As a web designer/developer, search engine optimization specialist, and website manager and supervisor for my clients, I’ve registered many of the websites I’ve built with Google Analytics, a tremendously useful tool for monitoring visitor sources, interests, and preferences. Each day, after checking my email, I spend a generous chunk of my morning analyzing the reports, which include how many visitors viewed each website, how they were directed, what keywords they used, what pages they visited and how long they spent on each page and which service provider they use, among other things. I check the last point because it often gives the name of a company, university, government agency, or other specific source, as opposed to a giant IT vendor like Verizon or Comcast. This is often important information about who visits our websites.
Recently, and I’ll admit I’m late to bringing this up, I’ve been intrigued by which page they’ve “landed” on. The reason for my interest has to do with concerns about their ability to receive Flash, a controversial issue at the moment due to Apple Computer’s refusal to integrate this technology into some of its latest, very popular products, including the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad.
As a lifelong Mac user and lover, I typically admire and support everything and everyone from Apple based on positive first hand experiences of their amazing products and stock performance. I have benefited greatly from both. However, having purchased Adobe’s Creative Suite software a number of years ago and having made the arduous effort of teaching myself Flash, I have a vested interest in being able to continue using these sophisticated files on many of my most important websites, particularly as my clients paid me for their creation and they add glamor and pizzazz to every page they appear on.
But this latest development sadly seems to be little more than an ugly, competitive rivalry between two stellar tech companies. Whether driven by gluttony for market dominance or a lack of compromise or collaboration under the guise of better user experience, it has impacted everyone who has a website that uses Flash in their presentations. While researching the consensus of opinion on the subject, I read the account of a working woman entertaining business guests in the UK. One of the guests proudly showed off his new iPad and asked for the hostess’ URL address so they could admire her website together on this new stage. What happened next caused my concern. When it arrived on their website, all they saw was big black holes since their website relied mostly on Flash. Her embarrassment was shameful.
Realizing that my own company website home page consists of three fairly large Flash files along with some required HTML text, not to mention that some of my clients’ newly presented home pages also flaunt large Flash movies to Inspiring, enchanting and impressing, I focused on my recent curiosity about some of the Google Analytics reports I had seen showing 0:00 time on the landing page. On my own website, the landing page is almost always the home page. It occurred to me that if visitors came there to see nothing but black, who could blame them for defecting immediately? Could such visitors be using the latest Apple products? Although Google Analytics does not indicate the brand or type of computer or device used, it does show the operating system and browser, in this case OS X and Safari.
Changing what happened in the past is a futile pursuit, so my goal now focused on controlling website visits in the future. Having used Adobe’s Dreamweaver software to create my Flash files, I was aware and had already used a behavioral control that places a sensor on the page to determine if a visitor has the Flash software required to view it of a Flash movie is required. If not, the visitor will be automatically redirected to an alternative page specially created without Flash to accommodate this somewhat rare situation. But as with everything we come across these days, the sensor doesn’t work with all browsers (in this case, the old standby culprit: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which in my experience has always contained pervasive usability roadblocks), so the web designer stands before a dilemma. What to do? While the intuitive sensor gives you the option to redirect the visitor to a new page or just allow them to stay on the original Flash page if detection isn’t possible, it doesn’t solve the problem. Everyone knows that Windows and Internet Explorer have been the dominant platform for most Internet usage, despite Apple’s surge in popularity over the past few years. But it seems Google’s new Chrome browser has just overtaken that honor. This means that it probably makes sense to allow such visitors to stay on the original Flash page since they would most likely have the Flash reader. After all, it was the Mac user that created this dilemma, and only certain Macs. And supposedly the sensor would be able to detect the presence of Flash on a Mac operating system. To confirm this suspicion, I researched further and found that Adobe’s Flash 10.1 is officially tied to WP7. This new update will be launched for all WP7 devices; That means the entire web will be available in the browser for Microsoft’s latest mobile platform. The Google Android OS was the first to support Flash 10.1 on the 2.2 Froyo version of the open-source mobile platform. According to Adobe, the Flash player will also be adapted to other operating systems – apart from Apple.”
While I was hoping to get another year out of my current operating system and dependent software, I think I’ve hit upon an important reason why I need to upgrade soon, probably before the end of the tax year, to take advantage of these necessary benefits to benefit business expenses. Unfortunately for me, this means a potentially expensive or cumbersome move to OS X 10.6.5, as well as the need to reinstall Parallels to run Windows at the same time, allowing me to check how each browser and operating system is displaying my website creations. And as if that wasn’t enough, such an upgrade will really be the proverbial “opening a can of worms” because now I have to upgrade all my other creative software, few of which were Quark 8.0 (which up until then, by the way, now offers Flash creativity, a feature I’ve snubbed so far), Adobe CS5 Photoshop, Adobe CS5 Acrobat Professional, Adobe CS5 Illustrator, and Adobe CS5 Fireworks. Missing from this list is my beloved Adobe CS5 Dreamweaver. Without being able to predict the future, who will be caught up in the technology wars of open source vs. proprietary coding, or whether we will all eventually migrate to smaller devices for internet access, the question remains: flash or not flash?