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Visual-kei has been a passion of mine since 2007. Like many of our users, I found out about its existence through the web. As a result, I became very interested in web design and technology and have modeled my career goals as means of combining those two passions. I’ve recently graduated college with a degree in New Media Interactive Development. While the phrase “new media” is vague, sweeping, and has absolutely no convention from place to place, it is typically used to describe anything dealing with UI (user interface) be it design, advertising, development, or marketing. In short, I take someone’s designs for a web page and I make the part you as a user sees work. While I’m still very new to the field in a professional sense, I am exposed to cutting edge industry standards on a daily basis (quite literally daily: I’ve had to work the past 3 weekends). While I’m not killing myself over client demands, I do spend quite a bit of time stalking indie bandmen on the internet and try to keep up to date on the happenings of the irrelevant bands I follow. As a result, I cannot help but notice one unfortunate, glaring, reality: Japanese band sites are absolutely horrid.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the best designer. I’ll even take it step further to state that I’m not even a good designer--everything I put together either comes out tacky, trite, an eyesore, or some hodgepodge in between. But that’s perfectly okay: my job is to make it work, not make it look good. However, whomever is making these band sites seems to follow completely different conventions than we do here in the US. Here are some examples for you:
 

Example Number 1



































 

What’s wrong?


So the first issue that really sticks out is that this is a splash page. Splash pages are essentially just a page the user lands on when getting to a site: it gives very little info about what is contained elsewhere and in the olden days it was used to direct them to a mobile or PC site. That’s what is going on here: the two links under the image are for a computer’s display and for a mobile phone’s display.

Why is this bad?

There is technology out there that takes care of this for us. It is called ~*~​Responsive Design~*~. What that means is that the design of a web page is supposed to be responsive to the viewer’s screen size or, more recently, their device (iPad vs. Nexus tablet vs. Android phone vs. Blackberry vs. Nintendo 3DS etc). This lets causes designers to take into consideration device use, but it will save time by having to prevent complete site redesign and redevelopment for two versions of the same thing.
 

Example Number 2


 

What’s wrong?

This example can warrant it’s own article, honestly. I’ll try to be brief. Firstly, the font colors: they’re all over the place and way too loud. Secondly, the layout of the desktop version is a mess. I don’t know where to look since there are pictures of people in several places. In art, there was a study done for where people’s eyes go to first when looking at a picture. The first target is always something shaped like a person, second are animals, third are human-made object, fourth are shapes, and so on and so forth. When there are several points that have people everywhere, especially when there really aren’t many reasons to have people everywhere, it causes tension for the viewer. Do I look at their main picture? Do I look at their upcoming concert picture? Do I look at the video on the bottom right? Do I look at the bright red text???? I don’t know! I’m not going to knock the Photoshop 4 silver and white gradient background because instead I’m going to mention on very very important flaw that could have been applied to the first example: the mobile site has different content than the pc site.
 

Why is that bad?

If a font color is distracting, you’re going to spend more time either squinting, highlighting the text you want to read, or, most likely, you’ll say “wow no” and just go somewhere else. Visual-kei sites are a unique niche in the sense that the user is only there because they absolutely have to be to get certain information, so we put up with a lot of crap that really would not fly at all here in the US (or occidental culture as a whole). Your content is supposed to make you want to read it, and if everything is obnoxious or stands out as “important!!!,” then nothing stands out and everything is a loud mess. With that being said, font should never be that bright of a lime green unless you’re trying to purposely harm people (the hex is probably #00FF00...not that I’ve, you know, done that).

My second point I kind of alluded to. A site needs barriers for content, else everything gets blended together and it doesn’t make much sense. By how the PC page is structured, have the band image front and center, then again on the side, coupled with a carousel of advertisements, topped with other flyers...everything just gets lost. To add to it, everything sits within the same grey container, so there are no additional visual dividers as well aside from the column structure.

The last point is the biggest thing I’d like to mention about this example. According to this article, one of the largest mistakes with mobile design is that sometimes to compensate for less screen real estate, less content gets added. Essentially, this indirectly punishes the user for viewing your site on a certain device. God knows looking at this site felt like divine punishment for me.

Check it: the navigation at the top in the PC version isn’t even really, well, a thing. Additionally, there’s an arrow button interface that I assume is intended to be used to navigate through content. However, they don’t do anything. Additionally, the PC site doesn’t even have 3 out of the 5 pages the mobile site has. To even see the band’s discography or profile, I have quite literally leave the site and go back in through the mobile version. Had I not been a Yuuga stan, I would have just given up.

