OK, I’ve got a beef with web designers who use all Flash. Have we ever heard of usability? Apparently not.
A few weeks back I switched to the Firebird browser because IE was being stupid. Seemed like a good idea at the time, though since I’ve noticed that the Flash plug-in doesn’t stay plugged in. Every time I launch Firebird I have to reinstall Flash. Now maybe I’m just an idiot and I’m not doing something right, but it’s a pain. For the most part I don’t bother reinstalling Flash every time. Which means any sites that use Flash can be difficult.
Now a site like Relevant uses Flash, but it’s only for enhancements on the page. I can still check their recent updates without needing Flash. It adds some nice visual elements, but not having Flash doesn’t ruin my experience. On the other hand, some web designers insist that you have Flash to see anything on their site. The bands Jars of Clay and Sanctus Real are two examples. If you don’t have Flash you can’t get anything.
Now let’s think about this for a minute. You’re not just making it difficult for people to surf your site, you’re making it impossible. You’re knowingly shutting out a certain percentage of people from your site (anybody know what that percentage is? UPDATE: OK, I looked it up myself. 98% of Internet users have Flash. Though the numbers are baked. 98% is for Flash 2. We’re currently on Flash 7, which has 7.2% of Internet users. Flash 6 is still at 90%, so they’re doing pretty good. I guess you’re not shutting out that many people [though why would you want to shut anyone out?], but more importantly, they’re still making difficult-to-use sites. Lame.). And what do you gain? Some cool effects. Oooh. Bands are notorious for using Flash exclusively.
The downside is that most all-Flash sites suck. Often they give you a number of little text frames to scroll through (and where are the freakin’ scroll buttons! If you can even find them, they all work differently!) or they pop up windows all over the place. It’s a navigational and usability nightmare. If you want to have all the fancy effects, use them strictly for effects. Let HTML handle the text, which will make your site simpler, easier to use, and compatible with a much larger audience base.
I’ve noticed graphic design houses do this as well. They want that wow-factor so they make this crazy Flash site. Yet the site is terrible to use. Why on earth would I hire you if you can’t make a site I can use?
You can certainly use Flash, it’s a cool effect. Just allow your site to still function without Flash. Or offer an HTML alternative (like U2). Very few sites can justify all-Flash, and when they can it usually involves lots of animation, like Homestar Runner.
I know I sound like Jakob Nielsen, but I just want a site that’s easy to use. Is that too much to ask? It’s like punishing someone for being interested in your business.