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Flash

I normally love what Jeffery Zeldman has to say about using web standards, but he allowed his new article to be published by a Macromedia Flash newsletter.

He has an article about designing with standards for portability and ease of redesign, but the article is published using Flash, which accomplishes neither of those goals.

Why do people use Flash like this? Why does Zeldman allow this? I've never seen Zeldman use Flash for his own work.

Will Flash someday be a "web standard?"

Here's the Flash article: http://www.macromedia.com/newsletters/edge/october2003/index.html?sectionIndex=1&trackingid=OMN_AAJT

I found it via this article complaining about the Flash: http://bensinclair.com/archives/000118.php

Bobo
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I've really only seen Macromedia use Flash like this, and seeing as how they want to push Flash as a platform, that's what they do. 

Ain't no thing.

Ankur
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I can see them using it for their own newsletter, but after reading those articles I don't think it makes any sense at all for someone to use Flash for a plain old newsletter.

It just makes me wonder about Zeldman. I normally worship him as a web standards god!

Bobo
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

"Will Flash someday be a "web standard?"

Flash *is* a web standard. Sticking your fingers and your ears and shouting "I CANT HEAR YOU" won't change that. Flash is an excellent delivery medium for content ranging from charts to photos. Webdesigners are voting for it with their wallets. No amount of geeks refusing to install a plugin into their 1337 Mozilla or Opera browsers will change that.

Phoenix
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

>>>Webdesigners are voting for it ...<<<

It would be nice if there were a way for web users to vote against it.  It is one of several technologies useful for making user hostile web pages.

Z
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

So are HTML and Javascript. We should get rid of them, too.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I went and read the article after I made the previous post.  It reinforced my dislike for Flash web pages.

Using Flash made the article kind of silly.  He is talking about "saving bandwidth" and shows techniques for creating shorter CSS.  Then he uses Flash to publish it.  It takes several hundred kilobytes of download before the first page appears and there are only a few kilobytes of text.

In addition to being slow, Flash does add several user annoyances such as the fading text and the restricted links.  Users may not like it, but it probably makes the web developers job more interesting since they can concentrate on clever features rather than spending all their time on usability and content.

Z
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

"So are HTML and Javascript."

You are just being silly here, but I could go along with getting rid of javascript.

There is a basic question of whether it is the technology or the user that is responsible for poor usability of a web page.  Poor usability seems to be almost inherent in Flash.  With HTML it takes some effort to make a really user hostile web page.

Here's an example:  Step quickly through the pages of the Zeldman article.  If one page gets displayed before the previous one has faded, the text gets overlaid and you end up with an unreadable mess and have to reload.

Z
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Can anyone describe how Flash might be used to create a web page that is user friendly, does the job better than other technology, and give a real example?

Z
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

*My* point is that Flash is a tool. It's entirely possible to use it incorrectly. IMHO doing an entire website in Flash is using it incorrectly.

I look at Flash as a tool for delivering animation (streamed or interactive) over the web. It fills a niche that HTML doesn't.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Using flash thus renders useless your browser's navigation control, renders useless your bookmarks, renders useless your right-click menu, and often even restricts you from copying and pasting text.  Not to mention the fact that the text in that article is fugly as sin.

How can you say flash is a standard?  A standard implies that it is endorsed by some standards body.  Is there a W3C flash recommendation?  I'm honestly asking here.  The incessent insistence of IE re-downloading flash every time I loaded a web page with it and then asking me to install it (to which I said "no") made me switch from IE.  Can't you just accept the fact that I said no?  Or at least skip downloading the flash player till after you ask me if I want it?  There is nothing usable about this scheme, and frankly, I have never found a page to be more usable with any amount of flash.

The only thing I've ever seen it good for is those funny stick-people animations!

saberworks
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I'm glad flash is enough of a standard so that I can play scrabble online with my mom, and she doesn't have to download any weird stuff, or worse, play scrabble through an HTML Forms interface.

rz
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The W3 "recommendation" is for SVG ( http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/ ). Flash has its uses in web pages (albeit quite limited, I think), but the problem is with the suckers that use it for the wrong purpose rather than with the tool. I do agree that a newsletter is not a proper use, particularly when you can present the same content and graphics in 1/5 of the size.

uncronopio
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

> Poor usability seems to be almost inherent in Flash.

Yeah, I've seen some horrible apps written in (VB/Java/C++/ASP).  Those apps have just thrown out the normal rules of operation in force on the OS they've been deployed on.  Ergo, VB/Java/C++/ASP are complete junk, horrible for everyone, and something that was foisted on us by Microsoft/Sun/AT&T/Microsoft.

*monad
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I am mostly a web user and believe that web pages should be designed to be convenient for the user.  Web pages created with HTML or newer variants (XHTML,...) are generally quite usable but it is possible to make confusing layouts and there are a lot of bad web pages out there in cyberspace.

