Japanese Localization and User Interface Design

by | May 13, 2021

What do you think of when you hear or read the phrase Japanese aesthetic? Maybe balance and structured beauty come to mind, exemplified by traditional Japanese gardens, paintings, and the art of calligraphy. Everything is so refined and thoughtful and seems to be designed to enhance the beauty of everyday life. So what does this Japanese aesthetic mean when it comes to Japanese localization and your website?

Japanese Localization and User Interface Design 1

What About Japanese Website Aesthetic?

The look of Japanese web design is worlds removed from the web designs aimed at localization for other countries. Japanese web design looks chaotic and overly bright, like pachinko parlors (popular Japanese gambling centers). But actually, there is much more to know about creating a web design for Japanese localization.

Your goal is not to make your Japanese website look attractive. Rather you need to make it as intuitive as possible for your local audience. Various elements should be used to deliver different types of information. Good Japanese web design should focus on making things as obvious as possible and providing information in a straightforward manner. You don’t want a user to have to think about how to find information on your website.

As with any website, Japanese web design is made up of two things:

  • The structural design of the site itself (User Interface (UI) design)
  • The visual content that creates the site’s appearance and leave an impression on the user.

Japanese Localization: User Interface Design for the Japanese Market

A website homepage with minimal design displays only essential texts and graphics. The main content will be front and center to highlight its importance and ensure visitors won’t miss it. This makes for a very pleasant visual experience but can leave Japanese users clueless if they are looking for more specific information.

Japanese users may be initially impressed by the beauty of an uncrowded homepage. Still, if what they are looking for is not readily available, they will likely be suspicious of your company’s capabilities and credibility. Because of this national trait, Japanese companies endeavor to minimize the risk of losing sales by putting as much information as possible directly in front of the user. Here are some steps to follow:

Allocate a Lot of Space for Detailed Information

The eyes of the Japanese people are well trained to scan a lot of visual information at once. You have only to look at chirashi, Japanese ad flyers. Chirashi are used to find the best offers for everyday items (mostly groceries), and the information they contain is quickly scanned and evaluated.

Japanese culture is one of no waste and applies equally to space at home or food on the plate. This thoughtful resource usage is also evident on the digital side. Digital space is utilized to the max, so you rarely see empty space in Japanese web designs.

Provide Extra Detailed Navigation

Provide as much extra detail as possible, such as:

  • Color transition where the user hovers.
  • A small arrow/caret and underline for links.
  • Small menu icons.
  • Contrasting colors to highlight something important.
  • A highly visible search box.

These details can mean the difference between successful Japanese localization with the right kind of web design and a design that goes unnoticed.

Be Careful About Fonts

In English, your choice of font has minimal impact on page loading speed. This is because the file size of a font family is usually below 500KB. However, when aiming for successful Japanese localization, a font could result in a slow-loading page. Click here for some detailed information on the best fonts to use.

When creating a Japanese language version site from an English-based version, you will discover that the weight and visual appearance of fonts tend to become inconsistent. Generally speaking, you can apply CSS rules to fix this issue.

Use Visual Content to Support Your Website’s Appearance

A good visual design is one that makes a good impression on the user. This is usually accomplished by using visual design elements such as pictures, illustrations, colors, banners, or sliders. It’s best to use a website designer who is in charge of both UI and visual design. The designer can synch elements that are both functional and beautiful at the same time.

Create Bold, Strong, and Detailed Visual Elements

Elements of good Japanese graphic design involve intense colors and well-defined visual identities, all combined densely within a single outline. Japanese culture relies heavily on the use of colors, and graphic designers tend to focus on warm golds, reds, and even black. But there is also a rich spectrum of other primary colors.

The secret of successful Japanese graphic design is not to be hesitant about overdoing things. An extra detail, color, or piece of information visualized in an extra-infographic can make all the difference.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Text

Japanese websites contain an extraordinarily high amount of text, and text is often used in images. Designers need to design a good layout for text and how to layer images with text. The Japanese language doesn’t come with capital letters or italics. This makes it challenging to add that visual punch you can get with Latin alphabets. Therefore, colors and images are essential elements to differentiate and prioritize content.

Japanese Localization: A Crowded Website Is What You Want

If you have looked at the home pages of Japanese websites, you know that they tend to have crowded, crammed, and packed layouts. Text is scattered everywhere, there are dozens of promotional banners and low-resolution images, and different kinds of products are displayed all together. You might think that because every website element is screaming for attention, that it can only get lost in the crowd. However, this is what the Japanese consumer is used to.

  • Example: Rakuten (a popular e-commerce site) has this overcrowded look. There’s lots of text, and the more you scroll down, the more text there is to read. Red is the dominant color, with the rest of the palette oriented toward primary colors. If your non-Japanese eyes have not been trained to see lots of colors simultaneously and scan lots of text, you will likely shudder and exit this site immediately. 

However, in 2019 Rakuten boasted revenue of 1.26 trillion Japanese yen, outperforming Amazon Japan.

Localizing Your Japanese Website: To Wrap Up

If you are looking to localize for Japan, you need to gather all your relevant information on the homepage. When it comes to online shopping, Japanese people look for detailed content rather than aesthetics.

Creating a successful Japanese website is more complex than just translating your pre-existing website into the Japanese language. The key to creating a successful website for the Japanese people is to be ultra user-centric. You need to understand what information Japanese users are looking for and pair up your messaging and content with usability.

  • If you are looking to enter the Japanese market, Japanese localization must start with the design of your website. And, when it comes to translating your content into the Japanese language, you need the help of the high-quality translation and localization services offered by Localize. Book a consultation with us today.