Is Korean Web Design Really Bad?
In this month's magazine, reporter Matthew decries the state of the Korean web design business, saying that Korean web sites are ugly and difficult to use. He says that there is too much Flash, that the pages are inaccessible, and that it should change to be more appealing to international visitors. But is he right? Is Korea really making ugly-looking web sites, or is it simply ahead of the game? Are Korean web sites really ugly?
Korean web sites are hard on the eyes and difficult to use and understand. Even if they are written in English, I don't really have a desire to use them at all. They seem to take longer to load, have much more potential of having errors, and generally don't work well at all.
The strange design choices of Korean web site creators work together with the Korean language to effectively cut off the Korean Internet from the wider global net. This leaves Korea high and dry when it comes to global resources like Wikipedia or Google, because Korean users' awareness of or participation in these services is little to none.
Also, many of the choices made by Korean web site designers seem to be along the lines of obscuring information. They hide links, hide individual pages, hide information. If the entire Internet followed those practices it would be a serious pain to find anything at all. Every site would be a walled garden, and it would be difficult to find or link to anything at all. The World Wide Web would become a World Wide Nothing.
Korean web sites are not ugly, they just make an efficient use of space. There is a lot of information out there, and Korean web users don't want any of it to be hidden. They want to be able to, for instance, scan all of the headlines of the newspaper in just a few seconds, or find the latest and greatest gadget in their online store without much moving the mouse or clicking. The compact design of Korean web sites are ideally suited for this situation.
Also, Flash is used to good effect to create a cute and approachable character for each site. Without the limitations that HTML has, Korean web designers can make something that is truly unique for each site, and displays the character of both the designers and the web site owner. They have traded standards compliance for cuteness, and it is not such a bad trade.
Finally, the web works differently in South Korea. Most of the portals do not crawl web pages automatically, but base their search databases on registration and payment from web sites. They do not need to go out and find a web site's data, but let the site owners present their site in the best possible way - manually.