I actually wrote a really long blog post about designing for international audiences where I heavily referenced the use case of How Macdonalds provides customized sites for each country depending upon the design principles in use there. To quote from my blog with regards to references to how design principles affect Chinese sites:
Understand Color symbolism in different cultures : One aspect of design that can have far reaching and sometimes unintentional effects
on readers is color. Colors have different meanings in different
cultures and care should be taken to ensure that the color
combinations used while designing a website don’t affect local
Understanding color can be a tricky challenge and many color meanings
can almost seem contradictory — particularly in the West, where color
meanings are extremely broad. Also certain colors are strongly
associated via culture to emotions and beliefs and even historical
facts (e.g. Yellow in China is considered as the color of the emperor
and hence considered as royalty).
Here is a image which gives examples of how color is viewed in different cultures
Understand Country specific design patterns : Though there is an increasing trend towards minimalistic design patters in US, there
seems to be no such movement in most Asian countries where design
layouts still has very high information densities. Taking the example
of McDonald’s China, there is an emphasis on communicating a large
amount of content to users at a single instant with multiple points of
focus. Part of the reason is because users in China are more
accustomed to analyzing more information at a single glance and
it’s easier to read a lot of content in Chinese.
*Screenshot of the Chinese Macdonalds site*
Understand Cultural symbols and their symbolic meanings
While choosing graphics for a site, care has to be taken about its
meaning in the culture where the site is going to be used. While
certain symbols might be accepted almost everywhere around the world,
seemingly innocent and daily symbols might be a cause for specific
spite in some countries. For example, the “thumbs-up” gesture is used
in many countries as an affirmation of success or approval. As a
matter of fact, Facebook based it’s like symbol based upon the thumbs
up gesture’s general acceptance. However, in modern day Afghanistan,
Iraq and parts of Greece, Italy and France this simple gesture can be
considered to be very impolite. In fact it is often regarded as the
equivalent of the “middle finger salute” used in the UK and USA.
Another example is the Swastika: most of us will associate it with the
Nazi movement. But for Hindus, it is the symbol of good luck and
well-being. The swastika is used in all Hindu yantras and religious
Similarly while the color green is considered very lucky in Ireland, a
green hat is considered very offensive in China where it symbolizes
Other questions you should check for responses for designing for International audiences are :
Should a multinational website background color be a conscious choice?
Best Practice for designing UI for a multilingual site?
That said, while the general impression seems to be that chinese sites are expected to be busy and contain a lot of information, there is also increasing information about how Chinese users are moving towards a simpler and minimilistic look as referenced by this article Global UX: 6 Website Design Trends Shaping the Chinese E-commerce Industry. To summarize the article :
Home pages are more organized and less crowded, especially for sites designed to attract young professionals in big cities. For
example, Tmall.com, the largest B2C site in China, has their product
information organized in a way that conforms to Chinese users’
expectations of shopping in a typical multi-floor department
store.These sites abandon the principle of putting as many items as
possible on the most visible area, which was the hallmark of earlier
Chinese sites. Instead, to convey a sense of fashion and
sophistication, big images showing featured products or promotion
information usually occupy the center area of the home page, similar
to many Western sites.
A minimalist style is used throughout the site. One reason many Chinese e-commerce sites are less crowded is that they have embraced
the minimalist style popular on sites in Western regions. The effects
of adopting this style can be seen throughout multiple Chinese
e-commerce sites, such as fashion e-commerce portals like JuMei.com
and MeLiShuo, which have home pages structured so contents are only
shown within a set column area.
Many sites use a low-saturation color scheme. In the past, Chinese e-commerce sites were known for their use of high-saturation
color palettes, but this is beginning to change. Sites that sell
cosmetic and other fashion-related products in particular are opting
for low-saturation color schemes instead.
Animation is limited to change-on-hover images. While eye-grabbing animation and floating images are still popular on the
Chinese portal sites, these flashy elements are, for the most part,
absent from most major e-commerce sites.
Image-rich sites are still inaccessible to most mobile users. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC),
37.5 million online shoppers in China purchased products via their smartphones during the first half of 2012 alone. But since bandwidth
for Chinese mobile users still remains limited with expensive data
transmission charges, sites with multiple images and animated visual
effects are inaccessible to these users.
The use of credit cards is cumbersome but easier. Credit card validation has improved over the years, but can still often be
cumbersome when making online purchases. Compared to Western countries
– where entering a card number, CVC (card verification code), and an
expiration date is all that is needed to validate a credit card –
cardholders in China are required to have their credit cards
associated with a cell phone, so that a verification code needed to
complete the transaction can be sent to the phone. This process,
however, is an improvement as the earlier use of bank-provided dongles
was often confusing to users.
However these changes seem to apply mostly to ecommerce sites and if you are looking for web design principles of how to design for general sites, here is a good slideshare presentation Chinese web design patterns: how and why they’re different which has a lot of useful inputs
I also recommend looking at this article CRACKING THE 'DA VINCI CODE' OF CHINESE WEB DESIGN - PART 1
Another article worth looking at is Chinese vs. Western Web Design for inputs on how chinese site design varies from western design in the general sense