I don’t want my blog to become one long vicious negative rant, so in general I try not to write pieces about things that irk me. However, once in a while I encounter something about which I feel passionately hacked off, for which I can offer some constructive alternatives, and that I want to warn my friends about. Plus, it is *my* blog, and if I can’t stand on my soapbox here, where else can I? So here it is:
Businesspeople: PLEASE stop building web sites based solely on Adobe Flash technology. Use it for streaming video and audio, by all means. Offer it as an extended “experience” on your site. But for the love of God, PLEASE learn to understand the basic functionality of web tools before you blindly blunder forward with technology marketing.
What set me off on this topic? This website:
http://www.eatchacha.com/, courtesty of ChaCha Restaurants (“positive eating”).
Go ahead, have a look. If you’re reading this using IE or FireFox, and you allow popup windows, you’ve probably just had your screen hijacked by a huge new window displaying the (admittedly snazzy) interactive Restaurant ChaCha web site EXPERIENCE, complete with animated navigation and your choice of calmly chiming sounds. Congratulations! You’re obviously part of the restaurant’s main target audience.
UPDATE 12/2010: ChaCha has since updated their site to a much web-standard-friendlier non-Flash version. Unfortunately they still don’t have a web programmer who understands how tiling of background images works, but they’re on the right track 😀 Meanwhile, have another examples — go on, there are millions of them out there : http://www.badlanguage.net/why-are-restaurant-websites-so-awful
Now imagine you are using an iPhone or one of many other mobile devices that DO NOT SUPPORT FLASH. (Many “mobile” types of browsers do not support Flash at all – you have no ability to install it. Period.) You are now on the restaurant’s home page, and completely incapable of viewing ANY of their site content. Fine, maybe all you really needed was an address and phone number for the restaurant where you plan to meet your friends – you’re not interested in the online virtual restaurant EXPERIENCE, but are interested in experiencing the REALITY of physically enjoying a meal in their restaurant. Well good luck, you’re not going to find it using the ChaCha website; there is no further information about the restaurant in any readable form such as basic text. Call your friends or ask someone on the street how to get there.
Next scenario: you are a person with disabilities who uses special browsers or browser enhancements to experience the web (for example, a voice reader to read content to a blind user). This site provides no content you can use in a useful manner. There is no alternative to the Flash web site.
Of course maybe I’m misinterpreting ChaCha’s business model. Perhaps they don’t want mobile device users or people with disabilities as customers. In which case, bravo on a well-thought-out marketing strategy. But if that is not the case, could I suggest the following?
It is *never* a good strategy to build an entire web site only on one proprietary platform (Flash especially has problems as a web platform other than the ones I’m ranting about). A simple solution is to make certain that the most basic and important information on your business’ site is always available to the most common web technologies (and there’s lots of free advice on this). Use as many technological bells and whistles as you can afford, by all means. But please make sure you understand the limitations of any technology you decide to use, and *always* provide alternative content for those unable to take advantage of the technology you’ve implemented.
Otherwise you risk alienating or excluding potential customers. And provoking snarky bloggers 😉