[thelist] flash accessibility/usability

.jeff jeff at members.evolt.org
Tue Feb 26 17:42:01 CST 2002


> From: Daniel J. Cody
> > l have a browser, but not all will have flash
> > installed/enabled.  i can hear the flash proponents
> > yelling, "but spinning logos and flames make them
> > wanna buy more stuff", which has been proven over and
> > over again to *not* be the case.
> using an absurd example is flawed logically. of course
> 'logos & flames' won't make you want to buy things.

no kidding.  that just proves my point though.  it seems that when it really
comes down to it, the argument for flash is "it makes shit move".  so what!
pointing out that my example is ridiculous was what i was hoping would
happen because that means that often the single remaining sales pitch for
flash is equally ridiculous.

don't get me wrong though.  i'm not meaning my statement to be an absolute.
there are cases where flash has an edge.  however, using flash for the sake
of using flash rather than making a good business case for a particular use
is ridiculous and reprehensible.

so, to prove i'm not an evil, flash-hating developer, lemme paraphrase a
brief message i forwarded to one of our sales consultants recently:

  This came across in one of the lists I'm on.
  This sort of application could be a nice sell
  to 'Client X' for next year.  We could even
  tie other applications into it so they could
  advertise to users of the application.

  > Using Flash, we built a downloadable desktop
  > client that connects to a ColdFusion-based content
  > management system.  With just one double-click,
  > snowboarders and skiers can access current snow
  > report, news and interactive trail map.  This app
  > uses Flash-friendly XML to communicate between
  > client and server: [...]

> why is it an 'un-educated assumption' on my part to give
> a 360 degree model of a scooter on iSellScooters.com?

simply giving the user the ability to see the scooter in 360 degree via
flash is not an uneducated assumption.  however, thinking that doing so will
close sales without first doing the research to prove one way or the other
is an uneducated assumption.

> what if i told you the flash-enabled site sold three
> times as many scooters as the 'HTML only' site? would
> i still be using flash incorrectly?

no, sales numbers comparisons between flash and non-flash sites isn't the
final determinant.  to your question, i'd respond almost immediately with a
question of my own:  "did you put the same effort into the html version as
the flash version?"  i'd put my pesos on the answer being no.  why?  because
every site i've seen that has all-html and all-flash versions have, without
exception, put more effort into the flash version to the point where the
html version seems to have been an afterthought, if one is developed at all.

so why's the html version relegated to being the red-headed step-child?
well, admittedly it takes longer to develop the flash version -- especially
if you're going to the trouble of making it as accessible/usable as
possible.  so, instead of one smaller chunk of expense for the project,
you've now got one large one and one smaller one.  if the parties involved
have settled on the larger expense (flash) being necessary then almost
certainly any overages will come out of the smaller expense (html).

another common side-effect of choosing to develop an all-flash and companion
all-html site is that there's a lack of concern for the user in the html
version, akin to what happens with most flash sites.  the html version
requires javascript support, uses a rigid, fixed width layout, tiny fonts,
etc.  if the user doesn't have flash or has it disabled, why do the
designers of the site think the user would have one of the latest, greatest
browsers, great eyesight, javascript enabled, and their browser window at
least 800 pixels wide?  answer -- they don't know the audience and by virtue
of committing the same sins in two mediums (flash & html) it seems they
don't care.

now, turn the development of the two separate sites around.  build the html
version first and then build the flash version.  oh wait, if you've already
got the html version and it does what it's supposed to, what's the point in
building a second version in a different medium?  on the flip-side, if
you've built the flash version to do what you need it to do, why are you
building the html version?  because of a universal truth:  everyone that's
using your site has a browser, but not everyone has or can use flash.  this
will likely never change.

> as for the sales pitch thing, insert pictures or text
> for flash and see how that sounds: 'if the rest of the
> aspects of the "sales pitch" can't sell the product
> without the pictures then the addition of pictures
> won't have any positive...'

it sounds silly to me if you used the same argument when talking about
all-flash vs. non-flash sites.  the only way it makes sense is if flash is
used as an enhancement to an html site -- i.e., 3d model in a popup.

> see, its all information. discarding *any* piece of
> otherwise relevant and helpful information, whether it
> be a flash animation showing you how the scooter wheels
> work or a paragraph of text explaining it to you, is the
> 'uneducated' thing to do IMO.

it's only uneducated if you run off and make a decision about the
[in|ex]clusion of any of the delivery mechanisms without properly
researching your audience and their demands/needs/limitations.

> information *IS* great, and should always come first.

absolutely.  that's what i'm trying to convey as well.  my point is that
often times the ability for the user to get at that information is often
hindered (alittle, alot, or completely) by the use of flash as the delivery
mechanism.  in many instances where this occurs, it's done simply for the
gee-whiz factor and not because flash is/was the best tool for the job.

> so before i get labeled on either side of the debate,
> i'd like to point out that I don't have flash installed.

and i have it installed, but decide on a site by site basis when flash gets
to execute.


jeff at members.evolt.org

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