Thursday, February 03, 2005

Flash Websites: Tool of Satan

The last couple days of work for me have involved xcrounging information off of company websites. During this project, I've been exposed to something I thought I'd left long behind me: Flash websites. You know them, and if you're like me, you hate them.

A properly-used Flash website could be done, I suppose, but I haven't seen it yet. I am, obviously, excluding webistes which exist solely to create and market Flash cartoons. Since most of the people making those know the software backwards and forwards, they have an advantage. But most corporate websites that use Flash suck.

The problem is, the way they're using Flash is incompatible with the purpose of a corporate website. 90% of corporate websites use Flash like Michael Bay movies use explosions: to make something that looks "cool." But the purpose of a corporate website is not to look "cool;" the purpose of a corporate website is to provide fast and easy access to information about the company. Many of these Flash websites inhibit this, either through time-wasting animations, poorly- designed cover-and-click setups, or just plain pretentiousness.

The most egregious offender (guilty of all three) is, without a doubt, I can't find a damn thing on this website from the front page. Instead of actually telling me what's behind the link I'm clicking on, they allude to it with ad-industry buzzwords that manage to take up plenty of space without actually saying anything. The site map works well enough, half the time, but I shouldn't have to resort to the site map half a minute after entering the site.

And all that's not to even mention the incompatibility of flash with ordinary web-surfing tactics. No copy and paste (because, of course, there's not actually any text, just a picture of text). Limited use of the back button (because it's all one page, you're just skipping around different parts of the movie). Distracting sound and visual effects. Prohibitive load times. God, are the load times prohibitive.

And I understand most graphic designers are disillusioned artists, chained to the corporate teat, their creativity yearning to break free. But dammit, there's such a thing as form following function. It's possible to do both. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel looks pretty has all heck, and it also keeps the rain out.

So stop making pretentious, avant-garde websites with Flash, Corporate America. We don't want them.

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