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The Puzzle of Japanese Web Design 242

Posted by kdawson
from the how-to-pack-five-eggs dept.
I'm Not There (1956) writes "Jeffrey Zeldman brings up the interesting issue of the paradox between Japan's strong cultural preference for simplicity in design, contrasted with the complexity of Japanese websites. The post invites you to study several sites, each more crowded than the last. 'It is odd that in Japan, land of world-leading minimalism in the traditional arts and design, Web users and skilled Web design practitioners believe more is more.'"
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The Puzzle of Japanese Web Design

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:50AM (#33026632)

    Nothing to see here, a blurb from a blog, kdawson strikes again

    • by noidentity (188756) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:19AM (#33026774)

      Do not RTFA, the summary is TFA

      What, you mean I unknowingly read the article itself? Great, and I was about to break my previous record of going the longest without reading TFA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by phizi0n (1237812)

      We should all start writing nonsense and see how much of it we can get kdawson to approve. Those sites have pretty simple and straight forward layouts and the only problem I see is the 2nd one has too many colors with those buttons in the middle.

    • by NuShrike (561140) on Monday July 26, 2010 @07:36AM (#33027938)

      Agreed, if anything, TFA can be construed as racist by implying the Japanese aren't conforming to Westernized characterizations of their culture.

      Many of the TFA's "assertions" of "Japanese simplicity" fall apart when the sites are translated into English text.

      • by arashi no garou (699761) on Monday July 26, 2010 @09:31AM (#33028862)

        Many of the TFA's "assertions" of "Japanese simplicity" fall apart when the sites are translated into English text.

        Exactly. My bullshit-o-meter went off as I read the summary, and upon visiting each site I clicked the "English" link and saw a perfectly acceptable layout for a government or business website. I think the author is put off by the Japanese written language more than anything; by necessity it requires use of a lot of what would otherwise be white space on an English-language page.

    • by dintech (998802) on Monday July 26, 2010 @07:43AM (#33027978)

      Exactly. If you've ever seen a Japanese news paper you would know that they can be quite visually overpowering. Not because of kanji or anything but because of liberal use of color, dramatic fonts and a high density of articles per page. For some reason they just don;t find it as overpowering as we do. So why should Japanese websites be any different?

      Stay tuned until after the break where we show you Europeans sophisticated complicated food, Africans display amazing ability for dance and South Americans demonstrate impeccable soccer skills...

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday July 26, 2010 @08:00AM (#33028046) Homepage

        Because that is how their culture has been for a long time. Look at Japanese TV, Media, etc... Why should their websites be any different? Also what is this myth that all japanese love the zen of minimalism? I have a couple of japanese friends and the amount of crap they cram into their tiny apartments is amazing. Minimal? Not a chance... Maybe a few esoteric ones that get press are... Just like here in the states... but most are living in tiny quarters with a lot of stuff because they are not multi-billionaires to afford a > 130 sq meter apartment that is zen like...

        Japanese people are different than the typical USA suburbanite because of culture and living on a postage stamp of an island. the article might as well ask why Norwegian websites dont come in a box you have to assemble yourselves because they all work at and live Ikea.

  • by gregrah (1605707) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:52AM (#33026638)
    Ever been to Tokyo? If ain't flashing and neon, no one is going to notice it. For a population conditioned to such an environment, it would make sense that LOUD websites draw more customers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by macraig (621737)

      I very much like your insightful deductions, sir, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. To whom may I make out the money order?

    • by gullevek (174152) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:32AM (#33026836) Homepage Journal

      The longer you stay here, the more you ignore it, or your brain makes you ignore it.

      When I open those webpages, I just see a normal web page. I am way too used to over cluttered web here, that my brain automatically filters what I need. I probably feel very lost on a simple designed western web page. Like, where is all the content?

    • by kumanopuusan (698669) <goughnourc@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:48AM (#33026904)

      Ever been to Tokyo?

      Yes, I lived there for a number of years, including a few brief periods during which my projects included web applications.
      There are some places in the city (for instance near Shinjuku Station) that are covered with lights, flashing signs and colorful buildings (even the occasional giant motorized crab, if you look carefully).
      However, there are even more places in Tokyo that are always quiet. You don't even need to leave the Yamanote Line. Take a walk between Ikebukuro Station and Sugamo Station sometime.
      It's no surprise that you've only seen busy streets if you haven't gone far from the big stations.

