On January 1st 2008, Yahoo! Japan officially unveiled their redesigned web portal. Despite Yahoo’s popularity among the Japanese (over 60% share of the search engine market), we’ve had to wait this long for them to come up with a flashy web 2.0 style homepage.
Pushing slow adopters to increase their screen resolution
With so many people in this country using Yahoo! I was quite surprised they dropped the old 800-pixel-wide layout and opted for 1024 pixels. This could be one of the most overlooked steps in forcing people to increase their screen resolution. Not everyone in Japan is a tech-savvy otaku, and even my own mum was using 800×600 until recently. Anyway, it’s a positive step and gives us more room for advertising! 😉
Examining cultural differences with the Yahoo navigation menu
I find comparing the two quite fascinating and it shows a lot about Japanese culture. For example:
- Yahoo Auctions are right up there below Shopping in the Japanese menu. I realize the US version is in alphabetical order, but the Japanese menu is probably in order of popularity, showing Japan’s love for retail.
- Travel in the Japanese menu refers to “rail routes”. When you follow the link, you choose your starting station and destination, click the button, and are instantly presented with a step-by-step guide to getting where you want to go. Very fancy, but essential for Japan’s millions of train commuters.
- Cuisine, restaurants, food, gourmet, whatever you want to call it. Japan loves food, and that’s an understatement. Yahoo knows this all too well, and satisfies their passion for eating in and out with restaurant and cooking guides galore.
- Beauty is a new section, and one that will be welcomed by the masses. Second to their craving for good food, Japanese people are obsessed with beauty. Yahoo lists all the latest trends in cosmetics, massage and dieting. This will be of particular interest to those suffering from metabolic syndrome, which almost everybody here believes they are!
- Divination is much more than just horoscopes. We’re talking superstitions of supernatural proportions. It could be astrological predictions by Kazuko Hosoki, Ehara’s ghostly meetings with the deceased, lucky charms made of elephant dung, or the years of bad luck that can only be yakudoshi. Japanese people love this stuff!
- Pets is another new category and seems to tap into the Japanese need to ooooh! and aaaah! at the cute little dogs in pet store windows. There’s not much more than pet photo albums on Yahoo, but that’s probably all they need to keep people using Yahoo forever and ever and ever.
That pretty much sums up modern Japanese culture, and shows just why Google is still lagging behind Yahoo in Japan. We don’t need accurate search results here! We just need horoscopes, cosmetics and puppies!If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!