[thelist] flash detection

Nicholas Dunham ndunham1 at pacbell.net
Mon May 7 14:09:23 CDT 2001

> > You've got it backwards ... the reason for requiring Flash is to
> > deliver the user a higher quality experience.
> Whilst simultaneously needlessly turning away paying customers,
> and (if not providing an alternative) breaking the law in several
> countries.

Perhaps part of the problem in this discussion is that people are talking
about different types of sites -- by which I mean not only sites belonging
to different types of companies, but sites with different purposes
altogether. It's absolutely true that no one wants to turn away paying
customers. It's also true that the primary purpose of many commercial sites
is not online sales, but advertising. Viewed from this perspective, a
Flash-based site is essentially targeted marketing. And I'm not aware
(please correct me if I'm wrong) of any countries with laws requiring a
company's advertising to be viewable by everyone.

Targeted marketing is nothing new, and it's an unfortunate fact that anytime
you successfully target one group, you alienate another. Put rap or heavy
metal in your commercial and you may gain some younger customers (or maybe
not), but you risk causing older viewers to view you as reckless and
immature. Classical music might gain the older customers, but younger ones
may think of you as stodgy and conservative. The idea is to figure out what
demographic is most likely to spend a lot of money on your product in the
first place, and then build your advertising strategy around what excites
them (or makes them feel comfortable). And sometimes, as much as we may hate
to admit it, that means that the best RoI will come from something with lots
of sound and animation. Some people like loud music and blinking lights.
Some people aren't easily distracted by anything else.

BMW was one of Erik's examples, and I think it's a good one. BMW's target
market is relatively affluent -- which may not necessarily translate to
computer literacy, but at least BMW can be fairly sure that they're not
going to get too many potential customers on old 386 Windows 3.1 systems and
28.8 modems. Furthermore, when you go to the BMW web site you're probably
not doing so with credit card in hand, expecting FedEx to deliver your shiny
new Z8 in 2-4 weeks (yes, certainly there are sites that cater to people who
do want that sort of thing, but indulge me for a moment). You go to the BMW
web site to learn more about the cars, to see some pictures, to narrow down
your choices before heading over to the dealership for a test drive. If you
can't view the site, are you really going to be angry enough about it to
choose a different car? Presumably you've seen their other advertising
(including advertisements more targeted to *your* particular demographic),
or maybe your neighbor's Z3 is sufficient motivation. Regardless, a Flash
site is hardly going to send BMW down the path of financial ruin.

That said, I think bmwusa.com does something very smart in that the Flash
stuff isn't tossed at you right away -- by the time you get anything in
Flash, you've already been enticed by pictures and descriptions of the car
you're interested in. If you don't already have the plugin, perhaps you're a
little more likely to download it when there's a definite payoff than you
would be if you tried to go to a company's home page and were immediately
greeted by a message telling you to download something. Maybe not; this is
all conjecture on my part.

I don't usually find myself defending Flash. I've toyed around with it on a
friend's computer, but I've never created a Flash-based site, and probably
never will. I'm more of a back-end developer than a designer, and the sites
I've worked on have tended to be fairly text-heavy (for that matter, they've
tended to be on intranets). But Flash has its place. I've seen bad Flash
interfaces -- plenty -- but I've also seen good ones, and I think the web is
a richer place because of them. We as web professionals need to know our
audience, know the purpose of the site we're building, and use the right
tools for the job.

-- Nicholas

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