      To get back on topic, the idea that Japanese web sites are on the whole somehow over-complicated is a bit bizarre. If anything, the key difference between web design in Japan and web design in America, is what seems to be a lag of several years. Technologies that seemed rather commonplace in America such as Ajax, or even widely accepted best practices like CSS-based layout were fairly rare in my experience.
      I don't have time to find good examples at the moment, but it's anything but difficult to find a Japanese web site that looks like it came straight out of 1995.

      • by gregrah (1605707) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:57AM (#33027208)
        My point wasn't that there are no quiet places in Tokyo, but rather that the advertising is louder there. This is true not just for Tokyo, in my opinion, but all across Japan.

        Some examples:
        • Video billboards with loud audio components outside at train stations even in relatively small cities
        • Every supermarket plays its own catchy theme song on infinite loop
        • IRASSHAIMASE!
        • Pretty girls in bright yellow company-themed overcoats handing out free tissues everywhere you go
        • Pachinko (and everything about it)
        • Nudie magazines displayed in the window of every neighborhood 7/11
        • Cars with loudspeakers campaigning for local politicians
        • Vending machines with embedded audio and video that make fun noises when you insert coins

        And it's not just confined to advertising. Everywhere you go you are subjected to escalators that beep when you approach the end, traffic lights that play Japanese folk music when you cross the street, trains with their own theme songs that play at every stop, garbage trucks with their own theme songs. Japan is a very stimulating place to be.

        And I think that as a result, Japanese people have a higher threshold for stimulus than other cultures in less densely populated countries. What I may find loud or tasteless because it overloads my senses, Tokyo residents seem to have no trouble processing. What I find to be tasteful (Facebook, if you can call it tasteful), a Japanese person would find very boring (compared to Mixi, which is MUCH more colorful and packed to the brim with emoticons).

        • Every supermarket plays its own catchy theme song on infinite loop

          So you're saying that shop BGM in video games such as console RPGs and Animal Crossing actually happens.

          Everywhere you go you are subjected to escalators that beep when you approach the end, traffic lights that play Japanese folk music when you cross the street

          Those are for the blind. AFB has been trying to get more aural feedback in U.S. cities.

          trains with their own theme songs that play at every stop, garbage trucks with their own theme songs.

          I'm starting to see where the Japanese RPG designers get their ideas.

        • by Petaris (771874)

          I love the tissues, wish they did that here. Super handy. :)

          I would love to know why we can't have vending machines that server both hot and cold beverages and will take a 10,000 yen (~$100) bill and give you back dollars instead of just coins.

          But this is off topic so I'll stop. ;)

      • by wisty (1335733) on Monday July 26, 2010 @06:08AM (#33027534)

        Another explanation - Kanji is much denser than English, but attention thresholds are similar, so they need smaller boxes to deliver bite-sized messages to the readers. Smaller boxes means more boxes, which means more clutter.

        A quick search (site:.cn, site:.jp, site:.vn, site.kr, site.kh, site:.th) suggests Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese sites are sparser than sites with Kanji or Hanzi.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          It's well known that Kanji (Japanese pictographic characters) are much faster to skim than English words.

          Human beings are better at recognising shapes and pictures than words which are made up of several characters. You can look at a block of Kanji text and get a general sense of what it is about, so web pages which appear crowded to us are not difficult to skin for a Japanese reader.

          Japanese is quite concise when it comes to conveying basic information too, and web pages/newspapers/magazines are typically

          • Citation needed. Or, parent post is bullshit. The whole 'Japanese/Chinese characters are magic' routine makes me want to throw up. Western misconceptions about chinese characters needs to die in fire. They are not little pictures, they are not ideograms, they are not faster to read, they do not use your brain differently, and they do not make it easier to etymologically identify unfamiliar words. They are not "denser than english" whatever the fuck that means.

            I refer you to
            Chinese language--fact and fantasy
      • Could it be that HTML is an english based language, that could lead to the problem. HTML and Style Sheets have english based features in them. Allowing native english speakers to guess on a style attribute and have a fighting chance to be right. Although Many/Most Japanese know english, they don't necessarily think in english thus making Style Sheets much harder to learn, and a Lot of HTML and style sheet more of an issue of Copy Paste then a full design.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Something about being able to read the characters makes it seem less cluttered. I used to think signs in Chinatown were overcrowded and very loud, but when I spent an extended time in China and learned to read, it no longer seemed very cluttered. Easier to read from a distance, though.

