Japanese Web Design is underpinned by the belief that there should be distinction between the content and the website design; for this reason, internet surfing has become rather simple and straight-forward task. There is little use of images and video and more use of text, since the functionality of the site is more important than how it looks. This however is changing with modern website design and the new generation using the internet more than their predecessors.
1. Over-crowded webpages
Japanese Web Design uses a lot of content and it can sometimes be hard to navigate around the website. There is no negative space where users can be drawn to, whereas Western websites usually use ample negative space to draw users to the content the website wants them to see.
Maybe the West seems to have developed an appreciation for things that are more sophisticated than Japanese people, and as such the Japanese do not want to waste items, or space, even in the digital world.
However, with the right themes, websites can be created with a Japanese Web Design that both attracts your target audience, and new users to your website.
A Japanese Web Design example: Rakuten A Western Web Design example: Mercari
2. Text, Characters and Fonts
Humans are inherently visual learners by trait. The difference we see with Western and Japanese consumers may come from the difference in the symbols the languages use.
Japanese text, by default, is made from images. Kanji characters especially, can give a lot of information even in one sentence due to the visual nature of the symbols. This also has a flow on effect when used in content as Japanese consumes less space compared to English texts. It takes less space but can describe an entire meaning. You would think that would mean Japanese websites would be less cluttered, however, the need for the Japanese consumer to extensively understand a product before buying, creates a text heavy description of many things on the website.
On the other hand, western websites are more limited when it comes to text. This could be down to the difference with the western alphabet being less image based and therefore a need to focus on increased image based content to help sell a product to the western visual learner.
3. Images and Graphics
Websites in Japan are inherently packed by design. The images on Japanese websites are low resolution. However, on the other hand, websites in the West have high-resolution images, which have more impact.
Japanese viewers on websites might prefer smaller, low resolution images but it is probably down to the fact that there is a high reliance on a text based product. It may be an admirable choice for the Japanese viewers; however, it may not be a good choice for western audiences.
There are times when smaller images and graphics may not be a good solution for the website if the visitors are accustomed to a more western design with better images and details. Design choice is key to your website’s reputation if your target audience is not used to the smaller visuals.
4. A Striking Color Palette
Japanese websites, compared to their western counterparts, are historically a lot more brash when it comes to color choice and design. Where a western website may have 3-5 colors that are matched and more conservative, a Japanese website uses more clashing colors that are from a primary color based palette. Vibrant use of primary color is seen in Japanese society and a visual example of this is if you walk down the street in Shinjuku or Shibuya you will see the cacophony of colors trying to gain your attention. This is changing in modern Japanese website design with the increase of foreign influence in the website design world.
Finding the right balance of color in your website is needed with understanding who is your target audience and how you can be accessible to them without ignoring potential new users to your website.
Adobe Color Trends: https://color.adobe.com/trends
5. Technical Differences
- The high rate of old browsers users in Japan. Yes, old browser use in Japan is a thing. Where western users generally use the latest technology on browsers and hardware, Japanese consumers may be hindered by their technology. If you look at banks, city offices, the postal service and the likes, the contradiction is very visual. The use of older technologies and browsers may also be a factor in why Japanese web design seems a little bit less modern in design.
- Japanese web fonts are very limited and consume a lot of memory. English web fonts are more available than their Japanese counterparts. That is just a pure fact. Japanese fonts are therefore less supported and use more memory so it can be a hinderance when it comes to website performance.
- Language barrier on the programming side. Most coding language is designed in English for an English speaking user in mind. The predominately Japanese speaking web design community in Japan are at a slight hinderance when it comes to the brass tacks of website design because of this. Generally, the use of modern coding and design flow is delayed due to the language barrier and this of course has a flow on affect at the end product of website.
Understanding who your target audience is can help when deciding on a website that is accessible to a larger audience. Understanding the differences can help but also keeping up with modern trends in both Japan and the West can help when it comes to following through with a web design for your business. Working with a design team that understands all of those factors is also key to a successful conversion rate.