Panning flash

I love this quote from Douglas Crockford: What a Flash intro says to me is "I hate my job. What I really want to do is make films. But they won't let me do that because I don't have talent. So watch this Flash intro." Soon as I read it, I immediately thought of Dack Ragus, whose Web Economy Bullshit Generator made me wish I'd supported verbs in BuzzPhraser. Even Way Back When, Dack was a devout disparager of Flash. He wrote Flash is Evil in 1999, then updated it in 2002. As he put it then (and it still applies, too often, now),

Incorporating Flash into an HTML page or splash screen is bad, but entire sites built with Flash are positively evil because they make the Web much less usable. Flash sites render useless the browser's Back button and address bar, and make bookmarking pages inside a Flash site impossible. Printing Flash pages from your browser doesn't work, nor does intra-page keyword searching. Finally, Flash sites eliminate HTML links' visited and unvisited colors, and that color-changing feature is the Web's single most important navigational cue.

Anyway, I just revisited Dack, and found he'd kept up to date, with Ajax Run Amok:

Just like they did in '96 with frames, '97 with Flash, and '98/'99 with DHTML, the usability wonks need to saddle up and take on the wave of ridiculously bad implementations of AJAX... [I added that last link. - ds]

Anyway, it's good to know Dack's still in fine form.

Thanks to Bill Humphries for finding that Crockford quote in the first place.

And a word to website designers: Most of the time, most of us aren't looking for an "experience". We're just looking to find stuff. Bear that in mind.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Website Design's picture

i don't use flash a lot as it makes the page heavy and visitors often don't have flash payer installed so it just wastes their time..

So what?

AnonymousSnark's picture

"Incorporating Flash into an HTML page or splash screen is bad, but entire sites built with Flash are positively evil because they make the Web much less usable."

So what? The nice thing about the Web is that there are certain epiphenomenon that arise without requiring everyone to follow a strict rule book. That means that sites may be built with their own goals and values in mind, and if they don't contribute to some particular version of a happy Web ecosystem, it really doesn't matter.

So what?

Don Ritchey's picture

Well, my ISP's home page (and most of the rest of the "features" on the site are produced by Flash. I have FlashBlock set in my FireFox browser and had to make an exception for my own ISP, since Flash is such a performance dog. Flash doesn't remember preferences, so the maddeningly anoying constantly scrolling news feed (which has a "pause" button that I have to reenable after every "back" button) is worse than useless (it gives you a false sense of confidence that the web designer had a clue). Flash doesn't let me open a new link from a flash list in a new tab (otherwise why have tabbed browsing?). Flash appears designed to keep you in a Flash "playpen" and not let you toddle out into the real Web, otherwise why is it so hostile to normal web behaviors?

One more vote for the "Flash is evil!!!" camp and a request for a longer ClueByFour that will reach into the development departments of ClueResistent organizations to get the attention of managers who are sorely lacking said clue.


John Calburn's picture

You mean everybody can use whatever they want in their websites, right?

Right if, while doing that, they not try to force ME (and YOU) to adopt their viewing solutions. Things like "Best viewed with Internet Explorer" or "This content requires Macromedia Flash version X" or even "Click here to download the required plugin" (that you can never find for your platform) is really annoying for me.

You can still say that we can just avoid going to that particular kind of poorly designed site, right?

Wrong. If all that I want to do is to read some data from some site (for example: My car's insurance company) and that damn thing is entirely made with flash, then I got a REAL problem if I dont want to install the damn flash player. Am I wrong?

You are right; Flash is evil

Ken Willett's picture

I recently inherited a site whose interface was all done in Flash, including fetching XML from the web server on the fly, parsing it to build menus, etc. Most websites are truly open source: as a web designer you get used to having it all right there: the pages, style sheets, javascript, etc. But with Flash, just having the site isn't enough, and if the original developers didn't keep all the source material organized (and documented) you are hosed. We ended up converting the site back to HTML.