      • That's one of the bugaboos of Asian language proficiency - what once was meaningless noise to you all the sudden becomes offensive, in-your-face advertising.
      • Hebrew vs Dutch (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday July 26, 2010 @06:28AM (#33027642) Journal

        A dutch program from my youth tried to explain dyslexia by showing street signs in Hebrew, rather then dutch. It looked apparently very confusing. Except to my mother who could read it. The clutter wasn't there for her because she parsed it as readily as dutch.

        ANY foreign language will look cluttered because you brain is trying to create meaning out of chaos and failing. If you watch a loading dock you will see chaos. A person who knows the process will see organization.

        People who say in this topic that Tokyo is crowded obviously never been to Time Square or for that matter the Kalverstraat. But your brain can parse those signs and classify them as unimportant.

        Your brain, being inhabited in tasty meat, is trained to react strongly to things it doesn't expect because it expects them to be a hungry animal on the lookout for said tasty meat. We don't have to notice that tree we have grown up around, but we have to notice the addition of two eyes and a twitchy tail to its branches.

        Here is a simple test: Install a japanese language pack in your OS and change the setting so everything is in japanese. Notice how cluttered it all of sudden is? Excactly the same layout, but you suddenly can't find anything.

        For that matter, put slashdot through google translate and see how suddenly the site seems filled with random ramblings by sociopaths who live in their mothers basement.

        • by TheLink (130905)

          Yeah they really aren't more cluttered than similar "anglo" pages.

          From what I see the Japanese tend to be more fond of multi-tone pastel colour schemes even for business/corporate stuff.

          Click on the links from: http://www.ntt.com/index-e.html [ntt.com]
          And compare with the links from: http://www.ntt.com/index-j.html [ntt.com]

          The first I'd say is more "US" style. The second is more "Japan" style.

          Not saying it's a 100% thing - there's plenty of diversity around. And maybe I've just been seeing a biased sample of sites.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jafac (1449)

          Ah, finally, someone who GETS it.

          Traditional Japanese woodcut printing originally came from early Dutch traders in the 16th century, and they style and design, minimalist economy of line gives a nod to some of Albrecht Durer's work; (though their anatomy and proportion always maintained a strong influence from China and other centers of art in the region, from hundreds of years prior).

          Japanese design was pilfered in the West, back in the 19th century, and popularized by, well, I guess Wright, mostly, (thoug

    • by mbone (558574)

      Really. Any shopping area in Japan that I have been to is loud, bright and flashing. I see no reasons why commercial web sites should be any different.

    • by sorak (246725)

      The first thought that popped into my head was "Simplicity? This is the same country that has heated toilet/bidets with automatic air freshers built in."

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      It's super happy most fun!

      Robots!

  • Not my experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:56AM (#33026656)

    > Japan's strong cultural preference for simplicity in design

    What? It's the exact opposite.

    This is my only real complaint about Japan. I can't stand the shops here. There are colored flashy signs everywhere, and you can always hear at least a dozen different adverts at the same time.

    Likewise every device is ridiculously complex. My fan has 6 buttons and a remote control. Just to blow air! And the toilet has a dozen buttons and two knows to adjust seat and water temperature. Everything is completely overdesigned.

    • Re:Not my experience (Score:4, Informative)

      by purpledinoz (573045) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:00AM (#33026954)
      I have to totally agree. I was trying to use this shower in Japan, but it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to use it. There was a huge control panel full of buttons to adjust temperature, pressure, shower head type, and so on. From then on, I truly appreciated the simplicity of the single lever tap.
      • Re:Not my experience (Score:5, Interesting)

        by purpledinoz (573045) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:02AM (#33026958)
        I forgot to mention though, the Japanese toilets are awesome. At first, the water spraying in your ass is really strange, but it cleans much better than wiping.
        • by binkzz (779594) on Monday July 26, 2010 @04:21AM (#33027022) Journal

          Did you figure out how to use the three shells?

          I'm still stuck on that one.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          The idea of "cleaning" your butt using toilet paper seems rather strange and unhygienic to me.

          Definitely cleaner if you use soap and water.

          If someone has "stuff" on his hands and was going to make you a sandwich, I'm sure you'd rather that someone wash his hands "hospital/surgeon style", and not just use toilet paper to wipe it off...

