Just Say NO to Flash

Are you as frustrated as I am about Web sites relying on Flash?

I need to share a little rant here.

Flash LogoUntil recently, I never realized how many Web sites are built around Flash. I’m not talking about sites that include Flash animations here and there. I’m talking about sites completely contained in a Flash animation.

Like this monstrosity: http://www.stingraysushi.com/

Stingray Sushi is a restaurant. Its site includes a menu, which can only be viewed in that Flash animation.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look for a restaurant when I’m on the go. I’ll whip out my iPhone or iPad, open the Maps app, and search for restaurant. Or I’ll use the Safari browser to Google a specific restaurant. Either way, my goal is to see the Home page for the restaurant so I can learn more about it and the food it serves before I drive/walk over. To do that, I need to be able to see the Home page or, at least, a menu.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I’ll never be able to see the Home page for Stingray Sushi on my iPhone or iPad.

Now you might want to blame Apple for this. After all, it’s Apple that decided that it won’t support Flash.

But I blame the Web developer. Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, have been available for nearly four years. Apple is currently the fourth largest seller of mobile phones, with millions of iPhones out in the wild. Apple is also the top seller of tablet computers, with millions of iPads out in the wild. Developers who continue to base entire sites on Flash are basically thumbing their noses at iPhone/iPad users, telling them that they simply aren’t important enough to view the oh-so-valuable Flash content on their Web sites.

I have two words for these developers, and they’re not “thank you.”

So when I reach a site I can’t view on my device — whatever that device is — do you think I’ll visit that business?

Do you think that I’m interested in rewarding a business for the frustration their Flash-based site has generated by actually buying something there?

There are alternatives to Flash. Many alternatives. HTML 5 is one of them. But apparently, Web developers would rather lean on a crutch like Flash than move forward with new, more compatible technology.

Why does this continue to be an issue?

Just say no to Flash.

14 thoughts on “Just Say NO to Flash

  1. I don’t agree.
    The problem is all Apple’s for not supporting Flash and for limiting their SDK so Adobe and others can’t fully utilize the power of the iPhone (iOS). A better comparison to Flash is using the combination of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. That combination works on all mobile platforms. It’s interesting to note that, up until the iOS failed to be capable of supporting Flash, Flash was the only product that could run on any platform. It ran better on some than others but ran on all browsers. That’s why it is so ubiquitous. The limitation may eventually harm Apple more than Adobe. Running slow is never a permanent flaw. Eventually, processors run faster and use less power and then the universal approach may be better than the Apple restricted (mother knows best) approach. There are currently at least five mobile operating systems with more on the way. It’s always hard for a developer to hit all these platforms with one single application. Using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript is one way. On desktops, Flash does more, better. It will likely do the same, eventually on the mobile platforms.

    • Don: You’re missing my point.

      My point has nothing to do with Apple’s questionable decision to support Flash or Adobe’s apparent failure to provide a more efficient platform for mobile devices. My point is that Web designers are RELYING on Flash to deliver important content. Flash is unsupported by MILLIONS of devices out in the wild. So these Web designers are building sites that FAIL TO DELIVER CONTENT to millions of people.

      And content delivery — isn’t that what the Web is for?

      While I don’t personally like Flash, I don’t see why so many designers rely on it for content delivery. Sure, spice up a site with some animations if you feel you must. But don’t force users to use a specific device or install specific software to see VITAL CONTENT.

      THAT’S my point.

    • Isn’t it interesting how one is more inclined to write something in disagreement than agreement? I’ve just read several of your articles (Jehovah’s witnesses, death of Bin Laden, others) and nearly commented but then didn’t since, well, I agreed!

      This, on the other hand, is a little backward I feel….

      Neither side of this debate is ‘correct’, they’re just different. Your suggestion that developers should not use Flash is equivalent to a suggestion that people should avoid using closed, limited, proprietary devices which fail to support a massively-widely-used delivery mechanism.

      I choose devices based on what I want to do with them. I don’t choose devices which don’t do what I want to do, that being to visit web sites (amongst other things). The hardward device is the last item in the chain of delivery, so why should the fashion of shiny, but limited-function, Apple devices dictate a significant element of web delivery?

      I could argue this the other way, of course; that’s rather the point…. I do, however, object somewhat to the current hegemony of irritatingly non-functional devices and the tendency for this dumbing down of end-user-device function to drive down the /provision/ of function, or constrain that delivery.


    • Mike: Frankly, I think that what an iPad does do far outweighs what it doesn’t do. I chose my device for what it does. In my opinion, developers who lean on the Flash crutch to create content are doing a disservice to their clients because that content simply won’t be seen by the millions of iOS users out there. If an entire site is built on Flash, that’s an entire site that millions of people won’t be able to see. Seems pretty stupid strategy to me.

      Their loss, not mine. I’ve never seen any Flash content so compelling that I needed to see it.

    • Hi Maria,
      I more think that closed devices ultimately limit the breadth of what can be made available, and I object to fashion – which is largely what iPads and iPhones are (overall, not by any means for everyone!) – winning out over flexibility of content delivery.

      I’m not a fan of Adobe’s restrictive practices either though;-)


    • Your referring to iOS devices as “closed devices” reminds me of one of my editors’ comments comparing his iPhone to his Android Phone. He says many of the Android apps are crap that are misrepresented in the Andoid App store. He compares that to Apple’s App Store and the apps available there. There are benefits to closed systems, too.

      As for fashion, the first thing I did when I got my iPhone was to put a Gelaskin over it. The custom skin, which is a “grunge” photo I made with oversaturated colors, completely hides the phone’s true identity. In fact, I even had one person catch a glimpse of the phone and say something like, “Oh, your phone is pretty old and beat up.” At the time, the phone was only 3 weeks old. I didn’t correct him.

