How Flash Ruined my Life

Ok, Flash hasn't ruined my life, but it's decidedly made it less comfortable.  Altogether too many web sites have thes complex, Macromedia Flash introductory pages that do nothing except look cool.  Or, at least, try to look cool.  Sometimes I wonder what these webmasters were thinking when they made these flash introductions.

Now, I'm not going to pick on other people without giving myself a fair amount of abuse as well.  One of my old web design clients was Loehmanns, a discount clothing retailer.  Their website had a god-awful flash introduction; I would have loved to get rid of it, but, well, the customer wanted it and they were paying the bills.

Now that I've confessed my dark secret, I'll get to my gripe: what do these Flash intros do?  I mean, how do they significantly contribute to the message you're trying to communicate to your audience?  I mean, it might be neat to see the greek letters flying around the screen or watching the cardinal principles morphing from one to the other (or watching handbags filling with clothing, to keep my own handiwork in this), but people get sick of these things quickly.  Do these intros contribute to your message?  Or do they merely say to your audience, "Hey, look at me!  I can do Flash!"

Now, the one thing about the Loehmann's flash intro is that it does help drive home their message; it shows two identical shopping trips, one with competitors' prices, the other with Loehmann's prices.  But on a fraternity website, what do flying letters say?  Do they help identify us to people?  Do they help people determine what we're about?  Do they communicate anything useful about the fraternity?

The same could be said for anything on a website: does this graphic help me communicate to my audience, or does it merely provide eye (or ear) candy for the viewer.  If it's nothing but fluff, how intrusive is it?  How large a file is it?  How much screen real estate does it take up.  What does the user have to do to disable it?

As an example, check out the top-level page of this website.  Sure, it's not much to look at.  No fancy graphics (unless you count the trophy), no animations, no soundtrack.  Would any of these help communicate to my customers?  Well, the trophy does: it helps Marilyn drive home the idea that the Region won an award.  Things that don't add to communication are left out.  Sure, I could show off what a whiz I am with Macromedia Director.  But I'm a web designer, not a movie driector.  My job is to put together a web site that communicates, not entertains.  If I try to entertain people, I'm just wasting their time.  They're coming to my website to be informed, not entertained.

Such is the role of APO websites: their job is to inform, not to entertain.  Anything that doesn't further that goal doesn't belong there.

Fraternally Yours,
Packy, R1 Webmaster