Web Agency Sites Get A Big F

Sometime in the last couple weeks I started noticing that my browser would hang while loading some Flash content, and since I’ve been too busy to diagnose the error1 or even just to reinstall the Flash player I’ve been surfing with Flash disabled via the built in Flash block feature in Camino.

A funny thing happened between noticing sites loading faster and lots of ads missing — prompted by the sight of the Razorfish redesign I noticed how many web development agencies had sites that were just big empty flash movies and thus all looked the same. Nothing but a big empty browser window, with a big “F” or play button, and sometimes a background color other then black.

they all get an 'F'

Clockwise from top left: Razorfish, R/GA, Schematic, WDDG, Organic, The Chopping Block, EVB, Big Spaceship — all looking nearly identical.

Camino’s Flash blocking option, similar to the flashblock extension for Firefox isn’t exactly disabling Flash or uninstalling it, instead the loading of the file is delayed until you explicitly hover over the content and click the play button. A behavior very similar to the old post lawsuit ‘click to play’ MSIE behavior. Sites built with a mix of Flash content and standard HTML like YouTube [below] degrade quite well under these conditions. Sites using a heavier mix of Flash like the Adobe or Hasselblad sites may look a bit sparse, but still completely useable without stating the flash movies.

youtube with flash blocked

However, there seems to be a contingent of studios that are still thinking that 100% by 100% Flash movies are the best way to represent themselves on their site and show off their skills. A lot of strides have been made the last few years in flash searchability, SEO and indexing, accessibility, history2 and browser integration — but when it hits the street its still plugin based content and as a result there may either be hurdles for clients to jump in order to see the content, and even if the hurdles are small [like hitting a play button before seeing the full content] the immediate impression of having to do so, or seeing nothing but an empty browser window may not be the best foot to put forward.

Now don’t get me wrong, these agencies do fine work — I work at or have worked at many of them. And I’m not a zealot that normally rallies against Flash — i think it has its uses though my own feet are firmly planted on one side of the aisle. I’m just wondering out loud if its not time to rethink the approach and reliance on one tool over the other or mix of them by some of these firms.

[OK, and I’m having a little chuckle at Flash’s expense, too]

1 looks to be a hang on a cross site security check

2 no comments from coworkers in the peanut gallery!

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