      I don’t use Apple products because they’re fashionable. I use them because I like them and they work for me. People who buy anything to be fashionable — as opposed to practical or self-serving (like my little Honda sports car, which is definitely not practical but is a hell of a lot of fun to drive) — are idiots.

    • Hi Maria, I was careful to recognise that there are lots of people who /don’t/ buy Apple for fashion reasons but because it’s the least-bad of these devices so far, and I was implying that that would include you ;-)

      I have a colleague with an iPhone skin which looks like a C90 cassette – brilliant :-)


  2. Presume, for a moment, that I speak fluently “everything web”, i.e. that I know how to use flash, SEO, adwords, etc. etc. etc. —-

    The web site I am attempting to render functional and populate with content is archaic by any standards. Since I know next to nothing about how to create a web site, I could claim that I make a virtue of my ignorance in these matters. Yet, under the above presumption of being fluent, my decision would still be to make it as plain vanilla as possible.

    The reason for that is that I am not selling anything, nor do I seek to persuade. My singular aim is to present content that reflects my past 20+ year-long effort to discover the reasons for the manifest inability of humanity to manage its affairs within and among its societies. In that I was successful which may be of interest to the various Sociological disciplines, although it is written for a general readership.

    The subject matter is essentially scholarly in nature and all the whistles and bells that adorn most web sites can only serve to distract from the site that basically seeks to represent a navigable draft manuscript for a book.

    Granted, attached to this page-oriented site there will a blog which I will employ to discuss topical contemporary issues as they can be viewed from the perspective of the disciplined method of inquiry and its presentation, but the same spartan appearance will characterize that blog.

    My basic philosophy about websites is that the content should encourage the reader to return to that site or forget about it entirely. What this also implies is that I don’t care about visitor stats of any kind. I will just deal with whatever may develop (or not) by presenting this work and to let the chips fall where they may.

    If my content has value, that value will emerge. To “push” it is neither my nature nor do I feel a sincere reader would respond favorably to an attempt to do so.

    Naturally, I do not wish to see all website content to be so spartan. But neither do I like sites that are designed to persuade or even to entrap – which is what many sites seem to aim for.

    You may therefore understand that I see your site as representing the best use of the available technology (which you obviously master) in that you not only offer interesting content but that you present that content in a highly professional manner, using color, images, layout, content and format that invites readers to come back.

    Basically, as I see it, the web is TOO LOUD in multiple ways. And flash is the worst way to present content, far worse than the spartan text-approach that I have selected.

    Coming to think of it, I could have just offered the comment “I don’t like flash either”, and saved the reader of this comment one minute of reading time. Perhaps my next comment will be shorter …..

    • Eberhard: I cannot agree with this more. The Web is “loud” — a great way to put it. So many sites are filled with distracts designed to suck you in and keep you clicking. While I’d love visitors here to keep clicking links to read more, I’m not going to try to fool them with eye candy.

      Its odd that you should bring this up right now. I’m in the midst of trying to come up with a new design for this site. I do this every few years and it’s time — mostly to speed up page loading time. Trouble is, all the designs I’m reviewing are either too “spartan” (another great way to put it) or way too flashy. It’s a tough decision sometimes, but I know that in the end I’ll go with something simpler and cleaner. After all, in my mind, CONTENT is king.

  3. There is a major misconception regarding Flash on IOS devices. There is nothing Apple needs to do to “support” Flash. It is up to Adobe to write a version of Flash that runs on IOS, just as any other application is written to run on IOS. Adobe has to date not done this. There is NO version of Flash that Adobe wrote that Apple wonʻt let on IOS. Apple simply wonʻt make changes or customizations to the OS just to “support” Flash.

    It should be pointed out that to date Adobe has only provided so called lite versions of Flash that donʻt support a lot of the older Flash content. The full versions of Flash written for Android donʻt run worth beans. It is an archaic body of code not designed for mobile devices. When you run across sites written completely in Flash, you can bet that the client wanted a cheap website so they hired a Flash programmer, not a website designer.

  4. I like the design of this website, Maria, for the same reason as eberhard weber. It is tasteful, well organized, easy to navigate, soothing to the eyes, and it doesn’t have a bunch of background crapola trying to get access to my computer.

    • Barb: I subscribe to the simple is better philosophy in all my sites. I think content should be highlighted, not advertising or nonsense.

  5. Sorry, I concentrated on the first line of the post “sites that rely on”.
    I looked at the http://www.stingraysushi.com/ website on my netbook and my HTC Incredible (Droid). It looks and works the same on both. Of course, it’s a lousy site that does nothing and possibly a shining example of it. And it does make you wonder why they built it. It would have been much easier to make a standard site.
    I tend to like the simple website approach for most uses and I do click the “Skip” link, whenever offered, on sites that throw up a page opening Flash screen. However, a simple standard site would not be using html5 either. If the objection is too much horsepower (noise) wasted on the site then I would agree. If it is just that the iPhone doesn’t support Flash then I still have to disagree. Would a good developer use only flash, no. Would a good developer include , at least, the option of choosing whether to utilize either HTML or Flash only on the opening screen, yes. Should you blame the web developer, of course. The best way to get the message across across to that restaurant is to let them know of the problem and why you won’t be stopping by.
    I’m not ready to give up on Flash yet. It still offers a lot of power not easily provided in other ways. But just having the power does not mean it should be used, or over used. Let’s try to keep the noise down.
    I do like Flash and Air for Web applications. They allow for applications that run on almost all web based devices and also on the desktop with a common look and feel. That, you can’t do easily with HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript. Oops, I’m going off point again.

What do you think?