Localizing for China: the mobile-web-desktop platform landscape (or: welcome to the jungle)

In this series, I will try to share a list of product/tech gaps that tech companies need to address when approaching China as a market. The lessons are partly based on my own dumbass moments. I’ve tried to share them in a way that’s useful to western techies who know very little about the tech landscape of China.


Most makers in tech (especially non-technical product managers) hate dealing with platform compatibility issues. Exotic resolutions? Extinct devices? Old operating systems? Screw that. Usually we have the privilege to dismiss such cases as low-ROI steps. As head of product management at Leverate, I remember turning down requests to make our trading front ends run on the web browser of Blackberry. Time and time again, I was crossing my fingers for Blackberry’s market share to drop to zero before I’m proven wrong. It did happen eventually. Phew.

But when we started looking at China as a potential mega-market in 2013, finger crossing didn’t help. China has a different, very different, platform landscape across web, mobile and desktop devices. Getting quality data in English is hard (lesson #1: forget about Google Analytics- it’s useless as Google is blocked in the whole country). Re-designing or even re-testing for China is even harder. But with China being such a big market, the ROI can be huge. When I heard that a hugely successful Israeli company employs a full engineering team to maintain old versions of their products for IE6, just for China, I felt like the world has been defeated. Looking back, it was just the final stage in the journey of understanding the platform market in China: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

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Localizing for China: the mobile-web-desktop platform landscape (or: welcome to the jungle)