Flash just got better, but it’s still (usually) very, very bad

From Slashdot:

Adobe systems made an announcement that it has provided technology and information to Google and Yahoo! to help the two search engine rivals index Shockwave Flash (SWF) file formats. …this will provide more relevant search rankings of the millions pieces of flash content.

This is good news

Flash is a terribly popular platform for interactive news, and it’s opacity to search engines was a serious problem. Content in Flash applications was not findable in the same way that regular web content is, effectively hiding large areas of the web from searches.

But it ain’t great news

Ace of Cake\'s has a terrible web site
The navigation at Ace of Cakes is so mysterious, it has its own guided tutorial.  Let’s consider this: You need to study a tutorial. To read about a television program. About cakes.

Eight years ago, usability guru Jakob Nielsen called Flash “99% bad.” Everything he said then is still true now. But there are waaay more Flash apps now.

The problem is that it’s frequently used to present text in a prettier fashion. Add music and some magical menus, and paragraphs get better, right? Wrong. Adobe says that the text will now be searchable, but that fixes only one of Flash’s many problems.

Among many other reasons, Flash sucks because:

  1. You can’t link to content within a Flash app.
  2. Flash apps usually don’t work like the web, so a reader has to learn how to use it.
  3. It usually stinks for people with disabilities.

The above aren’t always true, but the exceptions are few and far between.

When it works

When Flash is at its hottest, it presents information to the user in a way that text never could. The New York Times has been putting out excellent apps that do this, like their Obama-Clinton support visualizer, and their map of the impact of the cyclone that hit Myanmar.

The Spiderman analogy applies: With great power comes great responsibility. Flash lets you jam practically anything into a web site, but the temptation to do so must be resisted.

3 thoughts on “Flash just got better, but it’s still (usually) very, very bad

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  2. Wow, that is bad. I find that a lot of Flash sites are driven by brochure-ware web marketing shops that are creating sites about otherwise dull products that their customers are paying big bucks to make not-so-dull. But aside from Burger King’s Subservient Chicken campaign, I can’t think of many memorable successes in this department. I think most of that money that went into obscure Flash sites that nobody ever goes to could have been better spent on Facebook apps, SEO or SOMETHING that gets a brand out to potential new customers.

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