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I'm based in Taiwan. I was building a menu which has 4 sections: home, projects, about and contact.

But the client refused to have 4 menus because the number 4 in Chinese (Sì), as the same sound as 'death.'

So at the end he just added a completely new section just to avoid having four menus.

What would you do in a case like this?

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This similar to how how Arabs have navigation on the right and everyone else has navigation on the left? No one really questions this decision. As stupid as a cultural belief is, they're not going to give it up. So maybe you shouldn't question your client's cultural beliefs. Just add a 4th item or remove one item. I'm Taiwanese too and I've heard a lot of stupid things from my relatives, like when a woman is pregnant, she can't eat red bean soup (hone doe tong). –  JoJo Feb 26 '11 at 23:39
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If you tell your client not to mix superstition with design, he will fire you. I've been designing for stupid clients for a long time. From personal experience, it saves you pain and agony if you just do everything they want instead of trying to fight with them. Stupid people never listen. If you don't want to deal with bad design decisions, then you should consider designing for yourself - start your own website and make money somehow. –  JoJo Feb 27 '11 at 7:25
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@JoJo Arabs don't have RTL navigation because it's a cultural belief, they have it because Arabic is an RTL language, and the navigation should be consistent with that. I seriously doubt that any cultural beliefs exist specifically with regard to website navigation :) –  Vitaly Mijiritsky Feb 28 '11 at 18:12
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@JoJo - it has nothing to do with a cultural belief. That language is read that way. They don't read right-to-left when they are reading English, do they? If it was a cultural thing, and not a language-specific thing, then they would always be reading from right to left. –  Charles Boyung Feb 28 '11 at 21:11
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Does Chinese cars usually have 3 or 5 wheels to avoid this? ...or perhaps it's fitting for such a dangerous machine to have "death wheels" ;) Superstition about such a low number must be complicated... –  Stein G. Strindhaug Mar 29 '11 at 11:41
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1 Answer

up vote 14 down vote accepted

First, I would blog about it :). This is a gem, and I don't mean it in a derogatory way, it really is a beautiful case.

And in more practical terms - benchmarking. Look at other chinese websites, see how they solve this issue. I know that chinese elevators say 1-2-3-3A-5, or alternatively 1-2-3-5-6. This is not a solution in this case, since your problem is not with the numbering, but it shows that this is a very common problem and it must've been addressed somewhere.

Five sections is not too much, but if you feel that the extra section is unjustified, you can try combining Projects and Home, or About and Contact (which probably makes more sense). I'm talking about combining the content of the two pages, not adding another level of hierarchy, which would add unnecessary complexity.

Another solution - make the Contact title an icon, so it doesn't seem to be of the same kind as the first three items. Or come up with another visual differentiation, making it 3+1 and not 4. Maybe just separate it - if it's a horizontal navigation bar and the first three are on the left, move the Contact to the right, or some other grouping trick. If it's a vertical menu, maybe a divider will be enough.

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Thanks, they are very good solutions (I wonder if the client will faint if I use the color #444 as branding color). –  janoChen Feb 26 '11 at 10:56
    
@janoChen +1 because you made me laugh! –  bobsoap Feb 26 '11 at 14:41
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