• Flash is our friend

    Mar 15 2006

    Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Flash. My girlfriend wants to set up a web site. She wants it to act like a lot of her favourite web sites: Flash sites. At first, I wanted to explain to her why this is such an awful idea.. but I couldn't. I couldn't because I realised a Flash web site can be perfectly accessible if done properly.

    Then, I saw the video player from YouTube and realised, it's perfect. It's perfect because users don't have to choose from Windows Media Player, Quicktime or Real. They just need Flash (and everybody has Flash). This made me rethink what Flash really offers. Here is a single plugin that opens up Video and Audio capabilities, even streaming and bi-directional. This alone is reason enough to welcome Flash with open arms.

    If we use Unobtrusive Flash Objects (UFO), or some other JavaScript-based Flash deployment method, nobody can complain. We can deliver alternative content for those without Flash, the disabled and search engine spiders.

    • Decorative Flash can simply be replaced with an image
    • Flash navigation can be replaced with a list of links
    • For a whole Flash web site, we can replace it with the text, links and images in the Flash movie. It's better to split up a Flash site into pages anyway, or the swf file will get much too big.
    • For sound and video, we can possibly use a transcript, or links to the raw mp3 or avi files. Though, sometimes, it's just not possible to replace video. We can only try our best.

    Flash can be a wonderful, powerful tool when used properly. It's important to treat flash the same way we do images. They can improve the experience for many of our visitors. For all others, including search engines and those with disabilities, we need to make an alternative available.

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