Why developers suck more than Flash

Flash has always been an easy target. It doesn’t matter if you are still quoting Jacob Nielsen’s 10 year old shellacking on Alertbox, or if you just can’t get past the still (unfortunately) present skip intro button, Flash is the favorite whipping boy of the intarwebs. The reality of it is that Flash is a very viable solution for many projects whether they are web related or computer-based, and you really should stop blaming it for your short comings as a developer.

There I said it.

Everything on the web has a failure point. You can’t play Flash or Silverlight without the plugin. You can’t view any super slick jQuery goodness without JavaScript enabled, and even the totally old skool animated gif file fails to show off its dithered beauty if you have images turned off. So what. Get over it. Do your job, and plan for your site to degrade gracefully, and in the case of Flash, that means providing alternate content for those who have Flash blocked, don’t have the plugin, or for some Paleolithic reason have JavaScript disabled. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, there are great tools out there for creating a solid experience for the people who visit your site.

Banners. Everyone has seen Flash banners, and I think most would argue that alternate content isn’t needed since you don’t want to see them anyway, but listen for a sec okay? We’re talking about developers doing things the right way, not whether or not the people having bucket loads of banners chucked at them want to see them. If you’re using .NET, you can use the adRotator control with one tag, and a simple XML file to rotate between images of the banners. This is a simple solution, and it shows the banners according to how they are weighted in the XML file every time the page is loaded/refreshed. Naturally there are others too, A List Apart has this article for a PHP image rotator.

I recognize that it becomes a lot more difficult when you are talking about full sites developed in Flash, but that really doesn’t matter. Not doing the job right because it’s too much work isn’t a good excuse. Now, I fully recognize that freelancers charge for this time, and clients can be cheap, but I bet they’re going to be pissed when they find out how many people can’t view their kickin’ new flash site. If you only take into the consideration the more than 60 million iPhones, iPods and iPads out there, that’s a huge chunk of people who will get Jack and his buddy Squat when they come to your site.

SwfObject makes it simple to include alternate content, so there’s another reason why you shouldn’t bail on the details. I know, it’s JavaScript, but the thing here is that it degrades to your alternate content so you’re safe using it. I’m not really going to get into how to develop your secondary content, that’s your bag. There’s another benefit too, your information will get indexed more thoroughly if it is in the page when the spiders hit it. Sure Google can index Flash, hell Yahoo can and Bing probably can too, but if you have information in the page, it’s going to grab that first, and it will give it preference. Developing alternate content for your Flash work will also help your search engine ranking, which is important right? I mean you built the site so people would find it and see what’s there, right?

It really just comes down to doing the job right, and not blaming the tools used (or the tools who created the site) used to create the site. Flash isn’t perfect, but it really isn’t the root of all evil either. HTML 5 isn’t ringing the death toll for Flash either, so quit squawking about that too.

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