Japan web design is weird. He came in contrast with the general japanese design where they are among pioneers.
It’s like a paradox.
Their track record of beautiful aesthetics comes to a screeching halt(!) when you check out some of their websites. They are incredibly cluttered, with no regard for basic design rules, nor taking navigation into consideration. They are quite reminiscent of traditional print newspapers of yesteryears, chock-full with text.
But why is this so? Let’s analyze the patterns of these websites and break them down.
As we can see the principles are the same:
- Japanese websites are very heavy in text.
- Heavy, HEAVY use of whitespace.
- Tons of (blue-colored!) hyperlinks and URLs.
- Advertisements, lots and lots of advertisements.
- Nearly no images, or if they are present, they are very small ones.
- Absolute disregard for an easy flow for the eyes to focus on.
- Flash-heavy. For banners, advertisements and slideshows.
Looking at them, these websites design are almost like remnants of the 80’s and 90’s, when HTML was the crowning glory of web design. Some are even reminiscent of newspapers, see how dense the rows and columns are with text.
It is interesting to note that these websites all share these characteristics. Almost as if they were all designed with the same idea in mind. Now, what could that idea possibly be? To figure this out, let’s take a look at the following.
Mobile Culture in Japan
Before smartphones became a worldwide craze, Japan was already doing their own thing, years in advance. Mobile phone usage was such an ingrained part of their lives that they coined a term for it: mobile phone culture, or keitai culture.
Before smartphones, there were camera phones, an industry that Japan was leading far ahead than the rest of the world. Sharp Corporation was producing the J-SH04 since November 2000 and advertise it as the first real camera phone! Also you could send MMS, e-mails, and even came with 3G technology!
After that the NTT DoCoMo i-mode came. It was a mobile internet service that got more than 50 million users within the first 3 years alone. Various services were launched and modified to go hand in hand with this new technology, and with that, several websites had mobile versions created.
Because this was the 2000s, and mobile phone technology wasn’t that advanced, a lot of focus was placed on making websites easy to navigate and view on a mobile phone.
While larger companies had the resources to create these separate designs for mobile users, smaller companies had to opt for single designs that were easy to view on both the computer and mobile phones. With that in mind, it suddenly makes sense why these websites look like they should be viewed on a phone – because they have to be!
Also they had to integrate the adds in their websites so the hitespace on the sides of the website are filled with animated advertisements. To the untrained eye, it becomes difficult to determine what is an ad and what is part of the actual website.