UX in Japan

Impressions of a UX designer travelling in Japan

Always wanted to visit — finally, did — and got oh-so enchanted by the many wonderful experiences from a designer’s point of view… it’s always about the little things, here’s a small compilation of my favourites:

1. Numbered metro stations
This is such a useful feature! Each metro station has a number in the order of the stations. These have successfully reassured me if I’m going in the right direction and how many stations I’ve still got left to get off. Say I need to go off at G16 and I’m at G10, I’ve got 6 stations left. Easy peasy.

2. No need for ‘bill please’
Getting the receipt straight away with your ordered food, left upside-down on your table, makes the service quicker. Eat. Pay. Done… Dessert?

3. Decision-making made easy
Ah, that feeling when you’re looking at so many options of beer that you just can’t decide which one you want… Making decisions is hard. In one of the pubs I went to, there was a user-flow type of diagram that guided you through all the nuances of flavours to help you pick the right one. Good gamification example! Same thing when I went to a tea tasting cafe, not to mention the interiors that were insanely well designed!

4. Food visualisation
Another great feature for decision-making associated with food. Ever get the feeling of uncertainty when ordering your food from a plain text menu? Will the portion be big enough? Will the rice be mixed or separate? Well, the Japanese are doing very well at making it crystal clear what you can order by providing photos or models of all the possible orders.

I’m also a big fan of the cute 3D section schemes with descriptions on food packaging in supermarkets! Kawaii 😍

5. Box of tissues when you need it
Eating ramen is an experience that can involve the act of reaching for a tissue, so when I found myself in one of those restaurants and saw a box of tissues on the table, I smiled, how thoughtful… So is this apron below… :)

6. Cute melodies
Zebra crossings have excellent support for visually impaired people. They emit two types of melodies for the two different directions, a kakkō (cuckoo) sound usually indicates a crossing over a road that runs from east to west, whereas piyo (tweet) is used for north-south roads.

7. Double function rail
Spotted this one in Shibuya, a plant barrier composed of two beautifully flowing rails, you can sit on the bottom rail while the second one supports your back, which makes it a very comfortable bench!

8. Empathic face mask
I always thought that people wear a face mask because they want to protect themselves from germs, which can be the case, but to my surprise, it’s usually because they don’t want to contaminate others with their respiratory infection. That’s when I thought, wow, this shows a lot of empathy. So cool.

9. Night buses 🌙
No more armrest battles… Yes, in between seats you get a thin, fairly tall panel instead, which is a brilliant solution for all the personal space invading neighbours! Just lean your seat back and enjoy your ride, the panel will protect you :)

10. Maps orientation adjusted
At first, when I looked at one of the street maps, I thought, what the heck, it’s not the layout I remember from my phone.. turns out in Japan maps are always oriented in the direction you’re facing and it’s way easier to navigate those, I think.

I could go on and on about these, loved the automated bathrooms obviously… my work colleagues start rolling their eyes whenever I mention Japan… my job obviously never leaves me! 😅

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About the Author

Zofia Mrugacz is a designer, transitioned from (real) architecture into UX/UI.
For more information visit my profile on Linkedin

I draw. Check out my Instagram: myquickdraw

UX designer. Divergent thinker. Daily cartoonist. Eager reader. Superhost.