For the last 20 years, many Western companies have invested in China, but things have changed and many of them are moving to or at least opening new branches in other countries. Businesses looking for new markets, unexploited opportunities in other growing Asian markets both to hold down costs and to reduce over dependence on China are entering new emerging markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, ... Due to the language barrier and cultural differences, most companies that do business in Vietnam have found out that they must create their own localized version of their website if they want to target the local Vietnamese. These localized versions are not simply translated versions of the original websites, however. They need to be adapted, adjusted, tweaked to match the cultural backgrounds and browsing behaviors of the target audience in Vietnam.
In this article, we will give you a brief overview of the current stage of Website Design Industry in Vietnam, a few things to note if you want to utilize the services here or need to launch websites that target this market. As a Digital Service Provider ourselves, we will try our best to give you un-biased reviews and instructions on how to pick the best solution for your next website project.
Mobile first when it comes to websites for Vietnam
For business owners, this means that when it comes to website design services in Vietnam, most of the service providers should be already familiar with Responsive and Adaptive website designs and what it takes to design and develop websites that work on multiple devices.
“ Website is quickly becoming an essential marketing channel in Vietnam. ”
Vietnamese companies do not invest in website design
Many websites in Vietnam look like they were made 10 years ago with busy, cluttered design and and terrible user experience. You may think this is limited to just small companies in Vietnam, and you will find yourself dead wrong. Many of the worst websites in Vietnam belong to huge companies in various industries, it seems like these businesses never use their own websites and online services just to see how difficult it is to navigate and use their sites.
The cost of designing a website in Vietnam is quite reasonable compared to the rest of the world; we have an article covered the website design pricing in Vietnam which may give you a hint. When it comes to website design service in Vietnam, there can be a huge difference among the price quotes from different service providers. Most business would opt for cheaper quotation due to the lack of understanding how service providers calculate the cost of a website and the differences among the options. To respond to this emphasis on price, many digital agencies here resort to 2 options:
- Use pre-designed & pre-developed templates to cut down the time and cost of website projects.
- Invest little or no time in research, design, and development.
Beware of the cheaters. Some website design agencies in Vietnam claim that they create bespoke website for their customers while what they actually do is modifying pre-made templates with a few minor changes. This action is unfair for both the businesses and other agencies that actually do a proper job. Authentic Web design & Digital Marketing agencies need to be upfront with the clients if they are going to use templates/pre-made elements or not.
There is one HUGE issue with using template approach
Using the template approach will go against everything that website development best practices tell us: Content goes before Design. I have covered this topic in great details in another article Content first approach website design, please check it out if you are ready to start a new website project and haven't heard about it. If you really have to use templates, I suggest that you should still start with Content first, then based on your Content you can pick the most appropriate template design.
Take a look below as we list a few examples of big websites in Vietnam that skimmed on the research, design, and development phases. Some of them are disasters for the eyes, some are just impossible to use.
“ This is the e-banking portal of BIDV, one of the biggest banks in Vietnam. You may notice the year in the screenshot, yes it still looks exactly the same after 7 years. Please imagine me as a website developer spent 1 full hour trying figure out how to use its e-banking service with all the worst cursing and yelling you can imagine. ”
It is not limited to local companies only, however. The local website version of many internal brands in Vietnam leave a lot to be desired:
“ This is the website of Pepsi co in Vietnam. ”
“ And here is the website of Unilever Vietnam. ”
In fact, in many cases the small players seem to invest more in the image of the website while the big guys don't seem to find it necessary to put their effort in making a great online experience for their visitors. Website design, when done right, requires true commitment from both the owners (stakeholders) and the web design service providers. The research phase of the website project alone can be longer than 2 weeks and requires multiple workshops and brainstorming sessions.
Take a look at our case study for Furniture Online Shopping Website to see how the research and planning process for a website usually take place. From our experience, we found most big businesses do not care enough (or have dedicated team) to work with us during the research and design process while the small businesses do not have the budget for this activity.
Hint: For small businesses to stand out (and it's really easy to beat the big players on the web), you can make time to do your own research and planning. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us for free consulting services, and our articles section is a great starting resource to learn more about websites and how to plan for your next website project.
Embarrassed By Your Website's Design?
Website design in Vietnam is largely impacted by its culture
If you have a chance to go to a local market in Vietnam, you can see the many colors it has. Vietnamese culture is strongly influenced by Chinese culture due to the history and close proximity of the two neighbor countries. This cultural background deeply affects how we pick and choose the color patterns when we work with our partners who want to target the Vietnam market. However, Vietnam also inherits and absorbs Western styles during its journey to search for independence and modernization. This specific type of cultural mix presents us with barriers and challenges but also opportunities and chances to experiment and discover new things.