          Yes even if that person uses gloves (not like someone else is going to help him put the gloves on)...
          • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday July 26, 2010 @07:17AM (#33027858)

            The idea of "cleaning" your butt using toilet paper seems rather strange and unhygienic to me. Definitely cleaner if you use soap and water. If someone has "stuff" on his hands and was going to make you a sandwich, I'm sure you'd rather that someone wash his hands "hospital/surgeon style", and not just use toilet paper to wipe it off... Yes even if that person uses gloves (not like someone else is going to help him put the gloves on)...

            True, but people tend not to make sandwiches with their arses. Except in Pakistani restaurants when a white guy comes in.

          • If someone has "stuff" on his hands and was going to make you a sandwich, I'm sure you'd rather that someone wash his hands "hospital/surgeon style", and not just use toilet paper to wipe it off...

            Who the heck doesn't wash their hands anyway after using toilet paper for its intended use!? I can *barely* accept someone not washing after taking a leak, but refusing to do so after a number 2 is just disgusting.

            • by elrous0 (869638) *
              I once stayed with a tribe who used their left hands *as* toilet paper (then "washed" it in the sand). I just thanked god they shook hands with the right.
            • Re:Not my experience (Score:4, Interesting)

              by TheLink (130905) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:58AM (#33030108) Journal
              Oh well maybe undies and trousers have enough "stopping power" to prevent the spread of fecal bacteria to surfaces that you sit on etc. :)

              Another thing which bothers me a bit: many taps (not all) are designed so people need to use their hands to turn the knobs. So after they wash their hands, they then contaminate their hands when they turn off the taps.

              I'm sure most healthy immune systems can cope with a bit of crap or bacteria, so it mainly bothers me from a poor design perspective - you take the trouble to wash your hands but then you have to dirty them again on the tap knobs or the door handles.

              Maybe a number of disease spreading cases are not due to people not washing their hands, but because of bad toilet design.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Monolith1 (1481423)

          At first, the water spraying in your ass is really strange, but it cleans much better than wiping.

          You are supposed to wash your face with that water spray. Very refreshing for your pleasure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      I don't get what the fuss is about... Japanese sites look perfectly clean to me. For example: http://apple.co.jp/ [apple.co.jp]

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Hell, they even make wrapping up a store purchase [gaijinchronicles.com] complex.

    • On average, simplicity is not any cultural standard. What is standard though, is the high tolerance to complexity. Japanese is inherently a complex language, and with everyone being fairly well educated, we don't need things to be dumbed down to get a message. If there are 26 buttons, we will read the labels, and click on the right one.

      And yes, it would be better if all sites were sublime and beautiful, but I would say the same about US sites.

      There are those who practice simplicity, and our Japanese masters

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      It's definitely not a great country for epileptics.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    this is a fairly stupid [read:ignorant] article. 1) in japanese, the websites mentioned in the article are relatively simple. 2) japanese like their content information-dense. pick up a japanese newspaper sometime (or a hot pepper guidebook). it's not that the design is cluttered. it's that they are very eco-friendly when it comes to using paper [read: they like to cram a lot together to save space]. it's very anglo-centric to declare their design to be so cluttered, considering these two things.

  • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:58AM (#33026662)

    Google Chrome offered to translate the pages in question.
    After translation it looks cleaner. I stopped looking at the characters as a mess of intelligible symbols but instead as words that i understood.

    Here's a great example of the effect in reverse.
    http://slashdot.jp/ [slashdot.jp]

  • Too much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clemdoc (624639) on Monday July 26, 2010 @02:59AM (#33026666)
    I don't really see much of a difference between the JAL page und delta.com, united.com or lufthansa.de. And the page of the ministry of health isn't looking too crowded either. Neither is the third one, but I couldn't figure out how to switch that one to English (still, ebay.com seems just as stuffed). The japanese versions of the pages look like a crowded mess, but that's rather because I can't deal with the characters. Switch to english and you should be fine.
  • by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:09AM (#33026724)
    And it infects real life. Any business district in any Korean city looks Geocities circa 1998.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:12AM (#33026740)

    A preference for simplicity in design does not imply a preference for a simplification in design.

    "One should make things as simple as possible; but not simpler."
    --Albert Einstein

    Simplicity is highly prized wherever the clutter is superfluous or gimmicky. In 'classical' computer science fields such as language and operating system design, this is given the synonym "elegance".

