As with many other aspects of business, Japan presents unique challenges for companies wanting to establish an online presence. Websites are typically outdated in terms of technology, content, and design, as other observers have pointed out. This article addresses four points of consideration to anyone wanting to build or renew a website for a Japanese company.
Write the initial content in English
Japanese tend to take a long time to properly craft a message and then must follow a rigid set of grammar and syntax rules to communicate that message. Anything produced at that point will likely — depending on the size of the organisation — have to pass through several levels of approval. The result is that it takes a long time to create written content in Japanese.
It is faster to start in English (or another language of your choosing) and translate that into Japanese. Even if you don’t need English content, this provides a foundation for Japanese content — one which is easier to build on that a blank slate and is less prone to the time-consuming process of consensus-building.
Take advantage of the Japanese knack for photography
Anyone who has spent time in Japan knows how much this country loves taking photos. SLR camera are still top-sellers and there is no shortage of people who know how to use them. In a medium-sized organisation, there is probably (statistically speaking) at least one person who is an avid photography hobbyist. Unless you need something very specific, this person is your website photography producer.
If you use a vendor, choose that vendor carefully
Compared to other few first-tier economies, Japan has limited the degree to which it allows technology to change the way it does business. An implication of this is that most web development vendors can and do rely on legacy systems, as customers would neither understand nor appreciate newer, better innovations.
When assessing a vendor, find out if they take responsibility for their own continued learning in web development. You don’t have to know programming, but if they are building on the same product they started with 20 years ago they probably aren’t cutting-edge. A smaller, younger firm is likely the way to go.
Make sure at least two people know how to change content
The task of changing and managing web content usually falls on a junior staff member, which is the same tier of employee most likely to leave the company or get promoted out of their current duties. Many Japanese companies rotate employees between unrelated roles, so anyone assigned to website manager might not be there in six months.
Ideally, a department like marketing will be properly trained in website management – but this is not always possible. Aim for at least two people. That way, when one person leaves the other is there as a replacement and can train up a new “buffer”.