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Laurie Niles

News Flash: If You Have News, Don't Use Flash

December 17, 2009 at 10:02 PM

Today I was looking at the website of an arts organization, after seeing a press release that interested me. I wanted to link to the new information they had posted on their website and share it with my fellow V.commies.

Unfortunately, it took me 88 clicks through a Flash website to get to the information I wanted. (Yes, I counted the clicks.) If I linked to that information, you, too, would have to click 88 times to get to the information of interest. It's not possible to bookmark the page of interest in a Flash page. Every time you want to get to that information, it's going to take 88 clicks.

This reminded me of a golden rule for webpages: Make it easy for the reader. The key to having a website that serves both you and those who seek you out is to make it usable. It's possible to make it usable and beautiful, but please, first make it usable.

It seems to be the trend -- among everyone -- to make visually beautiful Flash websites. I can understand the appeal: They are visually beautiful. Unfortunately, they tend to frustrate and drive away readers, too.

Instead of being able to go straight to a desired page, readers have to go through several (sometimes frustrating) steps to find the page they are seeking. Very often they won't bother, unless, like me, they are very determined.

Maybe the whole thing is intentional; publicists figure it's best to drive people to a portal, where they'll see the entire site, sit through the lovely long introduction, look at the beautiful visuals...but really, I don't think that frustrating the reader is the way to go. If I want to see the the artists' bio, I want to see that. If it takes me a long introduction, plus five clicks to get to that bio, that means that every single time I want to reference that bio, I will have to sit through an introduction and click five times. As a journalist, if I want to do a contextual link to something specific within that website, I simply can't. For example, if I'm writing a story about you, and I'd like to refer my readers straight to your concert schedule, I literally can't if it is embedded in a wall of Flash. I can only refer them to the home page of your website, where readers will have to muddle through to figure out why I sent them there. If readers cannot easily intuit why I sent them to that page, I'm not going to link to it.

The same is true when posting a link on Facebook or Twitter; you can only post a link to the Flash home page, not to any specific page within that website. Let's say you write a wonderful blog and put it on your Flash website. If you post the link to Facebook or Twitter, readers will be sent to your homepage and then have to navigate their way to your blog. What is the likelihood that they'll bother? Slim. None.

I hope that if you are in the position of deciding how you'll make a website for yourself, for another artist or for an organization, that you will consider NOT creating a Flash website.


From Robert Spear
Posted on December 18, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Amen, Laurie! In about a week I'll be uploading my redesigned web site http://singingwoodsviolin.com and it won't be a Flash site. Most of the design professional with whom I spoke agreed with you that the novelty of a magnificent splash screen wears off quickly, and the "eighty-eight clicks" that follow just becomes wearing. I think that what makes the experience even worse are Flash screens that appear with up-level audio without any way to control the volume. You'd think that the designers who are responsible for this would learn how much it puts people off, but evidently they are highly resistant. Good Blog!


From Tom Gossard
Posted on December 18, 2009 at 6:53 PM

 I sympathize, Laurie. I didn't know for many many months what a drag flash was, until I read about independently developed browser plugins - most are free - that kill flash windows, etc. I'm a Mac user, and for those of us who mainly use Firefox as their web browser, there is "Flash Killer" which you can download and install into Firefox with a few clicks. Find it at http://flashblock.mozdev.org. For Mac Safari users there is "click to flash" also free and easy to install and use. If your search Google you can find similar software designed for Windows users. Some of your other readers may already have informed you of these and perhaps other better ones. Anyway, weep no more nor gnash your teeth any longer. Get relief.

p.s. what most of the plugins do for you is replace any flash with a gray window that says "flash" or something like that. You can decide if you want to see the flash content - such as a youtube video - then simply click once in the gray area and momentarily the video, etc. will appear as normally.

Good luck! Also, have a great holiday(s) of your choosing. :) Tom 


From Geoff Caplan
Posted on December 18, 2009 at 9:36 PM

Hi Laurie

That's quite a story - no wonder you got so frustrated!

As a web developer I have a large collection of web usability bloopers, but 88 clicks  must be a candidate for the Guiness Book of Records. I'd love to get a look at this horror - would you be kind enough to post the offending URL?

Thanks


From Anne Horvath
Posted on December 19, 2009 at 6:56 AM

Thanks for the tip, Tom!


From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 20, 2009 at 6:06 AM

No, I really don't want to call anyone out. Especially since this latest incident has been repeated so many times, I can't even count.  I offer this advise in the hope that it will help people to consider how readers use websites and to see these potential design pitfalls ahead of time.

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