Japan plays host to some very impressive website designers. Their skills in the arts cannot be compared and demonstrate a powerful digital force among Internet readers. Luckily understanding how to read Japanese isn’t required to admire their website graphics and animation effects.
We’ll be looking into a few Japanese website designs which have pushed the limits on conventional development. As a designer it’s a refreshing feeling to work with alternate design concepts and build your own unique ideas off these.
The Rise in Flash
Many of the most popular Japanese websites have been built in Flash, and this is no surprise. Although Flash-based websites do not rank very well in Google (at all) they offer a unique user experience which can’t be found anywhere else.
In fact, Flash offers so much extensible content you may be surprised at just what is possible. Motion backgrounds and animated menu effects are just the tipping point on many Adobe Flash powered websites. Intricate portfolio layouts and detailed characters almost spring to life off the webpage.
One overlooked misconception is the loading speed of each page. Because the entire website is Flash-based it will require a large amount of bandwidth to transfer and download all of the page content. This frequently leads to very long loading/splash pages which are a huge loss for potential user experience.
Although in the end it’s difficult to provide any judgement on the Flash-based approach. There are also many Japanese websites which are built off HTML5/CSS3 so I’m not categorizing all layouts as Flash-based. However with such a wide range of out-of-box thinking Japan has shown us a new outlook on envisioning the modern day website design.
It seems the Japanese community is well renowned for their work in the digital animation arts. Ranging from television to video games it seems the artistic works meld into the islands’ society and culture.
In many new-age web designs we are seeing much more illustrated artwork and digital graphics. Icon designers have also integrated an enormous amount of hand-drawn effects into their works. Japanese website designs have become much more branded by the likes of mascots, illustrated vectors, and small page icons.
Similarly artists who offer these graphics showcase their work on many places throughout the web. Twitter backgrounds and Deviant Art accounts are full of some amazing illustrations from past designs.
Custom UI Pattern
This is a common trend amongst web designers and has been growing rapidly. Many Japanese companies which involve their products in the entertainment sector have gone above and beyond to create a dynamic user interface to match their website.
Many of the websites coming to mind include innovative virtual worlds from video games. Katamari Damacy and Kingdom Hearts II specifically stand out as offering a very powerful user interface presence. The striking similarity between menu links in-game and on the webpages are resounding.
This can be seen not only for these games, but countless other series. The most common approach of course is an entire Flash-based website constructed through ActionScript events. Even so, other Japanese graphics artists are creating unique UI effects outside of just the video game industry.
Elements of Physical Reality
It’s not too often we’ll see images of physical reality built into the most popular websites of today. This is quite the contrary of many popular Japanese artists which in fact specialize in building outstanding modern-day layouts.
These include shots of arial birds-eye-view photos from cities and taller buildings. Many times the background or Flash animation on a page will include common everyday natural elements such as cats, trees, cars, and entire human cities. There are neat user effects applied to create a natural mood (e.g. website colors changing from day to night).
These graphics of buildings and people can sometimes even be built into the website itself. The varied degree of creativity from Japan shows even entire websites using a small land mass as navigation for the entire website. Pages can be accessed via buildings, lawn signs, even blimps flying atop the page heading!
Web Gallery Showcase
Below is a small collection of Japanese website designs. These include mostly Flash pages with animation effects and custom UI elements. If you’re looking for design inspiration this may be one of the most creative and “out-there” galleries.
The designs are from a selection of varied topics and niches from a handful of time periods. If you have other suggestions for similar websites feel free to share them in the comments below.