Tokyo is a contradiction in itself. It feels very 1980’s and churns out mass-produced conformity, while at the same time is home to master craftsmen creating awe-inspiring technology of incredible beauty and functionality.
If you look through the popular sites from Japan, you will notice a few things
Too many columns
Densely packed text
There are a few theories as to why most Japanese sites are designed in this way:
- Character comfort
Japanese is a Logographic language. To the western eye, these characters look cluttered, but they contain a lot of meaning. People who are comfortable with logographic language can process lots of information in a short period of time than those who predominantly use Latin alphabets.
- Lacking Emphasis
Organizing information is difficult as there are no italics or capital letters. Designers use graphic text or decorations to add a visual punch to their text
- Language barrier
Programming languages and the web is driven and designed by English speakers. This can be translated, but may cause some delays and errors.
- Risk Avoidance
Risk taking is not the norm in Japanese culture. Rules and fashions are usually adhered to and standing out from the crowd is discouraged.
- Consumer Behavior
Less is more doesn’t apply in Japanese culture. Lengthy descriptions, technical specifications and everything in between is necessary to get people to purchase your product.
The web is considered an advertising platform rather than a tool for interaction. Companies ensure that they fill as much information in as little ‘space’ as possible to get their sales message out.
- Urban Landscape
The busyness of the streets of Tokyo seems to have spilled over into the web. Just as physical space is not wasted in the real world; negative space in the virtual world is not tolerated.
Japanese trends can be difficult to understand, but just like western web design, there are thousands of examples of good and bad layouts. Due to the fact that Japanese language conveys information in a different way as compared to English, there are variations in text footer links, navigation items and other pieces of web copy.
All is not lost though; some of the smaller design firms are going against the grain and creating functional websites that are aesthetically pleasing, even to the western eye. Below are 7 Japanese websites that are unbelievably inspirational and should be of great interest to all who are looking to study advancing trends in Japanese web design.
- Codeprep – learn how to code on the web
- Sanrio – the official home of hello kitty
- Jaypeg – a design agency for your web presence
- Shin-ei Academy – this is an animation studio that is behind the biggest anime television series in Japan
- Hokkaido Gas – a Japanese company that deals with production, supply and the sale of gas
- Ichizawa– a company that makes bags
- Uru-Katsu – a site that allows you to create and store WebPages, mailing lists and blogs