Clarification of my position on Flash

It happened again … I sent out an email to "GranneDev" critiquing Macromedia Flash, and I received this back from a reader: "By constantly bashing Flash you cease from 'playing' devil's advocate to being on permanent retainer."

Well, as Mark Twain once said, heaven for the weather, but hell for the company.

I find it funny that people think I'm "bashing" Flash. I have REPEATEDLY said that there are great uses for Flash. I have sent along sites to "GranneDev" that are Flash-based that I said were great. I have sent along instructions for using Flash effectively. Heck, I once incorporated Flash and Director into a Web site that I did for Southwestern Bell. I am not autoreflexively bashing Flash.

I AM a critic of poor usability, poor design, and poor ideas. I AM a critic of Macromedia's decision to try to push the absurb idea that entire e-commerce Web sites should be created in Flash. I AM a critic of those who use Flash merely because that is the only tool they know, or because it is the newest tool in their toolbox, or because they don't have a good grounding in user interface design.

I would be saying the same thing about Java, or SVG, or the Beatnik plugin if those were technologies that were consistently being misused. The problem is that Flash is very easy for people to use, which makes them think they know what they're doing. The same problem exists with FrontPage, Dreamweaver, and other WYSIWYG editors. Heck, the same problem exists with Content Management Systems. Just because a tool makes something easy doesn't mean that it's easy to do … or, more accurately, easy to do well.

It's very easy for people to make 'flashy' stuff using Flash. The problem is that the vast majority of those uses stifle usability instead of enhancing it.

That's my beef … usability. To date, NOT ONE PERSON has responded to my comparison of Flash vs. HTML. For most purposes, plain ol' HTML is far superior to Flash. Not always. But mostly. As I said on that page, "Good only for presenting information dealing with processes (how to put together a bookshelf, or how to change a flat tire), time (timelines), and space (spatial layouts, panning & zooming); otherwise, it's eye-candy."

If the purpose of your site is eye-candy, that's cool. But that's not a business site, unless you make candy bars or toys. And by the way, I classify most advertising as eye-candy … just not eye-candy that I care to see. :)

In my main browser I use (Mozilla on Linux), I have uninstalled Flash. You know what? It's great. I see almost no ads. No annoying animations. No annoying splash screens. Pages load quicker. I'm not distracted by animation. It is fantastic. If I find the occasional page that requires Flash, I'm gone. Their loss, not mine.

I've still got Flash in another browser, so if I absolutely have to see something done in Flash, I can. But let me tell you, I'm not missing it.

Try it for one week. Go ahead … I dare you. Take the plunge. See what you're missing. I think you'll be surprised.

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