Example 3


​What’s wrong?


1998 GeoCities Realness, just in time for FebRUary.
[[war flashbacks]]

Well, first of all: the lime font, again. Seriously, why you do dis? Second of all, there’s no theme to the font colors either. Colors that look like the guy who made this site puked Nerds candy on the screen is never a proper design decision (industry way of saying “your site looks awful”). Additionally, clicking on the navigation at the top makes the site layout change depending on which section you’re in, making it feel like a whole different site. At some points, there’s even two levels of page navigation going on.
Also, their name is the “The Jolly Pickles,” yet their background images are of chili peppers. When I sent this site to another friend, she asked me the same thing.
Her: If they’re supposed to be pickles, why are they using peppers??
Me: English is a hard language.
 

Why is this bad?


Because peppers are not pickles. In their defense, they do change their image on a different pages and give an assortment of chili peppers. Variety is the spice of life.
For real though: it’s super confusing if you have two sets of navigation that aren’t intrinsically related, especially when the 2nd set is basically like a second website within another website. Each different section also has different style conventions too, to add to the confusion.
 

But why??

This question has always been a concern of mine once I started data mining for information the web to write descriptive posts about bands when I became a BlogSpot uploader. Amidst the characters I didn’t understand, I also couldn’t figure out how people really got used to being exposed to this kind of web design on a daily basis. The inspiration for this article came from another article that my pickled friend linked to me, here. What I found there was incredibly interesting and informative.

Essentially, Japanese web sites are like this because that’s how they like them. Many other popular sites are cluttered, jumbled, and are information overload. Take a look at Yahoo.jp, CdJapan.co.jp (Japanese site that’s in English, but the clutter still remains), Mbok, or even compare the US and Japanese versions of Coca-Cola. There is definitely a distinct cultural difference in terms of content, design, and presentation. I cannot speak for many European countries, but in the US design has definitely taken a turn towards much much cleaner presentation, using bright colors with clear contrast and a somewhat recent phobia of ever having to scroll vertically (???). In Japan, however, it has become commonplace to try to cram as much information into as little space as possible. While it is generally considered poor user experience to do this, if you are culturally conditioned to expect this then you will not consider this to be a problem.

Another issue the article addresses is the choice of browser: IE 6.


IE 7 is the oldest browsers in the US that web standards support, but even then developers absolutely abhor it. Without getting into why that browser is awful and bad and you should feel worse than bad if you still use it, IE 6 is even older. That means they can’t use anything fancy in terms of CSS and some limitations in Javascript. As a society, we are slowly trying to evolve beyond IE7 (but can’t due to businesses not being able to afford upgrading their computer infrastructure due to highly strategic planning by Microsoft) and move on to more modern browsers.

A second cultural difference mentioned in this article is the use of mobile phones. Japan was very receptive to mobile phones and actually only really started caring about laptops and personal computers very recently. That’s probably why anime characters are more likely to be shown with cell phones instead of a laptop. When I said “mobile phones,” I meant like the tall, skinny, flip phones (not smartphones until more recently). That is why some mobile sites are just a single skinny column all the way to the left of the screen. While this is not how you are supposed to handle mobile designs, it saves money to make a one-size-kind-of-fits-nothing-at-all site. A last interesting point this article pointed out was that they are very prone to using small images to speed up page load times. That’s why Ameblo blog images are 3 x 3 pixels!



​All in all, Japanese websites from a Western perspective are atrocious. There’s really no way to sugar coat it and say that in a nicer fashion, and I am not going to bother to attempt to. This is due to a number of cultural differences in technology, aesthetics, and expectations. Maybe one day websites will be more universally palatable, but as it stands, it looks like I’m going to have to dig through awful and confusing blog sites to figure out the album art of an upcoming single.
 
January 24, 2014 09:08EST
Rockband ACIDMAN has announced they are going to release a new single. EVERLIGHT will be released on the 16th of April and consists of 5 tracks. Besides the titletrack EVERLIGHT, the band is also re-recording their tracks ±0 and I stand free in their successfull second line-idea, making a bossa nova-like track of the original. The last two tracks are the original recordings of both ±0 and I stand free.
January 20, 2014 19:50PST
They are a busy bunch, they five guys from post-rock band downy. Being away for 9 years since their hiatus in 2004, the band released their fifth album last November, and now already announced they are releasing a new album in March this year. Don't get your hopes up to fast, because instead of a complete new album, the band announced a remix album of their last release featuring other artists. Participating artists include 石橋英子 (Eiko Ishibashi), Ametsub, mergrim, DJ ATSUKI, FRAGMENT, やけのはら (YAKE NO HARA), Olive Oil, Geskia! and SUNNOVA. Do you feel like you also need to be on that list, you can fill in the form and send your remix over on their official homepage.

