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Avoiding Flash in web development

Flash is great. Until it’s not. In the cases where it’s not great, it’s really awful. Here, ironically, the Photoshop site on Adobe.com, is completely useless because the plugin is broken. This week alone I have heard or experienced the following complaints about Flash.

Overheard:

“Pandora is killing my machine, its pegged at 100% CPU/RAM usage. Turn it off, and everything works.”

“I hate it when videos are in Flash – I can’t see them on my iPad.”

To be fair, Apple could just allow Flash on iOS, but if my i7 Quad Core with 12 GB of RAM is getting hammered from Flash on sites, I am pretty sure the iPad is toast.

Experienced:

I tried using the Adobe CS Live review tool that is baked into Photoshop (and I suspect other CS products). The experience was rubbish (not sure I am using that in the proper English manner – I mean that it was awful, rotten, slow and I never plan on using it again). The whole thing is (or seems) Flash based.

On the other side of the coin are sites like Mint.com and Google Analytics that are using Flash to improve the experience. Graphs and charts animate to life, unless you have the brilliant plan of I should check on these things with my iPad, then the experience is weird as big chunks are missing. As I have looked into it, it seems to me that these sites would be better served providing the content and the animations through HTML5, CSS3 and javascript. Without knowing the cost, both in terms of time and money, to switch over, perhaps there are arguments to sticking with Flash. When it works, and you have the hardware that supports it, the experience is solid.

Somewhere in the middle (as in not great, but not awful) are Flash/Flex apps. TweetDeck and Balsamiq Mockups live in this category. Some are pretty great and do their job splendidly. Others, I am looking at you Mockups, leave a lot to be desired. There is an inherently odd feel to how both react, or maybe more accurately, do not react. Neither feels 100% “native” to the desktop, and at times feel more like specialized views of web sites than actual programs.

Finally, it seems that even if you are able to make the experience perfect (or nearly perfect) and know that the users you have will have Flash and you do not care if the content is indexed by search engines, that the accessibility issues inherent in Flash would make it a no brainer to skip.

Are you avoiding Flash in your development? Have you found alternatives that work?

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