    But that is not the same at all as cutting away useful material simply so that you have less material. Even Ubuntu users were wild once Gnome decided that being able to configure sounds for systems events was something that was unnecessary. This was (contrary opinions notwithstanding) an oversimplification.

    Japanese website design works differently to western design for a number of reasons. To begin with, the typical font size is somewhere around (the equivalent of) 16pts due to the requirements of distinguishing many and much more complex characters. Up your zoom level by two factors and see how many non-Japanese websites fail to look cluttered.

    Also, decent support for native and interoperable characters (and decent support for fine-grained character placement) has historically been poor for Han/Kana scripts, which need it far more than Latin scripts do. Hence why huge chunks of Japanese websites regularly use images of text rather than text. Part of this is admittedly stylistic, but it is still due to the desire to cram different sizes of font into a "block" shape; this is much more common in Japanese due to the fact that ALL characters inherently take the same space and so they are more commonly written into a "grid" than on a "line", logically speaking.

    In short, there are many reasons - some technological, some cultural, some stylistic, some inscrutable - for why things are as they are and will remain so for some time to come. But it's not as simple an issue as you might think at first.

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:16AM (#33026760) Homepage Journal

    Asian websites seem to reflect pictures of downtown areas of major asian cities - Tokyo, Hong Kong, parts of Beijing, Vietnam, etc. Shockingly, their major cities don't look terribly different from western megalopolises like NYC and London. Their colorful ads just happen to have asian character sets, which have a lot more lines and end up looking more busy to the western eye. Have you looked at yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com] or amazon.com [amazon.com] lately? I mean, Yahoo has cleaned up their image some, but it's still very cluttered and messy. I can only imagine what Google News.jp [google.co.jp] or .cn looks like, or heaven forbid, the japanese translated version of Wunderground.com [wunderground.com]?? Just add some purple and yellow rounded corner rectangles in the background and it looks like every other stereotypical asian website out there.
     
    Anyways, my point is, websites are driven by advertising. Websites of local languages are going to look similar to the Times Squares and Piccadilly Circuses of the world, in their local languages and alphabets. Certain color combinations might make certain alphabets stand out better. Helveltica (and all the child fonts it's spawned over the years) happens to look really good in Red, White or Blue on a White or dark colored background, which is probably why western advertising all looks the same for the most part. People tend to use more asian color schemes for party invitiations when using Comic Sans, and that font everyone loves to hate, Papyrus, tends to look best Black on white on tan.

    • Wow, you just reminded me how ugly websites are in general. I had gotten so used to them I had forgotten. Thanks for opening my eyes again. I think.
  • a bit unfair (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sakurakira (1227342)
    I looked at the three websites linked above, and they didn't really seem that bad to me. The author of the blog doesn't say if he can read Japanese or not, and it should not be assumed that he can for the fact that he wrote the blog entry in the first place. I think that probably makes a difference. Just looking at the language itself makes it seem more complicated than it might be.

    Something that I've noticed on various Asian sites over the years is that they seem to be mainly text based, displaying a lo
  • Many Chinese websites also seem to want to jam everything onto the front page. I used to find it disorienting and confusing but I guess my eyes are accustomed to it now.

    http://www.taobao.com/ [taobao.com]

  • Not so sure (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:21AM (#33026782) Journal
    I'm not so sure he's right, looking at the examples he gave. The examples are crowded and small (even the banner ads are smaller than on American web pages, maybe because they tend to have smaller laptops with smaller screens in Japan), but they aren't cluttered. They are simple in the sense that they present just what is needed, and nothing more. I think this matches the Japanese style he is referring to.

    Just for comparison, look at the Japanese Ministry of Health [mhlw.go.jp] and Ontario Ministry of Health [gov.on.ca] web page. They both start out with a similar header, announcing what page you are on and showing the search function, but the Japanese page takes about half as much space. Then on the Japanese side it's just a solid wall of information from top to bottom. I question their color choices, but as someone else mentioned, Japanese like bright colors.

    The Ontario web page then has a huge, stock-photo section with a small little section on each one. What a waste of space. I should say, to me it looks fine, but the same information could have been presented in significantly less space, and the photos, while pretty, are nothing more than that.