OTOH, I don't recall ever seeing a Flash web page that provided any functionality in a user friendly form.  The newsletter referred to at the beginning of this thread is an example of a poor use of Flash.  But that is only one example.  My point it that, unlike other web technologies with examples of poor use, I haven't seen any good uses of Flash.

I did ask for examples of user oriented uses of Flash.  Actual URLs, that is.  So far I have gotten some sarcastic comments, but no URLs.

Z
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I agree with RZ on this one. Flash has its place, and I have seen a lot of excellent Flash implementation. For those who are so against it (at least on this thread) do you really really think that you never found any good Flash implementation?

Gunther
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Have a look at:
http://www.flashforthefuture.com/

and consider the aim and audience of the sites linked there, for example http://www.jonathan-clark.com/afterlife/cemetery.htm.

uncronopio
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

http://www.homestarrunner.com

Tom (a programmer)
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

There are many good uses of Flash at HowStuffWorks.

www.howstuffworks.com

(VERY good site.  Also well-known.  I'd be mildly surprised if anyone reading this didn't already have HSW in their bookmarks, but if not, mark it now!)

Specifically, Flash is used for small interactive animations sprinkled liberally throughout the articles.  They don't interfere with navigation or bookmarks, since they're just little demonstrations.

I've also seen some fairly nice Flash games.  Among the best are Ferry Halim's.

www.orisinal.com

Well, not great in gameplay, I'd say.  Each game is quite repetitive after a minute or so.  But the art and sound are world-class.

For the shady side of Flash games, there's always Newgrounds.

www.newgrounds.com

Better gameplay in some cases, but be prepared for some raunch.

Paul Brinkley
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

There's no doubt that Flash is better for some things - in particular, in my field of Assessment/Surveys -

http://www.centralquestion.com/Links/Samples.html

These can be done in HTML/Javascript, but nothing else would provide the cross-platform support, coupled with the user-experience, coupled with the small file size that flash delivers. Most of the time the fewer http request-response cycles required, the better for the user. Flash is also a streaming medium, and that has its benefits.

There's a school of thought that says 'Flash is only good for intros and they're no good.' - Well its true that intro are rubbish, but flash has much wider applicability.

Central Question
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

You guys are still missing the point.  Every single one of those flash sites you just posted removes the ability for the end user to bookmark an internal page or even use back/forward buttons.  This is a huge usability problem, and no amount of animation is going to change that.

saberworks
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

While Flash MX provides the ability to bookmark individual 'pages' of a Flash presentation, it's usually not a good idea - the user isn't expecting to be bookmarked into the middle of a flash presentation. And the user doesn't expect back/forward buttons to affect the flash presentation within a page.

It's a different kind of presentation medium - granted it's not best suited to newsletters - but there are many situations where it's not useful to bookmark, such as forms spread over many pages - and other situations where the browser's back/next functionality is awkward - such as forms spread over many pages.

Flash is a great way to reduce the number of http response/request cycles, thus improving responsiveness and usability. It's not for everything, but people who dismiss it aren't clued in.

Central Question
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Thank you to those who have posted some URLs.  I don't like to be argumentative just to get responses.  For the most part the use of Flash has been inappropriate or user unfriendly for the web pages I normally visit.  Consider what Flash could do for the JOS discussion site.

I have had a limitied amount of time to look at these sites.  Here are preliminary comments:

http://www.macromedia.com

This should have a good example of the use of Flash, right?  Nope!  At not a user friendly example.  There is a big animated banner ad.  The developer probably had a lot of fun working on it, but the animation is of no benefit to the user.  There is a button to click on to "Learn More".  But a middle button click on this button to open the page in a new tab is ignored.  The only option is to left click to load over the current window.  Definitely user unfriendly.

http://www.howstuffworks.com

I looked around just a little and didn't find anything useful in Flash.  I did find a couple of Flash banner ads with animation that was even more annoying than the one at macromedia.

http://www.centralquestion.com/Links/Samples.html

Now here is a tolerable use of Flash.  It still had the annoying feature that the back button doesn't work.

http://www.jonathan-clark.com/afterlife/cemetery.htm

Interesting pictures.  Considering that the purpose of the web site was to display animated pictures, this would be an appropriate use of the technology.

All of them take a while to load.  At least they give a little progress message to let you know why it is taking so long.

Z
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

It's too bad you can't get to the 'Printable Format' version without loading the Flash version first.

Interaction Architect
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I guess I should have been more specific regarding HowStuffWorks.  Try going to the articles for lockpicking, automatic transmission, and toilets.  HSW typically uses Flash to show workings of fairly complex devices with lots of moving parts.

Paul Brinkley
Thursday, October 30, 2003

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