Yahoo Comparison Exposes Quirky Japanese Culture

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

Here is a picture showing the US (.com) version of Yahoo’s navigation menu on the left, and the Japanese version on the right, complete with my dodgy translations.

Yahoo navigation menu comparison

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!

10 thoughts on “Yahoo Comparison Exposes Quirky Japanese Culture

  1. Upon checking the stats of my readers, the vast majority have 1024 or higher – of course I also use 1024 myself.

    For the purposes of testing for this comment, I quickly checked at 800×600 – it hurt my eyes. Too chunky!

    Though IE looks better at lower resolutions than FF.

    1. Yeah, this blog used to be 800px wide, but only about 5% were reading with 800×600, so I made the change to 1024. Of course, 5% of Yahoo’s readers is a very big number, but I think they’ve done the right thing.

      IE7 was crashing on me throughout December, so I’ve switched to Firefox. If Microsoft fix the problems with IE7 then I’ll switch back because Firefox is an ugly, slow, piece of junk! Oh well, at least it’s stable. :rolleyes:

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  3. After reading this, as “Contamination” did, I too did a quick check and sheesh, 800×600 is really only for people who have eyesight problems is it not?? Trying to take everything in at a glance is nearly impossible and 1024 does allow you to do this.
    I do remember the BBC website changing over and at the time, thought something was wrong with my computer screen haa haa haa. I’m not the most computer savy person in the world!!!!!!!

    1. Yep, but we all used that resolution a few years ago. I’m currently on 1440×900, so even 1024×768 looks chunky to me 😛

      We must read different BBC websites because the one I see is still slim enough for 800px users, but I’m sure they’ll change soon. I do remember them giving the site a face lift, and they might have made the font smaller or something, but they haven’t changed the width yet.

  4. Yes you are right Nick and it was the font size not the width. I’m learning new things everyday!!!

  5. I use a DELL 24″ 1920X1200 (?) so I am sure people with smaller screens hate my layout.

    I run fullscreen with dropaway browser.

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