    So I think it's just a matter of Japanese trying to fit the most amount of information into the least amount of space. Or maybe they don't trust stock photography of smiling people, I don't know.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I compared the two sites and if you think the Japanese site is good in any way I can only say you're giving the cultural thing too much credit. The header of that site is the only thing that look well designed.

      The 4x6 grid of colorful banners is so all over the map in colors and fonts that you have to mentally refocus when reading each of them. And the color choice on the text on the left side is too thick to see the details and they don't even try to break the lines properly. (Only seen this done well by s

    • canadians are rural country bumpkins who have nothing serious or pressing to discuss so they ramble on and on and "eh" this and "aboot" that and pretty soon you lost track of what you were interested in or talking about so you zip up your parka because the sun is going down (it just rose an hour ago!) and you just go just go and click any link to pass the time ...yes, what i just wrote is retarded

      but we're talking about national culture and character informing website design, which, to me, is an equally ret

  • So a blogger looks at five websites and makes a cultural conclusion based on that? That's just not science.

    I've been to Japanese websites, and sometimes instead of words they use a single Unicode character to denote a link. That's minimalism.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      Zeldman has been around the web...a LOT. It's actually HIMSELF that is obsessed with the minimal (see alistapart.com [alistapart.com], and he must think he can speak for the Japanese just because he has a minimalist POV.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday July 26, 2010 @03:48AM (#33026900)
    He's right! Those sites are full of meaningless glyphs and contain almost no words!
  • If you call that cluttered, you have obviously never seen the web sites of Swedish tabloids [aftonbladet.se].

  • Always a scrolling ticker, two big, flashy, animated popups in the corners, something popping up near the bottom, the actual content is obscured in 50% or more.

  • I can show you very ugly mainstream sites in the "Western" Internet too: AOL [aol.com] or MSN [msn.com].

    As for non advertisement sites, Japanese ones tend to have much less clutter. Ever read around the Japanese Wikipedia? A typical article looks like this [wikipedia.org], which is much less frills then the English counterpart [wikipedia.org] (e.g. much less images, and that's pretty common for Japanese sites).

  • Compare the Hungarian [felvi.hu] and the British [ucas.ac.uk] websites for university application. On the Hungarian site, the link for actually doing application stuff is the tiny "én felvim" box in the top right.
  • I checked all three examples and I can't find a single word of text. It's all just meaningless pictures!!!one

  • The Japanese character set is bigger, bolder and to my western eye rather scruffy and scrawly. All characters are also the same size as CAPS so it feels like their websites are shouting at you.

    I was working on a Japanese site recently and during production we had it all set to English so that we knew what we were referring to within it. Design wise it was a nicely put together clean and simple site. As we neared the end of development we switched it all over into Japanese and suddenly it looked crowded and

  • That's nothing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 2Bits (167227) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:06AM (#33027244)

    compared to the web sites in China. In China, not just web sites, all UI have terrible "busy" problems, everything has to be jammed onto the same page. Have you seen an application with 233 buttons on the UI? Yes, that's all the functionalities of the system, and I personally counted the buttons.

    I've been working in Shanghai for 7 years. Initially, I just couldn't understand why customers wants us (the vendors, system integrators, developers etc) to put so many things on the same. It's simply not good to have menu, or navigation. Everything has to be presented on the same display. And every customer wants flying ads, flashing images and icons, animation, sound, popups, etc, etc.

    After so many projects, I finally started to understand, although I hate it, and would not use it personally.

    • Project decisions, down to the smallest thing, such icons and fonts, are made by the big cheese.
    • No one really dare to make decision. As any decision would be turned down by the big cheese.
    • The big cheese has to make every decision, otherwise, he would not be able to show his power.
    • If he does not turn down other people's decision, the big cheese thinks he loses face.
    • The big cheese always want to get the most out of the project, and pay as little as possible
    • The more he gets from the project, the more it shows his achievement.
    • The big cheese is not the final user of the system or the web site. He would look at it at most for 5 minutes. Therefore, as long as it looks animated, seems to have a lot of functions and information, it'll be good. How it affects the end users is not his problem.
    • The big cheese is the one who signs the check. Vendors just play along.
    • The busy UI becomes a norm.
    • For new projects, the big cheese will look at your proposed simple UI, and say: "I want that one", pointing you to a busy UI example.

    And everything turns into a vicious cycle that feeds onto itself. There's simply no way to explain to the customers.

