinese language appears on UI is part of a multi-language support. Quite often Chinese, accompanied by Japanese and Korean, just sits quietly somewhere at the bottom of the list of 10 or 20 languages that should be supported.
It is too easy to overlook specifics of Chinese language, culture, market and even usability concepts that in fact could have tremendous impact on the software development process. Localization and development for Chinese market require a special treatment. Ideally, to bring most value to Chinese customers your app might require not just translation, but also rework of UI.

So if western app is targeted for China’s digital market, testing of Chinese version requires a lot of attention. It’s takes much more than just checking that translation is applied properly and layout of the interface does not suffer too much.

While working with Chinese, both testing and development teams will face a number of challenges, some of which might be entirely unexpected. This is even truer if you develop system specifically for China from scratch.

So, how can you ensure quality and not get lost in the middle of foreign interface?

Who we are and in what projects we participated in?

Here in Codenetix we had an opportunity to work on several project targeted and designed specifically for Chinese digital market. This was truly exciting experience that had given us new perspective on some aspects of both software testing and development.

In all cases we worked together with Chinese team and their help was invaluable! Their main input was design, help with infrastructure, translation and review, while development and testing were our responsibility.

Especially important was supports from dedicated UI designer and developer. UI/UX specialist provided design mockups, developed with Chinese specifics in mind. And Chinese developer assisted us with server setup, cloud and network infrastructure, integration with local services and more.

I will be mostly writing about two major projects, both of them targeted exclusively for Chinese audience.

First is a content-rich portal for young parents, focused on educative articles on childcare and beyond. With reliance on text content, it was dependent on good text processing features, such as full text search, recommendation system based on user interests etc.

Another one is edutainment media platform for preschool kids. In this case, our focus was on interactivity, media content and simple kid-friendly UI. This project was targeted to mobile devices and required close integration with Chinese services, for authorization, analytics and more.

Riki project image You can find out more about our Riki project here

What makes Chinese UI testing special?

So, what makes Chinese UI so challenging, especially from software development and testing perspective?

To begin with, let’s take a look at a typical Chinese website. index page image This is, educational portal for parents of young kids. Our customer provided this site as a reference.
To be honest, I literally got lost for a moment when I first opened it

Chinese language and Chinese characters

Chinese language is certainly the main reason for confusion and disorientation.

Thankfully, in software development you mostly have to deal with text. This means you can will work only with Mandarin Chinese, national standard for writing language, and bypass at least some of its aspects, such as pronunciations and local dialects.

However, you cannot avoid working with Chinese characters. They are one of the most difficult features of this language. If you had never had a chance to deal with it before, it might take some effort to actually perceive it as a text and not a set of pictures.

At first, people can even have troubles telling apart different characters.

For instance, one of the new developers in our team was surprised when customer asked to change small label on one of the buttons. He said, after looking at the text, that for him both labels looked identical!

Chinese UI/UX

Another source of confusion is UI layouts and usability trends in China. Chinese sites tend to have more complex, ‘cluttered’ layout, compared to cleaner western design. At the first glance, you can see much more information and get access to more functions. index page image Main page of - one of the most popular news websites in China

This is one of the reasons you might want to rethink and adapt your existing app UI to Chinese audience.

To avoid going into too much details, here are some articles on the topic of Chinese design complexity and recent trends:

I would like to specifically point out this article on UI and functionality of Wechat – Chinese most popular mobile messenger:

What could be done to test it?

In these articles I am going to highlight some key points software-testing specialist should pay attention to while working with app or website with Chinese UI.

They are based on our own experience of Chinese-only development, but will be useful in case of testing of Multi Language system with Chinese support.

I assume that the reader has little to no knowledge of Chinese language. If you are familiar with this language, Chinese interface will probably cause you much less trouble. At least some software testing experience and background will be helpful, as I’ll not go in too much details.

to Part 2 – Chinese language