(無題)リミックスアルバム (mudai, remix album) as the album is currently titled, will be released on the 19th of March.
January 15, 2014 19:34PST
下山 (GEZAN)-vocalist マヒトゥ・ザ・ピーポー (Mahi to the People) has announced that he will release his second solo-album. POPCOCOON will contain 9 songs and will be released on March 5. It is a busy period for Mahi to the People and his band. Recently the band announced that they will release a new album and a collaboration album of their tour with tenniscoats. A video for his song PUPA was also revealed today.
 
January 14, 2014 18:40PST
Indie post-rock band about tess have announced they are going to release a new album on February 22nd. Shining will be the band's follow up to their third album, released in November 2010, Song of the Birdand contains 10 brand new tracks. about tess also sampled the first track of the upcoming album, shine.
 
Shining

2014.02.22

01. shine
02. prism
03. atom
04. void
05. seer
06. flame
07. prayer
08. mirror
09. dazzling
10. eyes
 
 
January 6, 2014 22:05PST
Indie jazz-pop trio lamp has announced they are going to release a new album next month. It will be the follow-up to their 2011-album 東京ユウトピア通信 (Tokyo Utopia Tsushin). ゆめ (Dreams) will be their 7th album and will be released on February and contains 10 brand new tracks. Main composer and guitarist of the band  染谷太陽 (Taiyou Someya) has explained that this 3 years of silence was needed to reinvent themselves and get back to their roots. It was also the reason they left their label MONTE BLEU on which they released all of their previous releases.
 
ゆめ

2014.02.05

01. シンフォニー
02. A都市の秋
03. ため息の行方
04. 6号室
05. 空はグレー
06. 渚アラモード
07. 残像のスケッチ
08. 二人のいた風景
09. 静かに朝は
10. さち子
January 5, 2014 15:44PST
A few days after the announcement of their collaboration album with tenniscoats, alternative rockband 下山 (GEZAN) has released further details about their upcoming album 凸-DECO, which will be released on February 5. The album will feature 11 tracks, of which 10 are announced, and the eleventh will be a bonus-track which doesn't have a name yet. The third track, 八月のメフィストと, will be a split-track together with 踊ってばかりの国 (Odotte Bakari no Kuni)凸-DECO- will be their first release after they changed their location from Osaka to Tokyo in the autumn of 2012. The band also released a new PV to go along with their announcement, and features the track 瘡蓋と爆撃機 (Kasabuta to bakugeki)
 
凸-DECO-

2014.02.05

01. 瘡蓋と爆撃機
02. 共振
03. 八月のメフィストと
04. MAN 麻疹
05. ストリップチーズ
06. ぴかりのヒビ
07. あぶら無知の涙
08. 癲癇する大脳たち
09. となりのベジタリアン
10. 蒼白のとおく
and one bonustrack
 
 
January 3, 2014 23:54PST
モーモールルギャバン (MOW MOW LULU GYABAN) has announced they are going to go on an indefinite hiatus when their current tour ends in May 2014. This however only includes their live-shows. The band itself wants to take some time off and reinvent themselves for some time before going back on stage and release new material. A more in-depth video can be seen on their official homepage.
January 3, 2014 01:13PST
sukekiyo unveiled themselves as the opening act for SUGIZO's live tour THRIVE TO REALIZE held at Shibuya AX on December 29th. The band turns out to be the solo project of DIR EN GREY's vocalist, Kyo (京) alongside four other well known musicians; Takumi (匠, ex-RENTRER EN SOI) on guitar and piano, UTA (ex-9GOATS BLACK OUT) on guitar and violin, YUCHI (kannivalism) on bass, and Mika (未架, ex-RENTRER EN SOI) on drums.

During their performance they played three songs, all of which were contained within an EP for sale at the concert titled the daemon's cutlery for 1800 yen. Their official website reveals that they also have a PV for a song titled aftermath that is to be released on January 1, 2014 on iTunes Japan.

By far not the best quality, but heres a sample off the EP:
December 31, 2013 09:30PST
Quite a strange combination but the hard, over the top sound of psychedelic rockband 下山 (GEZAN) and the sweet, low-voiced sound of avant-garde folkband Tenniscoats are releasing an album together. The bands announced their collaboration album ライブ in ザバン (Live in Banjaran) and will be released to a limited number of stores and will be on sale during their liveshows the following months. The album is the prodigy of their coupling tour いっしょツアー (tour together) in March this year and features a compilation of two of their shows. Besides these live recordings, the disc contains a few live-videos from this tour. A first one has been released and features ザバンザバン (Zabanzaban).

