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09 November 2010 @ 09:42 am
Flash -- aa-ah!  
First, let me say that I despise Adobe Flash. Animated ads using Flash are ugly, distracting, and consume great quantities of CPU and battery power. Websites that use Flash for major portions of their UI (and why, oh why, do so many restaurants do this?) are incompatible with many devices (not just iPhones), often have nonstandard user interface elements that make them difficult to use, and can interfere badly with printing and accessibility. I use the ClickToFlash extension in my web browser so that Flash appears only when I really want it to, and that's not often.

However, comma. I have to agree with Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch when he says that Flash has been given a bum rap: "When you're displaying content, any technology will use more power to display, versus not displaying content. If you used HTML5, for example, to display advertisements, that would use as much or more processing power than what Flash uses." This is absolutely true. I have found that sites (and I'm looking at you, Apple) that use HTML5 to display videos have all the downsides of Flash but are, as yet, not quite so reliable... and because HTML5 support is integrated into the browser, there is as yet no equivalent of ClickToFlash to suppress those CPU-hogging, annoying, battery-gobbling videos.

As website makers increasingly switch from Flash to HTML5 to provide animated ads and other annoyances that I'm happy don't appear on my iPhone, I'm afraid it will make my web experience worse. It would be nice if there were some way to turn this stuff off, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
qiihoskeh on November 9th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
Flash has other uses, such as at the fontstruct site, which I find very useful.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on November 9th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
I must confess that there are uses of Flash that are useful and non-annoying. Games, for example, and websites with UIs that are well-designed but too complex to implement in HTML and JavaScript (FontStruct is one such). Flash permits a fluid, highly-responsive user experience within a web page, and if enough attention is paid it can even support accessibility (e.g. keyboard shortcuts and variable font sizes) and printing.

But it takes effort in Flash to do things that come free in HTML, and most implementers don't have the time or budget to do that. Furthermore, because Flash encourages, even requires, non-standard UI elements for such standard controls as scroll bars and radio buttons, it takes a strong and disciplined UI designer to produce a good and usable application with Flash. Because of these problems, inherent in the platform, the vast majority of Flash UIs are, to put it bluntly, crap. If I never visit another restaurant website with non-standard scrolling text regions it'll be too soon.
the laughing leaping waterminnehaha on November 9th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
1000% agreement on the reprehensible uselessness of so very many restaurant web sites. And, no, we don't know why, either.

David D. Levinedavidlevine on November 9th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
I have a theory, and that is that restaurant owners haven't the time or energy to do their own websites so they ask a web designer for something nice. Most web designers, in my experience, come to the field from graphic design rather than user interface design; they prize originality, distinctiveness, and beauty over usability and hence they love Flash. And when so many existing restaurant websites are done in Flash, restaurant owners may see a competitor's attractive website and ask their web designer for something similar, not worrying overmuch about whether or not it's actually usable. It's a self-perpetuating phenomenon.

Furthermore, restaurant websites seem to be considered advertisements rather than content and thus prioritize flash (lowercase f) over substance. The problem is that when *I* go to a restaurant website I've already been sold on the concept and I want to know pesky little details like hours, address, and menu. I guess in some ways I'm a bit of a Luddite.
Luke McGuffholyoutlaw on November 9th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
This is similar to what I've heard other people complain about restaurant websites.

Another factor might be that the restaurant owner can't afford pro-rates for website design, but they know someone who just got a website design certificate and "needs the exposure".
kathrynmicekathrynmice on November 10th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
hmmm. . . .
. . . you mean like me? I have ventured into that horrible list of things deep inside the bowels of Explorer (yes, that old thing, it was free, okay!) and turned off animation among other things like having the software automatically load new programs, fonts, cookies, etc. they thought I would like without asking. (I really don't like my computer trying to do my thinking for me. that's the cat's job.)

I never get bothered by ads dancing across my screen and the time out until they are gone to get back to what I wanted to do.

it wasn't that hard to do, actually it was fun.

et in Arcadia egobooapostle_of_eris on November 10th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
It's really polar. Flash is a great tool FOR THE THINGS IT'S FOR. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are really ignorant outside their specialty have Flash as the only tool in their toolbox. It may be the most over used and most badly used thing on the web.