Localization for the Japanese market, is it necessary?

If you have ever seen a Japanese website, it will probably seem chaotic and even outdated to your eyes. Somehow, they are a reminder of Western hemisphere websites of the 90s, full of information and colors that don´t seem to follow a specific order. However, what we might consider chaos is nothing more than strategy and although hard to believe, the Japanese like it more than the minimalist Western sites.

All you need to see are the Japanese websites of major brands like Amazon. The e-commerce giant shows a different website depending on the culture of each country, using localization to maintain customer interest throughout the world.

Asian countries are the clearest example of the need to localize companies when opening up to new markets. Therefore, if you are thinking about taking your brand to Japan and doing so with nothing more than translated documentation, you should know that that won´t be enough. There are 3 reasons why you should choose to localize your website. Here we go:

AESTHETICS

Japanese website screens show a greater amount of text than Western websites, but without forgetting the pictures. Add to this the lack of hierarchy and the number of columns; the need to see everything on the home page without having to click too much.

What appears as chaotic to the West is information in Japan. Westerners may think it´s ugly, outdated and difficult to find the information they are looking for, since users are not guided in any way. However, you have to consider that this is what the Japanese like, and will therefore make their experience on your website pleasant or not.

Now that we have talked about the website of an e-commerce company that uses localization to adapt to Japan, we will show you the Japanase website of Rakuten, known as the “Japanese Amazon” and how the aesthetics change depending on the target. Here you can see the website they have for USA.

CONTENT

The average Japanese buyer needs more information about the product than Westerners to make a decision. Westerners need a good picture of the product and a  brief description to decide and they are guided by the benefits that the product can bring. The Japanese, on the other hand, like to understand how the product works and how it will provide those benefits. This is especially true if it concers a technological product.

Therefore, it´s easy to understand why a professional translator isn´t enough. The Japanese version will have to add information in many cases, increasing the amount of text per page and creating that “chaotic” aesthetics explained above.

LANGUAGE

Ideographic languages such as Japanese, Korean and Chinese can be written from left to right as well as from right to left and top to bottom. Thus, your website will probably need some technical changes in the software to enable this type of writing. You will also have to think about the changes the new direction of the text may generate in the layout of your website.

On the other hand, since the roots of these Asian countries are very different from those of Western languages, literal translations can lead to confusion and quite a lot of attention must be paid to cultural differences, work that can only be done by a professional translator. For example, the Japanese don´t use the word “no” assiduously, since it can be offensive; therefore, even if a perfect translation of a phrase contains this word, in most cases it will be convenient to change it, thereby localizing the text.

In addition, maintaining the tone may not be as easy as it is with other languages. Japanese uses many degrees of formality, so it´s important to decide which one to use before starting the document translation. The Japanese language also makes use of three different alphabets, two of which are syllabic and one of adapted Chinese characters, so the available sources for website writing are very scarce in comparison with Western languages, which will undoubtedly affect your website.

In conclusion, although localization is always important, there are markets where it is absolutely essential and where a professional translation is not enough. Therefore, the linguistic or translation service you hire should go further and take into account the localization of the content. At the end of the day, our website is our biggest showcase in terms of the globalized market and we should have the tools to take advantage of it.

LOCALIZATION OF DIGITAL CONTENT

CONSULTANCY

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