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January 28th

I’ve been wondering about the concept of whitespace in web design. There’s no doubt it is an important aesthetic in design, but I wonder if its importance depends on cultural preferences. I examined four music portal sites:

http://www.billboard.com/ (USA)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/ (UK)
http://yue.sina.com.cn/ (China)
http://www.oricon.co.jp/ (Japan)

Notice that the American and British sites both utilize whitespace whereas the Chinese and Japanese sites packed as much content into the page as possible. These are sites presenting similar content in a medium where space is not as a huge premium as print media. So is whitespace a *ahem*… western concept?

Living in America, I’ve been limited to designing and developing sites for the English speaking audience. I have very little knowledge of the usability preferences of Chinese and Japanese web surfers.

Anyone care to explain?

Update:
This is not to say all Chinese and Japanese are designed like sardine cans. I just discovered iKnow and frankly, it’s one of the best web applications I’ve ever used. Granted, it’s developed by westerners based in Japan, but it’s a very well designed and developed site. Not to mention pretty damn useful.

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  • http://www.mutantfrog.com/ Roy Berman

    It’s certainly a good question, but I don’t think I can call it cultural per-se. After all, traditional Japanese art is probably the unrivaled in history for its use of white space, but many commercial Japanese web sites are simply poor designed. However, more artistic web sites for promotions etc. exhibit much better aesthetics. I think it just has something to do with coming late to the Web party and having a lot of websites designed directly by programmers and/or marketing idiots that want to cram every piece of data/feature they have onto the front page, instead of actual designers who care about aesthetics and usability, like the English web had several years ago. Expect Japanese and Chinese sites (and some other languages, I’m sure) to catch up in usability given time.

  • http://www.mutantfrog.com Roy Berman

    It’s certainly a good question, but I don’t think I can call it cultural per-se. After all, traditional Japanese art is probably the unrivaled in history for its use of white space, but many commercial Japanese web sites are simply poor designed. However, more artistic web sites for promotions etc. exhibit much better aesthetics. I think it just has something to do with coming late to the Web party and having a lot of websites designed directly by programmers and/or marketing idiots that want to cram every piece of data/feature they have onto the front page, instead of actual designers who care about aesthetics and usability, like the English web had several years ago. Expect Japanese and Chinese sites (and some other languages, I’m sure) to catch up in usability given time.

  • http://areyoudesign.com/ Sai-Kit Hui

    I hope so. I did look at some Japanese web design/development sites afterward and noticed their usability was much better. I did notice that their sites tend to be less image intensive unlike, say, this blog.

    This is great for people with slow connections. But, as I found out when I in Hong Kong, the broadband speeds in Asia make loading times almost irrelevant.

  • http://areyoudesign.com Sai-Kit Hui

    I hope so. I did look at some Japanese web design/development sites afterward and noticed their usability was much better. I did notice that their sites tend to be less image intensive unlike, say, this blog.

    This is great for people with slow connections. But, as I found out when I in Hong Kong, the broadband speeds in Asia make loading times almost irrelevant.

  • http://www.mutantfrog.com/ Roy Berman

    Only in a handful of Asian countries. Try comparing HK and mainland China. And then try SE Asia.

  • http://www.mutantfrog.com Roy Berman

    Only in a handful of Asian countries. Try comparing HK and mainland China. And then try SE Asia.

  • http://areyoudesign.com/ Sai-Kit Hui

    If mainland connections are slow, then I don’t understand why they build such massive behemoths such as sina. I can’t even imagine being a webdev in China having to build and maintain these sites.

  • http://areyoudesign.com Sai-Kit Hui

    If mainland connections are slow, then I don’t understand why they build such massive behemoths such as sina. I can’t even imagine being a webdev in China having to build and maintain these sites.