Is Korean Web Design Really Bad?

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Friday, November 1st, 2013

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.



Ever try to use Firefox to run a Korean website? Half of the stuff doesn't even work. That's nice.. as soon as I fire up I.E. which is a virus magnet, I get swamped with virus alerts because Koreans don't protect their servers at all. (I just cleaned 3,180+ viruses off of a professor's computer who was using the #1 Korean Antivirus Program.) So YES!! These websites need to be, at the very least, friendly to firefox, chrome, and internet explorer.. As well as having servers running virus scanners that protect you at 90% or so.. Not rated at 60% efficiency.


I think Korean webdesign is indeed bad. I maintain a number of websites and link to Korean ones, especially the English pages. After a couple of months I have to do it again and again etc. Not to mention the fact that they don't work, as the previous poster said, in Firefox or other browsers. They only function in IE. Then they are often so much over designed that the functionality is completely lost. One of my friends maintains websites about Korea as well and they invited a Korean webdesigner to present certain tables (which were interactive) She designed a website which was completely aimed on design but the functionality was gone. They decided to use the old one. I could go on and on. Also the above writer is right. I also maintain a bunch of servers and most of the spam and virusses come from Korean servers. Additionally email addresses from many Korean websites are blacklisted and therefore blocked by many international servers.

Where can I start?

As a user I found most of the 35 websites garish and over done. Most of them relied too much on Flash (remember, the most downloaded plug-in for Firefox is a Flash blocker) and take far too much system resources. None of them will work effectively on mobile devices; think iPhone (iPad in the future), Blackberry, Android (at the moment) and many Korean phones. All of them took far too long to load; mainly because of all the Flash content. I tried all of them on Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari (don't use Windows), the fastest browsers available, and was far from impressed by the performance of many of them. Quite a few were also quite confusing when it came to navigation, though my lack of Korean was a contributor here. There is a principle which all designers should adhere to and that is the KISS principle; Keep it Simple Stupid. Too much colour and graphic detracts from the intent of the website. To me it is very off putting and hard on the eyes. As with all graphic design, remember the white space and cut down on clutter.

Bad Bad Bad

a) I've yet to find a Korean website that actually uses valid HTML. Try to validate Korean websites at the W3C and you'll see what I mean. b) I've seen sub-standard code cause the layout to fall apart when not using IE. c) Extreme overuse of ActiveX forces users to surf the web using an Administrative account. Bloody bad idea. d) They use too many links in their pages. Usability studies consistently show that this decreases usability and is bad design. e) Too many colours create pages that look like they were designed by elementary school kids. d) Non standards based technologies mean that the Korean web doesn't work in anything but IE. f) Etc etc etc


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