 
 
December 31, 2013 03:51EST
Hello Sleepwalkers have released more details about their upcoming single and album released in January and February 2014. The single 午夜の待ち合わせ (Uma Yoru no Machiawase) will be opening track for the anime ノラガミ (noragami). It will be released on 29 January and will contain only the title track.

Masked Monkey Awakening will be the title of the album released three weeks later. It will consist of 10 tracks, and their previous single will be the second track on the album. Besides these chunks of information they also released the jackets of the releases.
 
Masked Monkey Awakening

2014.02.19

01. 猿は木から何処へ落ちる
02. 午夜の待ち合わせ
03. Bloody Mary
04. Comic Relief
05. 砂漠
06. 天地創造
07. 23
08. 越境
09. Countdown
10. 円盤飛来
December 31, 2013 02:46EST

Rockband androp has announced that they are going to release their third major album as follow-up to their maxi-single Missing that got released last month. Period, as the album is called, will be released on March 5, 2014 and will contain 14  songs, and the band has already announced 6 of the songtitles. Ofcourse there will be a song called period, and Missing will also be included. The four others are Woman, Voiceルームメイト (roommate), and Singer.

The band was kind enough to accompany this joyful news with a sample of Singer, which will be the openingstrack of the period. You can listen to the sample on their official homepage.

December 30, 2013 23:15EST
It's finally ready! 2013 has proven to be an extremely productive year in getting DS back online. There have been big plans in place for DS since it was decided to take the site offline while under development. We decided to release the site in segmented updates gradually starting in 2014. Our current version lays a strong foundation for building up the mega database of our dreams and also puts in place basic user features that will be expanded upon as the site grows. So here's a look at what Deadeyes-star 1.0 has to offer:

The Band Database

Level one in our mega databasing project starts with bands. This section represents the core off of which everything else will be based so we had to get it right! We tried to include input for any and all basic information user's may be seeking about their favorite bands or things that might be of interest when discovering new bands. We're hoping this will be a great introduction to the extensiveness and quality we're looking to achieve in our profiles and across the entire site. All information is entered and written by a team of staff members, however users are welcome to contribute information to any section of the site.

User Features

We eventually wish for the site to be highly interactive so we have implemented the ability to create user profiles on DS. As of right now User features are fairly basic with simple public profiles, customizable profile styling, personalized avatars, shout box and the ability to comment on items. In future updats user abilities will grow greatly to help build a more interactive community and allow further customization, even the ability to keep track of your music library!

What's next?

As we said before, updates will be rolled out gradually over the next few months, each one offering something new to the site and for users. The second level for our database is expected to be ready in early 2014 and will include specific member/artist information for each band. Each member will have their own mini-profile as well as a timeline of band activities. After that we may move on to the ever anticipated discography database upgrade!
For now we still cannot say exactly which new user feature we'll roll out first. At this time we would like the community to develop a little to see what it is you guys find most important or convenient to have. Please don't hesistate to leave us feedback on this subject!
December 29, 2013 04:09PST

It's been about 5 years since we first discussed the idea of creating a massive database system. It doesn't seem like it's been quite that long. In that time a lot has changed, both with the directon of the site and in our own lives. There's been new relationships, re-locations, new careers and paths to follow. I guess DS kind of got lost under a lot of it. In a way I do believe the time and growth was essential in order for this project to actually come to fruition. Looking back, I don't understand how either Kai or myself would have been able to pull off something so large with our set of skills at the time. So even though it's been far too long, I'm still glad to see the DS project never died.

Now, so many years later, DS is in it's final stages of preperation before it will be open to the public once more. We've set a date and by December 30th Deadeyes-star will go live. Upon launch there will be stage one of the database up for full view with band listings and profiles. Shortly after launch we should be able to have specific member/artist info up. Then the ever anticipated discography section complete with song info and lyrics. It's often overwhelming to think after how much we've accomplished there's still so much to do. 

As far as other future plans there will of course be more advanced user options for browsing the site's content, saving it, community features and user interactivity. Once the important database features are complete we will have time to concentrate on media like images and video. In the meantime rest assured we'll keep ourselves busy pushing forward with new site updates as frequently as possible.

For anyone wishing to help contribute to the project please visit our application page

December 3, 2013 03:45PST