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Dynamic forms using Flash: Why did this not take off?

10:15 am on Dec 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi there,

I apologise if this has already been discussed.

A good few years back the Broadmoor hotel booking app was used as an example of what Adobe could do with their flash forms etc. From a user perspective I though the app was excellent. So often you start booking a ticket or hotel only to find that the price has gone up by the time you are ready submit card details.

My question is why did this type of form not gradually replace the traditional checkout system? Why did sites like Amazon not flock to this more intuitive form?

My thoughts on this are maybe there was too much risk in relying on a Flash based form (players plugin issues etc) but maybe it's also because people don't like change.

Any thoughts?

2:45 am on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Well, this is just me - and the two-dozen or so people in my department - but we don't have flash (security rules prohibit us from downloading or installing anything from the internet). I've had to back out of sites that required flash for basic website use. Blank boxes, etc., because of lacking flash don't bother me, but not being able to use the site at all does.

That experience makes me wonder about accessibility. Would an ecommerce site have to have two different check-out systems - one flash-based and one not - in order to be accessible? In that case, I'd think most would opt for just the non-flash-based one. I'm wondering if possibly accessibility wasn't as much of a consideration "a good few years back" as it is now.

2:55 am on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm sure both of those considerations are a factor.

Also, that interface is completely inaccessible. There's no way to interact with it without a mouse, the text size is fixed, and there's nothing in the source code except for javascript, so there's nothing for a screen reader to grab onto.

It seems like a more intuitive interface for web-savvy, able-bodied, sighted people, but I'm not sure that it's actually a more usable interface. It certainly isn't a more accessible one.

4:13 pm on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You don't need flash to prevent prices from going up before checkout.

You just need to have a policy in place that the customer gets the price that was shown them at the start, and/or make sure to do a final price check before final checkout. I think the former would be better, because I can't imagine any customer being happy about getting a higher price just as they are about to finalize the sale.

I don't see anything about conventional forms that prevents this. (Perhaps with a little AJAX help.)

What is it out these forms that you feel is "more intuitive"?

Flash has not had universal uptake until very recently. And that's because of YouTube's popularization of the .flv video format. While Flash is now claimed to be installed on 97% of PCs, I'm not sure I buy that figure, especially when it comes to PCs installed in businesses. Indeed, it's share may now be dropping in that scenario for the reasons cited by another poster.

i.e. the reason for Flash's current popularity (use on popular video-sharing sites) is also a good reason not to install it in a business setting.

8:57 pm on Dec 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Put me down for "don't like change". There's nothing broken about regular web forms, and they work in a very distinctive way so that I know what's happening at all times and I know how to fill them out. Flash forms don't usually emulate that functionality very exactly.

I'm talking about little things like fonts, cutting and pasting, tabbing from field to field, what happens if you use the Back arrow at some point, pressing the first letter of the desired selection in order to jump down to that spot in the drop-down list, the reaction time between pressing a key and having it show up, etc. Even whether the cursor blinks the right way when you click on a field, so that you know you can start typing.


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