Most web design agencies in Vietnam are taking inspiration from Western style design, especially the American design style to be specific. This comes at no surprise as most of the world leading websites come from the US and the Vietnamese people are more associated with the US (Hollywood) culture. Western European design style is a rarity here in Vietnam mostly due to a low-key appearance of famous European brands as well as the mostly minimalist and mono-color style that does not resonate with Vietnamese people's love for colors and noise.
Recently, there is a new trend of design that mixes the modern style with Vietnam's cultural elements and values to create a unique design of Vietnam and for Vietnam. We are seeing this trend being applied mostly to traditional products such as herbs, medicines, foods as well as organic produces (which has recently become a trend in Vietnam). We look forward to seeing this to rise as a unique design trend of Vietnam, for Vietnam, similar to what we see in the other similar markets such as Japan and China.
“ A typical colorful scene at a local market in Vietnam. ”
There are limitations when designing a website for Vietnamese audience
The Vietnamese language tends to be a bit more verbose than English for example, which usually causes the navigation to look a bit more cluttered. The Vietnamese alphabet (chữ quốc ngữ) is a Latin alphabet with additional diacritics for tones and certain letters. As you may have guessed, there is a very limited number of fonts that support the display of Vietnamese alphabet which vastly reduce the choices for the designers.
As noted, colors play a big role in designing in Vietnam, and the designers should equip himself deep understanding of various meanings of colors and how they can be associated with other social aspects. There have been cases where we were told to use or not to use certain colors because they may not play well with the birth year of the owners. If you come from the Western culture this may sound absurd to you, but this belief comes from Feng-shui and Chinese astrology which plays important role in the decision making process of many business owners (especially with ones from Northern provinces such as Ha Noi).
Most websites in Vietnam use open-source platforms
Many businesses in Vietnam often ask for the full source-code for the websites and most digital agencies opt for open-source platforms for that reason. Among the most used open-source website platforms in Vietnam are:
- Wordpress (Blog, Personal, Corporate website)
- Joomla (Personal, Corporate website)
- Drupal (Corporate website)
- Magento (eCommerce website)
- OpenCart (eCommerce website)
- Prestashop (eCommerce website)
- Most businesses in Vietnam are SMEs without capable in-house IT teams specialized in the web. In 99% of the cases, the website will be left the way it is without any security and software upgrade for as long as it is still online (or until it gets hacked which happens more often that you may want to believe).
- Setting up and maintaining the infrastructure of a website is a complex and on-going process. There are many softwares involved under the hood to keep the website running smoothly and securely. In-house IT, even if present and with the skills, usually do not have sufficient time to take care of all this since they are usually tasked with other things as well.
Other alternatives to develop your website in Vietnam
You may note need a website yet. I have outlined many other alternatives for going online without a website. If you still believe that you need a website, don't rush to spend you money with an agency yet. If you are short on cash and willing to do most of the work yourself, I strongly recommend looking into website builders. Website builders are great tools to help you create and deploy websites online. There are quite a few local website builders in Vietnam, but I strongly recommend going with established names such as SquareSpace, Wix, or Webflow.
Websites in Vietnam are not used to their full potential
- Most business owners do not have enough information and understanding about the website, how it works and how it can help them to grow their businesses.
- Most companies consider website a cost, not an investment because they lack the knowledge and experience (as well as the determination) to track, measure and improve the Return on Investment of the website.
- Managing a website can be a very overwhelming and time-consuming task. Most businesses do not have dedicated teams to take care of the website or digital marketing due to budget constraints.
The cost of having a custom web design services in Vietnam is still considered high because most businesses are not using their websites to get Return on Investment. The agencies (including us) should take at least half of the blame for that. For a long time we as designers and developers simply take the requests from the customers without analyzing the real business motivation behind the website. Without a deep understanding of the business pain points, the target audience persona, the user flow, we jump right into solving the design and features "problems" the customers show us. That was true for the old Nilead. The new Nilead ensures that we:
- Deeply understand the pain points and goals before suggesting a solution (and sometimes the solution is not even a website).
- Thoroughly research the business's strength and weakness, target audience and competitors before coming up with a Digital Strategy.
- Carefully integrate Design, Development into the business's goals to ensure that we have a final solution that can actually move the needle and achieve high ROI.
We have documented part of our process in our article Content First Website Design Approach. Our collected data is showing us that we are going the right direction and we can just hope that more and more websites in Vietnam will adopt this design and development strategy.