For jet fighters, all design decisions are predicated on the absolute need to maximize aerodynamic efficiency, resulting in very similar designs. For mobile devices, all design is dependent on the absolute need for a clear and intuitive user interface on a small screen, resulting in a converged design language that we’ve all quickly grown accustomed to from Brussels to Beijing: The hamburger menu for options, the magnifying glass for search, the slide-out navigation pane, the spring effect at the end of a scroll… All these design elements are present in the user interface for Sina Weibo as well as for Twitter, in both Weixin and WeChat, and in Facebook as well as Google. It’s become a truly global shorthand in just a few short years; none of these concepts were around in 2010, when Sweden.cn first launched.
This then, is the insight that informs our current approach to the revamp of Sweden.cn. Since Söderhavet designed Sweden.se from scratch with a responsive, mobile-first design (implemented by Fröjd), it is ready for deployment in China, where mobile web use is proportionally even higher than in Europe and the US.
To be sure, some tweaking remains to be done — we need an updated image brief, and want to experiment with optimum text sizes, and with with some better top-level navigation bars. But this kind of design development is best suited for a new kind of agile design process, one which we’ve been fine-tuning at Äventyret. We’ll first deploy the site as a beta, co-existing with the current Sweden.cn, and then we’ll begin a period of iterative user testing and tweaking that should lead to much faster results. By keeping the launch low key, we can benefit from the feedback of the community of Sweden fans in China, which has proven to be a great help in supporting Sweden’s online presence there.
If national cultural differences in web design aesthetics have been flattened by the rise of a new global mobile aesthetic, are there any new design differentiators on the horizon? This is the topic of heated conversation in our office right now. One possibility is that the geographic divide is being replaced by a generational divide — that while the design language now being adopted by mobile applications such as WhatsApp and SnapChat is completely natural to under-30 mobile users from Chicago to Chongqing, it is just as alien to 50-somethings in Mumbai and Milan, who are still getting used to the Like button.
/ Posted by Stefan Geens (Employee 2014-2017)