The original idea of http/html was to make it easier to share information between academics, especially report. The idea on the web was that the information is presented in the way that it can be viewed in many ways and using many different devices. On the old days there were both text based and graphical web browsers. Nowadays there are many different computer web browsers and increasing number of mobile devices with different browsing capabilities. The web pages coded using the original ideas work well with wide selection of devices without many extra work, but why so many sites nowadays do not work well with only few web browsers?
Information sharing should still be at the heart of any web site. But why some sites are making it so hard to get even the basic information? It happens too often that on some sites you just can’t get the information unless you have some specific right combination of web browser and all kinds of plug-ins. If the system I need to use at the moment to get the information does not have all of them, there are good chances are I am going to be looking for my information some where else and never come back to that “stupid” site again.
Are web sites today so complicated because they have to be or because they can be? For example, why do I need Flash, Silverlight, or Shockwave, to find where your restaurant is located? Why do I have to download megabytes of wrapper to read a couple of kilobytes of information? Where is the sense in many today’s web designs?
There are certainly place for those multimedia tools, but they should be used in sensible way. For example video sites like YouTube need to use a plugin to play video files (some sites are already experimenting with plug-in free video playback with HTML5 technology). Plug-ins are OK when you need to do things that you can’t do with HTML, but using those plug-ins for doing things that could be done better with just plain old HTML is just plain stupid web design.
Going back to that restaurant site example, if the main page that tells the location of the restaurant is just normal web page written with HTML, it could be read easily with home PC, web kiosk and a multimedia cellular phone. No problem there. If the same information happens to be hidden inside some huge Flash presentation, it is out of reach of the web kiosks, smart-phone browsers and web search engines. Is this good for the business that ordered the web site to promote their business? I think not very good. The Flash only site could be appeal to some people, but leaves out many potential customers not getting even the basic contact information they are looking for. It has happened to me that when I could not access the stupid multimedia web site of one restaurant to get their location information (I was already planned to go there because I had heard it was good), I selected another restaurant I could find.
So when doing a business advertising web site is is essential to think how to present the basic information of the company. A plain old HTML page (does not need to look boring or old fashioned, CSS can do design wonders) where you get basic information and other information you might need. This kind of web page can be viewed with a wide variation of web browsing devices, so all users can get the basic information they are looking for. In addition to that there can all kinds of multimedia presentation pages trying to show how awesome he company is for those who are interested in those (usually they are just waste of time and bandwidth on many sites). The basic information of the company on the web site should be easily accessible or otherwise you will loose business.
As the percentage of web users on non-Flash-capable platforms grows (many mobile platforms), developers who currently create Flash experiences with no fallbacks will have to rethink their strategy and start with the basics before adding a Flash layer. They will need to ensure that content and experience are delivered with or without Flash. Developers always should have done this, but some don’t. The growing percentage of users on non-Flash-capable platforms will be a wake-up call to get the basics right first. Flash won’t die tomorrow, but plug-in technology is on its way out. Most users simply don’t want or can’t install plug-ins to their favorite computer platform. And with HTML5 standard here, the tea leaves are easy to read.