|Flash critic to coach Macromedia |
Flash 99% Bad? Maybe not after a little coaching from Jakob Nielsen
Macromedia has been listening [news.com.com] to critics and has now enlisted Jakob to help make Flash more usable and find ways to educate designers on how to use it sensibly.
Article from News.com
Maybe the next step could be to educate publishers about the annoyance of all the "rich media" ads that get in the way of surfing.
Good to hear the company is open to suggestions. :) Personally I think 1/2 of the flash sites on the net are poor, the others are nice :o In regards to the advertisements rich media style. im sometimes amused by them other times annoyed. From a normal web surfers point of view i think they would like them better than popups.
That's a very interesting article. The question now is, can "oil & water" mix? All in all though, it does show that Macromedia is ready to listen. Just how much remains to be seen.
If Macromedia is willing to listen, do you think that NNgroup (and useit.com) will also be willing to listen?
Every time I visit the useit site, the color palette and center-screen split causes me to cringe.
I've always thought that there has to be a happy medium between useability and aesthetically pleasing. :)
The NNGroup and Flash designers (often) are on two opposite extremes. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of it.
Flash is excellent for 4 things (please add to the list)
1. The obvious "WOW" factor (when used in moderation). A picture is worth a thousands words) and interaction for your content benefits and value awareness "priceless".
2. Usability and Navigation. Reduces scrolling and limits clicking when used "Menus" are transparent sliding Flash panels (increases screen real estate).
3. "What do I do next"? Movement draws attention to what's next. Never could quite figure out why so many use Flash as an intro (adding "skip" to the answer)
4. Promotion - "special offers", "the buy button", and demos,etc.
Did I miss anything?
I hate flash, information is what I want.
I really hate the 'splash page' even if it does have a 'skip intro' link and I really resent the 'please select flash or html site' type malarky.
Agreed! but... the moral!
I believe it was Brotherhood of LAN that said not too long ago, a poor designer blames his tools!
Well I don't use flash so I'm not blaming the tools, just the implementation of flash as used by many sites today.
I'm very positive about Flash. I'm seeing increasingly better flash in websites - fast loading, useful, and pretty in that order.
However, i think that the non Flash specialist has has had his/her day. To make Flash work, I feel you need to have someone who does flash 8 hours a day - in house or outsourced - i dont think in future that HTML coders or even generalist design people who use flash as a secondary part of their job can do Flash web applications justice.
Sounds like a nice relationship between Macromedia and Neilsen. If they get on, in retrospect it may be seen as a turning point.
The problem is they will not be able to alter flash so that search engines can read it.
I agree with Nick_W - there's not a problem with Flash, there's a problem with how it's implemented. It can really be useful for educational purposes to illustrate systems, processes, connectivity, transitions, emphasize components etc but is mostly used for attention-shouting advertising. Even for advertising, I have to admit I like a flash ad with a sense of humor.
>>>>However, i think that the non Flash specialist has has had his/her day. To make Flash work, I feel you need to have someone who does flash 8 hours a day - in house or outsourced - i dont think in future that HTML coders or even generalist design people who use flash as a secondary part of their job can do Flash web applications justice.<<<<
Yeah, I can see Flash Folk going down that line. Just like there are 2D hand drawn artists and 3D animators the same will happen on the Net with animation specialists on Flash and bitmapping Photoshop pros. I could see the imagery becoming much better as this goes on, though hopefully there will be a coder or two in the fray to keep practicality in the equation.
What Nielsen has done for some large companies is incredible. I see his philosophy all over Google as well. Smart move for Macromedia.
>>A picture is worth a thousands words
Not picking on you Fathom, butI'd like to take issue with that. ;) Especially in regard to usability. If pictures were truly worth a thousand words, the alphabet wouldn't have developed. There would have been no need for it. Quite simply, pictures create ambiguities.
John Man touched on this in book, Alpha Beta, remarking, A hard-hat symbol means wear hard-hats, and if you don't have one, get one. A wheelchair symbol does not mean sit in a wheelchair, and if you don't have one, get one.
He also wondered if the image of a figure in a skirt said, Female Toilet" as clearly to a kilt-wearing Scotsman as it did to trouser-wearing Sassenachs.
The brain stores about 2000 images and that is a stretch, while allowing for 50,000 words that can be stored with ease.
To illustrate, try to create a picture that says, Hit The Enter Key. Easy to do with 4 words, quite a bit tougher to do with a picture and retain the exact meaning.
As the pictures move across cultural barriers, meanings are obscured. At best, pictures compliment words and it usually takes a series of pictures to accurately convey the meaning of a few words.
