You may have noticed the rise of UX conferences throughout South East Asia recently. There is an exciting mix of big names and local talent presenting at UX Indonesia, UX Philippines, UX Hong Kong and UX Singapore this month.
It does beg the question—are Asian designers starting to embrace Western design principles, or are these principles universal, and the Asian design aesthetic is maturing? There certainly seems to be a real drive in Asia toward clean, simple and usable design and away from the traditional Asian aesthetic of busy and jumbled—and there is a corresponding hunger to learn more about UX design.
Ever since I lived in Tokyo in the early 2000s, the Asian web design aesthetic has been comprised of jarring colours and high information density. Of course, not all companies subscribe to this idea—consider this site from Bic Camera, a large electronics chain store in Japan:
And compare it to Toshiba’s site, which is much simpler, responsive and clearly had thought put into the IA, the imagery and calls to action:
Randomwire has written about why Japanese websites are so “different”, suggesting that technical, cultural and linguistic differences all contribute to this loud design approach.
It could be argued that this design aesthetic is in itself a brand, of course. Users know what to expect when they jump on to these sites, and for Asian audiences such an aesthetic may be comfortable—something they have been used to navigating for many years.
But that is slowly changing. With an increasing demand amongst users everywhere for accessible and usable sites, more Asian designers are (finally) understanding that good, uncluttered design is important for efficient (and delightful) products and sites.
Ultimately it’s about commerce. With interest in user-centred design gaining momentum globally, it has become imperative for companies that wish to succeed in the global market to approach their websites with solid design principles in mind. It’s therefore understandable that companies who operate solely within Asia (such as Bic Camera) and don’t have a global presence might be slower in coming to the UX party.
I’d be interested to hear your take on this—leave me a comment below.
Incidentally, if you’re in Australasia, you might consider attending one of these conferences: