The problem with Flash and Ster Kinekor’s new web site

South African movie site Ster Kinekor just relaunched their web site to much fanfare. Much of the discussion I’ve seen on Twitter about the new site is about their decision to remain completely reliant on Flash. I agree with all the technology arguments against Flash, but I want to take a slightly different approach here and talk about Flash as an enabler of bad user experience.

You see, Flash is like the guy who keeps giving your alcoholic uncle a drink while the rest of the family is trying so hard to help him get sober. Every time he gets close to quitting he gets “one more drink” from somewhere and falls back into bad habits. And this is what Flash is to user experience.

Every time you might get close to following standard UI conventions or have a simple flow, Flash comes in to whisper sweet animatic nothings in your ear… “Just one more flyout,” it says. “Just one more hover state – come on, everybody’s doing it.” Designing a boring old button? “No man,” says Flash, “we can make this thing move and light up with Flash, wouldn’t that be cool?”

And before you know it, you have this:

In my view, most of the user experience issues with the old Ster Kinekor site have not been addressed in the redesign. For example:

  • There is no visual hierarchy on the site. Everything is important, so nothing is important. I just don’t know where I’m supposed to click.
  • Animations are intrusive and adds to the confusion.
  • Standard UI conventions are ignored. Buttons don’t look like buttons, links don’t look like links (links are grey on the site…).
  • Forms are non-standard and not easy to fill out. For example, the checkout flow uses skeuomorphic design to make the credit card look like a real card, but it’s just confusing. And you can’t copy and paste your card number from a different document.

There are more issues, but that’s not really what this post is about. This post is a call to cutt off Flash as a primary development technology on a web site, not just because it’s slow, difficult for SEO, doesn’t work on iOS, and all the other technical arguments against it.

We need to cut off Flash mostly because it makes it way too easy to design bad user experiences. The web is undeniably moving beyond Web 2.0 (whatever that was) and into an era where simple designs that put content first provide the best user experience. And Flash simply doesn’t fit that mold.