The original context in which, "a picture is worth a thousand words" was used has nearly been lost. The phrase was used to describe the inadequacies of language to describe a beautiful picture or scene. Awe-inspiring simply doesn't do the Sistine Chapel ceiling justice. :)
|Especially in regard to usability. If pictures were truly worth a thousand words, the alphabet wouldn't have developed. There would have been no need for it. Quite simply, pictures create ambiguities. |
Agreed, but my comments didn't say "don't" use text only pictures and the other reason for this is bots love text.
|John Man touched on this in book, Alpha Beta, remarking, A hard-hat symbol means wear hard-hats, and if you don't have one, get one. A wheelchair symbol does not mean sit in a wheelchair, and if you don't have one, get one. |
He also wondered if the image of a figure in a skirt said, Female Toilet" as clearly to a kilt-wearing Scotsman as it did to trouser-wearing Sassenachs.
An isolated graphical icon isn't really what I had in mind, although my arugment opened this door. But in the real world - if you saw a symbol on a door with a stick figure man and needed to go to the washroom would you go through this door or keep looking for the door that read "mens washroom", mens restroom, or "pee here" since washroom and restroom may not mean the same in different cultures.
|The brain stores about 2000 images and that is a stretch, while allowing for 50,000 words that can be stored with ease. |
So if a web page contained 20 images/graphical icons and background graphics would help significantly than just 500 words on the page.
|To illustrate, try to create a picture that says, Hit The Enter Key. Easy to do with 4 words, quite a bit tougher to do with a picture and retain the exact meaning. |
Out of context ... how about a picture of the keyboard "enter" button. I'll assume that most people online will identify with that.
Secondly, if in doubt and your market is all newbies how about a picture of "hit enter key".
|As the pictures move across cultural barriers, meanings are obscured. At best, pictures compliment words and it usually takes a series of pictures to accurately convey the meaning of a few words. |
|The original context in which, "a picture is worth a thousand words" was used has nearly been lost. The phrase was used to describe the inadequacies of language to describe a beautiful picture or scene. Awe-inspiring simply doesn't do the Sistine Chapel ceiling justice. |
Take a look at your web site through the eyes of "language barriers". Find a foreign web site "all text" and make perfect clarity out of it. Language tools may help you but their not perfect either.
A picture on a site - black border, yellow background with a stick figure holding a shovel (all in black) means what.
This site is selling shovels, right.
When imagery is used in the context of expanding text based meaning it "adds a thousand" words of understandment.
Unless "research" is the purpose, pure text is really redundant, unless your a "bot".
|Not picking on you Fathom |
LOve constructive criticism, help expand the mind.
I thought old Jakob hated flash? Anyway if it makes Flashes software interface any smoother and less daunting I will be happier.
Regarding flash as a whole I often come accross poor flash examples that are not very usable, however this does not mean that flash ain't good for a site regarding usability issues.
The poor flash examples are probably designed/created by people who build poor sites regardless of flash.
I think flash will eventualy get to the level that will benefit the visitor, the webmaster and also the web in general.
|brotherhood of LAN|
Flash LOOKS great. I agree there is overkill with flash on the web, and that it has issues with getting spidered properly in a competitive marketplace!
I'm not exactly experienced to wdesign myself, but someone has been wanting a site and they disagree with my minimalist fast loading approach :) He comes from the visitors' point of view, and inevitably I can understand why him as a visitor would rather look and something jazzy and nice (almost like the info you get from a TV) as opposed to a splurge of text :) I say a splurge of text, but HTML and non-flash can do some pretty funky things.
IMO, I'm guessing flash will have its time, unless something "better" comes along, but not until we are all online with cable :)
In regards to Jakob Nielsen, I honestly don't know much about the guy, and if he will have a positive/negative impact! :)
>>When imagery is used in the context of expanding text based meaning it "adds a thousand" words of understandment.
I agree, the problem is that Flash doesn't lend itself to manipulation. A Flash movie has to be watched and if the information is important, possibly watched more than once. I can't "read" a Flash presentation at my own leisure.
Flash can't be translated. When I run across a language I don't read I use translation software. .swf files won't play with my translator.
Since this thread is about Nielsen, it is about usability. I'm really interested in seeing his approach to making Flash something more than eye-candy. I haven't seen a Flash implementation yet that was anything more than an attempt at aesthetic improvement.
I realize you weren't speaking of icons when you were talking about graphic use and that I an out of context example. From a usability standpoint though I can't see Flash implementation being more "usable" than simple text.
