Posts Tagged ‘Flash’

Flash is not the web

April 8th, 2011 No comments

Many, many, many people have written about Apple excluding Flash from iOS and Adobe’s spin that Flash is ‘part of the web’ iOS users are being deprived of. The following note from my friend Kevin and a spate of Flash-induced browser crashes has me me itching to chime in:

I like to listen to internet radio streams when I work; stuff from
has long been a favorite productivity boost for me, like caffeine for the ears.
More recently, thanks to Eric Konieczko, I’ve come to appreciate the more varietal
offerings from, but its flash-plugin player excessively and
consistently loads down my CPU: 50-70%! Not so productive, right? The choice of
browser is not a factor; Flash is a pig!

In contrast, I can use VLC on the source stream ( and
run at a cool 6% CPU, which could be even lower if videolan’s VLC package for Mac
included the cvlc binary (dispenses with the GUI). If you have any experience
compiling VLC and could share any helpful tips, please do; I’d appreciate it very

If you have any ideas for Kevin, I’d be interested too and would welcome comments.

But it gets to the core point. Flash has enormous unique value. It’s very good for this kind of thing. (As an aside QuickTime used to be too but that’s a story for another day) and for this kind of thing.

What it’s not good for is how Adobe’s marketing has encouraged it to be used:

  • As a way for a good visual designer to do sexy site navigation without learning to write code. If you want sexy and your coding talents aren’t able to execute your vision in HTML/CSS/Javascript, hire somebody who can. I know lots of talented people. Need help? Let me know.
  • As a way to inflict, and note that I said inflict and not offer, an introductory splash page for your web site. Splash pages are for people who can’t organize their thoughts well enough to design and execute an inviting and easy to understand home page. Splash pages are a way to try (and fail) to force your users to pause and absorb your message as you hold them hostage before you give them what they came for. If you give them what they came for, you can make money off them.  Be nice.  If you find you can’t explain your site or offering well enough without imposing a linear experience as an introduction, that’s fine. It’s very hard. Get help. I can find you great people.
  • As the only way you offer video and audio. There are multiple standards some supported on a particular computing platform (Windows Media and mp4 on  Windows and  MacOS/iOS  respectively). If you want a reliable experience, offer platform native formats.
  • As a way to inflict (see above regards offer vs inflict) your advertising message in front of content.

Flash is not part of the web. Flash is a media type. The web is the interconnectedness of documents, html documents. If you can’t recognize that essential truth and then, from there, add styling, elegant and engaging navigation and, as needed, images, audio and video on top of that to benefit your users, you’re not making websites you’re limiting yourself and and your success.

Adobe, if you can’t sell Flash for the things it’s actually very, very good for, don’t keep trying to dupe people into misusing it in order to sell more. You, Adobe, make wonderful tools in Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects et al, get rich making those wonderful tools and stop trying to hammer home a doomed agenda.

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How not to look like you are worth what you charge

September 16th, 2010 No comments

This collection of screenshots is a perfect demonstration of how not to present yourself well on the net. Many of these sites are completely inaccessible on iPhone and iPad (as of 7.10.10) and most often this is because they were built with total dependence on Flash.

I wish I had taken the time to gather these myself. I will be citing specific examples in the future but this survey of sites is as enlightening as it is amusing.

First of  these utter failure screenshots is of TBWA\Chiat\Day‘s home page. TBWA is Apple’s agency. The same Apple on whose products, iPhone and iPad, their home page breaks completely.

Ironically, Nick Jones, who captured and presents these examples markets himself as a Flash developer and his work, despite being Flash-centric is elegant and approachable when Flash is installed and working. Based on the work he shows, I’d probably hire him as a Flash developer. I’d hire somebody else to build the rest of the site. His site is far smarter than most of the expensive agency sites pictured at the link because his site still offers screenshots and basic descriptions of his work when visited from an iPhone or with a browser not running Flash. (several of the linked images do lead to 404 errors however).

Flash is a powerful and useful tool. It can allow you to present content, offer interactivity and even provide rich gameplay experiences on the web but it is not, and should never be, the navigational spine of your primary internet presence.

The web works as it does for some very good reasons and while Flash has a useful place, if you  allow a desire for the relative ease of building swoopy interactivity or cinematic presentation afforded by Flash to trump your basic priorities, you will end up undermining yourself as laughably as some of those screenshots.

Standards compliant HTML must always be the foundation of any site you expect to be accessible and useful to the whole of the internet. Of course, for content elements that demand a level of interactivity beyond that possible with HTML and JavaScript, Flash will often be a good solution.

When you, and really a better way to think about it is, when your users need this level of interactivity; consider the probability that Flash is necessary for a portion, not the whole, of your site. Consider the probability that your desire for your navigation to beep on click, to slide across the screen, for video to be an ‘introduction’, that your site is either a very rare case, or, perhaps, that you are putting presentation ahead of more important goals.

If you rely on Flash for the basic functionality of your site, you will, especially with so many iPhones and iPads in the world, need to build a second ‘no-flash’ instance of your site to reach the most users in the most contexts.

Particularly amusing is that because of the way Safari for iOS works, unless, you rely on Flash, your site will usually work reasonably well on iPhone and iPad negating the need for some of the WAPP-like ‘mobile’ versions you see in at least two of those screenshots.

With HTML done to an even basic level of competence, you can easily achieve:

  • Accessibility for users with visual impairment
  • Exposure to search
  • A working Back Button
  • Deep Linkability
  • Printability
  • Web UI conventions like ‘followed link’ coloring.

Yes, many of these things can be, at least partially, implemented in Flash, these are either things you must build in yourself or bolt-on using the Adobe-created print and accessibility functionality possible, though more difficult, in Flash.

If you are looking to work with an Agency or ‘web designer’, be sure to have somebody available to you to help you define an architecture that won’t undermine your purpose. If you see a demo of something beautiful, animated and almost cinematic in its stagecraft, ask a lot of questions about how it was made and how it fails gracefully. Telling your users “You need the latest Flash Plug-in to use this site” is a golden opportunity for your users to tell you “no thank you”.

Oh, and if you think the solution is to hammer Apple for not allowing Flash on iOS devices, do a little more research. Go to those URLS with a Flash-enabled browser , really explore and try to imagine navigating them with a touch user interface. HTML and most JavaScript works very well unmodified with a touch interface. Those Flash sites won’t.

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