    • Great insight, 100% accurate. I know a lot of people who have lived in China for a lot more than 7 years, and they haven't grasped these concepts yet, other than to become negative about it.

      The big cheese is not the final user of the system or the web site. He would look at it at most for 5 minutes. Therefore, as long as it looks animated, seems to have a lot of functions and information, it'll be good. How it affects the end users is not his problem.
      So true, so true. I saw so many things that were screwe

    • by boxwood (1742976)

      I think having so many buttons on a page is due to the fact that its very easy to skim glyph style languages. ie the character for fish, tuna, cod, haddock, etc, all look similar in japanese or chinese but those words look completely different in english. If you had a list of 233 animals in english it would be hard to find "tuna" out of that list. So we tend to make a hierarchy where you first select between fish, cat, dog, bird, and then select the exact fish you want. In say japanese, you can scroll down

  • Nothing new here.
    Being extremist one-way only exacerbates being extremist the other way, which is why Japan has so many contrasts.

    The main reason they have such flashy things everywhere is probably because the traditional culture of Zen, Tao etc. became overwhelming, and they wanted something different.

  • then I'm not sure whether these sites would seem all these busy at all. I suspect that they just look like they are confusing, because I'm confused and don't understand them. That's my fault, not theirs. I'm the one that doesn't speak the language.

    For example, compare the sony site with the same sort of thing on itunes [apple.com]. Doesn't look all that different, and might even have fewer elements.

  • Maximal use of space (Score:3, Interesting)

    by klui (457783) on Monday July 26, 2010 @07:19AM (#33027866)
    I think it has more to do with their habit of using space most efficiently. Land is a scarce resource in Japan and if you look at people's houses in cities or shops you will see things packed into every nook and cranny.
  • Merely being blinded by the inscrutable oriental stereotype. Translate it into "American" with some simple search and replace and it becomes blindingly cliche.

    Start with "paradox between Japan's strong cultural preference for simplicity in design, contrasted with the complexity of Japanese websites"

    Some search and replace later:

    "paradox between America's strong cultural preference for thin women, contrasted with the obesity of American Walmart shoppers"

    It is the oldest (non-)story in the book, convince fol

  • Wow. I should have caught this post sooner. Major slashdot emergency.

    Here is Japan Airlines:
    http://www.jal.co.jp/ [jal.co.jp]

    So here is American Airlines:
    http://www.aa.com/ [aa.com]

    Jp Gov site:
    http://www.stat.go.jp/ [stat.go.jp]

    US Gov site:
    http://www.uspto.gov/ [uspto.gov]

    Ugly Jp Consulting site:
    http://www.e-netten.ne.jp/ [e-netten.ne.jp]

    Horrible US Consulting site:
    http://www.bryantwebconsulting.com/ [bryantwebconsulting.com]

    Now for some better pages:
    http://www.au.kddi.com/ [kddi.com]
    http://www.sony.co.jp/ [sony.co.jp]
    http://www.vaio.sony.co.jp/ [sony.co.jp]
    http://bape.com/ [bape.com] (you cannot see the JP site from the US)
    http://www.capcom [capcom.co.jp]

    • Oooh. I like the Sony site. It's using Javascript to animate everything with no Flash in sight. Smooth, pretty and fast!

      Though, I hope Flash remains the defacto standard, not just because it's so easy to block, but also because with Flash being so easy to make, it's also the bottom rung for bad designers. I don't want bad designers taking their garbage and learning how hard-code it into websites where I can't selectively turn off or on various elements. Flashblock is great! You only turn on the stuff

  • It's not just Japanese web design, it's all forms of media. I have been exposed to powerpoint presentations created by our mother company in Japan (I'm in the US), the slides are cluttered and colorful... Last summer I got to spend 2 weeks in Japan and it helped me understand why their presentations are the way they are, it's exactly like their TV. Even the basic news is cluttered with graphics. Sometimes I had a difficult time distinguishing between the actual tv show and a commercial (I only speak a
  • Japan has a strong cultural preference for simplicity in design? Who is this hack Jeffrey Zeldman? Clearly spoken by someone who doesn't know the first thing about Japan outside of the tired old stereotypes. Visit Japan and tell me Japanese prefer simple design. They prefer clean design about as much as American or European designers do. I'd say Europeans, in fact, are the kings of minimalist design with everyone else inevitably copying their style, including the Japanese. Simply walking the streets of Japa

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel

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