ICBC : Bamboozling global visitors

Poor management exposes the flaws in an unconventional presentation.

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The feature

ICBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, one of the world’s largest banks, mishandles its introduction to an international audience. ICBC maintains parallel Chinese- and English-language versions of its corporate website that essentially mirror each other. The About Us section is led by an Introduction that runs under the headline ICBC Business Review 2011 and opens on a page giving a brief three-paragraph overview of the bank’s size, scope and performance. Below the text in both versions is a line of Chinese characters that includes a rectangular free-text field. The numerals 1 and 26 appear separately among characters to the right of the field. Entering a number between 1 and 26 in the field, and pressing the keyboard return refreshes the page with new copy; for example, ‘4’ has descriptions of SME Banking and Institutional Banking. The Chinese characters are page navigation tabs.

The takeaway

ICBC’s adventurous attempt to introduce itself through an annual review style feature is undone for its international English-speaking audience by a potent combination of flawed implementation and management. Most visitors are likely to get no further than the opening Business Review page. Partly this is because it looks and reads like a standard self-contained About section characterisation of the bank in words and numbers: that it is the first page of an integrated annual review will simply not be expected, so unconventional is it in the context of an About section. Fatally, though, the only clue – the document-style page navigation device at the bottom of the page – is rendered incomprehensible in the English version. The key to unlocking the feature for international visitors is simple enough: translate the page-search options from Chinese. But the web team should also conduct an investigation into the page management system, to identify how the translation was overlooked when the feature was launched and why it has not been picked up since. Otherwise there is a clear danger that the flaws can be replicated elsewhere, if they have not been already.
First published 21 March, 2013
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