Joeflash’s Enigmacopaedia


Some Sites Should Never be Done In Flash

Posted in Flash, Usability, Flex, Adobe, Flashturbation, Conferences by Joeflash on the November 7th, 2008

…Unless they do a decent job at duplicating HTML-like functionality. You see, I have a bone to pick with companies and developers that try to shoehorn a solution into an inappropriate technology. The Adobe MAX 2008 Experience website is a most succinct case in point.

When I go to a conference, I like to assemble all the information available to me in an Excel spreadsheet I can just print out and carry around with me, so I don’t have to look up where everything is when I get there. A bit anal, perhaps, but there it is. This year when I go to Adobe MAX (which is my very first MAX, BTW) I thought I would not have to do that at all because the Session Locater will spit out a customized PDF with all my choices and reserved workshops. Fantastic!!

Only thing is, it won’t list my second and third choices in case I feel like wandering, so I create my spreadsheet anyways. Problem is, the PDF the session locater outputs has the text locked down. Whaa? I try and copy-paste, and all I get is gibberish. Now I understand PDF security preventing copy-pasting on legal documents and such, but on a personalized conference schedule? You know, cause I’m such a Man of Mystery jetsetting from one top secret conference to another, I need that kind of security. Whether by accident or design, this is strike one. So I type the sessions into my spreadsheet by hand, wondering why I’m even bothering. (Update: figured out I can copy-paste the text from the session locator, so I’m happy on that score. : )

But my beef is not with the Session Locater app as a whole, despite this dreadful oversight. That is clearly an excellent use of Flash, a great example of a Rich Internet Application. I go in, do what I need to do, download my PDF and I’m good.

So I’m trying to find out more information on the ‘after events’ for Adobe MAX N.Am. 2008 — you know, the parties and shmoozefests where the action really is ;) Specifically, more information on what’s featured in the “birds-of-a-feather/meet the team” sessions on Tuesday night, so I can include it in my spreadsheet.

I don’t find anything in the Session Locater. Nothing on the customized registration page. Nothing in the MAX Conference Brochure PDF.

Where do I find it? It’s under Highlights on the main “Experience” website. Okay, so far so good: the site has deeplinking so I can bookmark where this info is so I can find it later on.

Okay, so I think, it’s text, right? I can just select and copy. Uh, no. The text here is locked down as well, no can do copy. Here is a Flash site full of text, and right-click > copy is disabled! WTF?! Is this another state secret? So I try to output the site to Flashpaper, to PDF, anything that will gimme da text, fool! No luck, all I get is truncated sentence fragments and goobledygood.

Okay, so the whole point of my spreadsheet is to have the information in a customized, portable format I can carry around with me so I don’t have to dig through the conference literature or open my laptop and surf to the conference website (and pray, pray really hard for a good internet connection). But I’m sure as hell not going to print out screenshots of the damn thing or I’ll burn through a whole printer cartridge.

So I gotta ask the question: who in their right mind builds a Flash website with mostly text, with no print functionality, no textfield copying allowed, all in Black so no one would even dare print out a screenshot? Someone who was in a rush to get it out the door and didn’t think of the user experience, that’s who. That’s madness!

So you know what I did? Not to be daunted, I did take screenshots. Four of ‘em, which told me what I needed to know. I screencap’ed them, cropped them, and inverted the colours so they’d be in white instead of black so I can print them out. Here they are:

Adobe MAX NA 2008 Highlighhts ScreenhackAdobe MAX NA 2008 Highlighhts Screenhack
Adobe MAX NA 2008 Highlighhts ScreenhackAdobe MAX NA 2008 Highlighhts Screenhack

But really, should I have had to go to all that trouble just to make the data portable? The user experience of that website is so old skool it makes my teeth hurt, and is every argument that people use against using Flash. The animations and the game is cool, but I could care less about the eye candy when I’m looking for information. Flashturbation or what guys…

Some sites should never be in Flash. Such as text heavy, hyperlinked websites. Like brochure sites. Like blogs. Like research papers. Sites that the user will want to print out a lot of information. Not unless you’re willing to add the user experience features to make up for this handicap, and even then. To this day I refuse to bookmark or refer to any links from Flash-built blogs, on principle, because they’re such a pain in the ass to use.

Flash just got a whack of new text features; it has deeplinking; it has SEO; it has print functionality; it has enhanced clipboard copy; it has dynamic PDF conversion; it can iron your shirts and predict the weather. So use these features. Or make the site in HTML. But don’t botch the job and make us all look bad. Sorry, from the industry leader of this technology, I gotta call it like I sees it.

Adobe, you did a fantastic job of the MAX conference, I am deeply impressed by the organization of that event on so many levels. But after spending a months’ salary just to go to a conference, well… I expected a better experience. (web experience that is — I’m sure the conference itself will be blast!!)

For all I know this information will all be in the conference booklet I get when I get there. That’d show me and my big mouth, huh? :)