Friends of Bill W. Indeed...
January 11, 2001 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Friends of Bill W. Indeed...
"For the past week I have read Jakob Nielsen's Flash alertbox over and over again and came to a startling revelation. It seems that Jakob got the title all-wrong. Flash is not 99% bad, as the usability guru says... Flash is 99% Proof, as in alcohol."
posted by DragonBoy (20 comments total)
Good read! A refreshing take on an old topic.

I'm just getting into Flash myself, and I feel like I'm walking in a minefield. The minute I say "I want to re-do it in Flash", I get a lot of "be careful of your audience" comments. Well, as long as they have the plug-in, my audience is going to be just fine.

posted by frykitty at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2001

Flash was a way to design content that would look and behave the same everywhere.

My Palm?

My phone?

My [gack] WebTV?

My [gasp!] VT102?

I suspect, violently, not.
posted by baylink at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2001

Okay then, everywhere that matters.

(ducking and running)
posted by frykitty at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2001

As an ongoing alcoholic, I must clear up the terminology here. If it's 99% alcohol, it's 198° Proof. 1% = 2°. Now back to my vodka.
posted by Neale at 3:18 PM on January 11, 2001

very very fast, I hope, Kitty.

You use either the degree symbol, I believe, *or* the word proof; not both.

It's like "ATM Machine".
posted by baylink at 4:52 PM on January 11, 2001

If you "want to re-do it in Flash", that implies that you already have something working quite well enough without Flash, doesn't it?
posted by harmful at 5:43 PM on January 11, 2001

Yes, frykitty, why re-do it at all? Why not make it as boring as every other site? Your users looking for entertainment (gasp!) will thank you and go elsewhere -- unless of course they're using a VT102 in which case, they're probably thinking it's Ronald Reagan (or is it Calvin Coolidge?) that's still President of the United States.
posted by leo at 7:10 PM on January 11, 2001

Does there exist even one example of a web site in which the use of flash makes it easier to find what you are looking for? I have yet to encounter such an item, and since I never fire up a web browser specifically to look for bangy-sparkly animation thingies, flash always gets in the way.

If I were looking for animation I'd have turned on a television.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:52 PM on January 11, 2001

If I were looking for animation I'd have turned on a television.

Well, if you're looking for entertainment, there are millions of examples and just because you're not looking for bangy-sparkly animation thingies doesn't mean no one should. Why, sonny, the Web's a big enough place for both of us. Why there's this constant urge on the part of people to say it's got to be one way and one way only -- in perhaps the most heterodox medium ever known to man -- is beyond me.
posted by leo at 8:03 AM on January 12, 2001

Flash is just a tool. If I can create a menu system that's easy for my users *and* easier for me to update, then Flash it is. The change would be as transparent for the users as possible. And my audience (this is not my personal site) uses browsers.

Flash doesn't automatically mean animation or flash-bangy cool stuff--though it can. And know what? There's not one thing wrong with that. When it goes astray is when it ceases to serve the majority of users. In the current web environment there's no way to please everybody.

Finally, though we probably don't even wanna go here, there IS the problem of being a designer and needing to balance usability with your ability to compete in the marketplace. Some of us have (unfortunately) people to impress in addition to users.

And yes, Baylink, I was running very quickly. ;) I really don't think one way to get on the web has less value than another; however, I believe that at this point it is the user who must consider the consequences of equipment which is off the beaten path.

posted by frykitty at 8:23 AM on January 12, 2001

I really don't think one way to get on the web has less value than another; however, I believe that at this point it is the user who must consider the consequences of equipment which is off the beaten path.

Those damn blind and visually-impaired web surfers! What are they thinking, even considering using equipment off the beaten path? How do they expect to use the web at all if they insist on using some lame browser I've never even heard of? "PW-Webspeak?" What the hell kind of name is that for a browser anyway?
posted by daveadams at 8:57 AM on January 12, 2001

Oh fine, get me with guilt. Or try anyway.
posted by frykitty at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2001

Gee, dave, why'd you stop with PW-Webspeak? It's the easiest thing in the world to come up with a scenario in which a given piece of media just isn't going to work. I could do it all day -- and not just on the Web but in all walks of life. The good news is one size doesn't fit all. What we've got in front of us is going to develop into a spectacularly rich medium with Flash and video and audio all over the place for no better reason than that's what people like.
posted by leo at 9:59 AM on January 12, 2001

If you could easily copy text off of flash, it would go waaaay up on my scale. There's just no reason for that crap.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2001

That (copy text) and bookmark your location in a flash movie or presentation or something. Most flash is just frames (in a film sense that is, not pictures. :-) I don't understand why you can't get a pointer to where you left off, and it's the most frustrating aspect of flash sites for me.
posted by cCranium at 10:51 AM on January 12, 2001

Dave beat me to it with Kitty, so I'll jump all over you, Leo, instead. :-) Obviously, *you* can see. If you couldn't, I suspect you'd be much less cavalier about making things unusable to the blind. It all depends, though, on what you're *doing*. If you're providing information, you have to care about this stuff; if you're merely entertaining, you don't, necessarily. If you're trying to *sell*, and you don't... you deserve what you won't get. Got it? :-)
posted by baylink at 1:15 PM on January 12, 2001

"We don't know if blind people use the internet. Frankly, we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without."
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2001

In what way, does my comment suggest indifference to blind people, baylink? That would be a wonderful state of affairs. Typically I recommend providing alternatives to those who are unable to access various types of media. The bottom line -- if your aim is to avoid indifference and/or bankrupcy -- is to develop a picture of your intended audience and to tailor your material appropriately. This a far more practical approach than thinking of every appliance under the sun -- many of which have their own accessibility problems that make computers look like a godsend -- just to discourage a more imaginative use of media. Got it? :-)
posted by leo at 2:26 PM on January 12, 2001

If we're bringing up problems of the handicapped, let's not forget the quadraplegics who navigate through the web using speech-recognition systems. They use standard web browsers along with commercial speech recognition packages and on normal HTML they can follow a link by reading its text out loud. Or they can issue a special command and have a separate box come up which shows all the links on a page, which permits them to choose any one to follow. Can they navigate through a Flash menu the same way? I don't know the answer but I suspect it's "no", because the browser itself isn't aware of the menu choices in a flash menu. It just sends a click-coordinate to the flash plugin, which returns a command. In that case, there's no information available about the flash menu for the speech recognition package to pick up and use except the simple knowledge that it's there.

In that case, the only way they could control it is by using voice commands to move the mouse pointer (painful but possible) and then use a voice command to issue a click. I bet such users hate flash even more than I do.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:46 PM on January 12, 2001

I bet such users hate flash even more than I do.

I bet such users are savvy enough to use the HTML alternative.

Guys, get real -- just because you don't like something doesn't mean that settles it for the rest of the world. This isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. There's going to be Flash and audio and video all over the place and there's going to be blind people hearing the text descriptions and paraplegic people giving voice commands and there's just going to be a ton of people who're going to love it just fine.
posted by leo at 6:23 PM on January 12, 2001

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