The problem with pictures parallels another problem that linguists have been working on for some time which is the creation of a universal language. Several Ph.Ds have already said that it couldn't be done, but that a world language translator is quite possible.
As for Nielsen, he doesn't seem to like graphics at all so it is suprising to see him tackle Flash. :)
If Flash is to be used in a very minimal implementation then it probably doesn't need to be used at all. I reside firmly in the less is more camp so Flash sites don't appeal to me. I use the web and the Net for information gathering. Most of the Flash sites I've seen appear to be "content free."
Some people swear by audio "books." Others love to watch documentaries, I prefer text, by the bookful, and I don't want my text scrolling, blinking or dancing along with background music. If I want to buy a coffee mug, sure I want to see a picture, but I don't need a 3D flash presentation of a mug to sell me.
Currently I am working on a number of sites that are informative text and picture pair rich with use of Shockwave demos.
Each site caters to a different market that all want the same products but searching query patterns are more based on their need rather than what the clients has "termed" the products.
All of these sites direct visitors to a (what I hope to achieve) an Amazon generic e-commerce site where "branding" will create interest to buy again.
A 100 x 15 button is the extent of flash used with the hope that visitors eyes will be drawn to the animation and "what to do next".
NOTE: Brit's like "add to basket" for some reason - so we didn't forget their browser version either.
"A Flash movie has to be watched and if the information is important, possibly watched more than once. I can't "read" a Flash presentation at my own leisure."
I hate to be blunt but, this is simply not true. A flash movie is not necessarily a point "A" to point "B" experience. I am sure you folks are familiar with the work of 2advanced. This is a great example of how usability, interactivity and beauty can coexist.
<example>From something as simple as a mouse over sound on a link button must be a great thing for those with diminished sight.</example>
I can not stand useit, and with help, I have finally figured out why;
There is no visual hierarchy. Being that I work well with and perhaps need visual stimuli, neilsens useability site falls short for me. I also hate scrolling. He forces me to do this. Flash can help overcome that pitfall.
Bottom line is that a flash interface can exceed the usability of html when in the hands of a good flash developer. It's not a faulty tool it is just being used by substandard craftsman.
Blunt is fine. I prefer it. I went to 2advanced and wasn't impressed with the usability factor. I saw lots of eye candy, the site is indeed pleasing to the eye. For me though, the sounds were distracting, the light flashes traveling up the side of the building while I was trying to read the text was annoying and the purpose of the Flash still seemed to be to present Flash animation. Eye-candy.
For me, if a movie doesn't get from point A to point B, it is pointless. :)
I can't see a sound on mouseover helping a site-diminished person much. In fact, from my study, I've noticed that PCs and Macs designed for site-diminished and blind people often use text-to-speech software and Flash sites fail miserably when all the text and links are presented from within Flash files.
Then I tried to translate the page to Spanish...
Then I did what all SEOs do, I searched for them using their wishlist of meta keywords... If a site can't be found, it can't be useful.
The site was pretty though...
your criticism of 2advanced are misplaced. It is NOT an information site!
It is a multimedia comapny specialising in high profile web sites. As a result thier site delivers exactly what it should - an eye catching presentation that will attract big budget clients.
Content should be tailored for your target audience and in this case the audience is not going to be a spannish blind person more like an english speaking marketing guy who likes eye candy. Besides, the language is not in the text but in its visual appeal - a language understood by everyone.
The site achieves its goal and then some. If I wanted a cool site I would use the these guys long before I used and SEO guru.
Whats the point in having a site that eveyone can find if it looks like useit.com. It might be great for search engines and text geeks but useless as a marketing tool.
[edited by: knighty at 9:31 am (utc) on June 6, 2002]
>>and in this case the audience is not going to be a spannish blind person
I used 2Advanced as an example in a thread about Flash and usability because it was offered up as a good example of Flash usage. Some of the problems I mentioned are indeed problems with Flash, and not just the site mentioned as an example.
Getting back to the subject... I think the really interesting thing is what Jakob has been brought on board to do.
Nielsen says he'll "research the usability of Internet-based applications built on Flash and then publish the guidelines for good Flash user interfaces".
Now anyone who has written software will be familiar with the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines, Windows Interface Guidelines, OSF/Motif style guide etc.
IMHO it looks like Nielsen has been employed to develop the Flash HI Guidelines standard. MM appear determined to junk the animation/eye candy stuff and and become a serious application development platform.
So will Flash mutate into some kind of parasite web OS like Java was originally seen to be?