A Western Web Design Company In China

March 11, 2011 — Web design in China is a challenge most web designers will never face, but for those who are thinking about opening a web design company in China, this is a required read. This is a practical guide to operating a Western web design company in China.

web design on the other side of the world

Any Westerner who has traveled to China inevitably finds themselves confronted with cultural and social policies that are sometimes difficult to comprehend and often times frustrating. As a Western web design company in China, these challenges can actually be exacerbated simply because of the web designers reliance on online tools and social networks. There is nothing more detrimental to a web based endeavour than having a slow connection or a connection that is unreliable. The adverse effect this can have on a web design company in China can be crippling. Because web design realies heavily on the efficient flow of information between clients and designers, tools like VoIP, FTP, Email, Social Networks and Instant Messaging are critical in the foundation of a successful web design company. So what happens when these tools fail or are not reliable due to active filtering? How does this effect a web designers ability to work with clients or businesses outside of China? And whats the solution?

hosting a website on the other side of the firewall

The internet in China is notorious for being unreliable, restrictive and painfully slow when visiting websites or communicating with servers beyond the great firewall. From a hosting perspective you are also faced with another challenge of having to constantly battle automated censor systems that ban your server for no apparent reason or just make it inaccessible for a time. Because the Great Firewall of China isn't a centrally controlled system, portions of filtering are left up to the individual ISPs to filter website content. This means a client in China, hosted in Hong Kong may be experiencing their website blocked in Shenzhen while in Shanghai it's freely available. This frustrating not only for the client, but also for support staff alike.

The internet tubes are clogged

In the United States, the Internet was intentionally designed to be free of any choke points, so that data could be routed around any outage or obstruction, but In China, the Internet was designed with choke points in mind. Virtually all Internet traffic between China and the rest of the world is routed through a very small number of fiber-optic cables that enter the country at one of three points: Tianjin in the north, Shanghai on the Coast, Guangzhou in the south. So why create such a choking hazard? The answer is simple. "Protect The People". In the 90's with the help of Oracle China designed these choke points so that information entering or leaving China could be mirrored, filter and censored. The Chinese government states that filtering content on the internet leads to a "healthy, and harmonious online environment, avoiding the negative effects and poisoning of the people's minds by harmful information on the internet". What can we say. They love their people.

tunneling through the wall

So lets say you have a pretty good built in filter to avoid the poisoning of your mind and all you want to do is get some work done. How can you gain access to those crucial web design tools? The short answer is VPN. The Chinese government labels it "going over the wall", others say around, we prefer to think of it as tunneling through. After spending some time in China doing web design the first realization you have is that having a VPN is not a luxury, but a necessity. Trying to use free proxies from China are often conduits for viruses and other malware. The only real option is to pay for a VPN service, but not all VPN services are equal.

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