THE WEB Standing at the Crossroads

Back to Contents of Issue: January 2003

- Adam Greenfield, lead information architect, Frontage-Razorfish in Tokyo

CORPORATE JAPAN IS AT a bifurcation point regarding its use of the Web. Not "approaching," but "at."
Hopefully, 2003 will be the year when Japanese companies finally discover that the Web is good for something other than animated mascots, long lists of mind-numbing press releases and content-free messages from the shacho. Those that do will harness all the benefits of genuine two-way communication with their customers: increased goodwill, more precise targeting of marketing efforts, enhanced customer loyalty and so on.

In order for this to happen, though, firms are going to have to invest time, money and intellectual effort in offering quality Web products and services that are simultaneously useful, usable and desirable.

The year's winners will start by rejecting the received wisdom regarding what Japanese Web users prefer. They'll rededicate themselves to understanding not what users are believed to want, or even what they say they want, but what they are observed to need. Design proceeding from this insight will allow the brave few to reach customers and markets they had thought saturated, simultaneously executing a graceful withdrawal from the cul de sac of pointlessness and mediocrity in which the Japanese Web is currently mired.

Those companies that fail to move decisively away from the intellectually lazy will reap a harvest of uninspired and soon-forgotten offerings. It's their choice.

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