All Flash, No Standards
The new interactive annual from Communication Arts confirms something the web standards community has always known: that mainstream media rewards complex Flash sites and largely ignores the movement to a more accessible and semantic web. Included are some numbers from 2001-2007 detailing this inequality.
The web standards community has long lamented the fact that major design publications have always favored the glitz and glamour of Flash websites over plain HTML. This is understandable. Interactive agencies and freelancing Flash cowboys exert a tremendous amount of effort over complex rollovers, physics modeling, database tie-ins, and special effects. Sometimes this is all well and good, and the fundamental design works, but more often than not, usability and accessibility are honored less than a dead goldfish flushed down the toilet.
I am not here to rail against Flash, or Flash developers. I am, however, going to call out mainstream design media for their bias. In their interactive annuals, Communication Arts, whose rotating panel of judges are the most egregious worshipers of load times, has all but ignored HTML websites. Going back to 2001, here is a breakdown of media representation:
Here is the same information framed in numbers: out of 276 total projects, there are 223 websites; of these, 195 — an 87.44% representation — are built in Flash. Of the remaining 26 HTML or hybrid sites, only two are built with web standards, and neither validates.
The companies with the biggest budgets are rewarded. The are a few independent websites (such as the fly guy) and a few nods toward HTML (Veer), but every annual is teeming with HyperGlobalMegaCorp-type companies (Nike, for instance, appears every year, multiple times) that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on balls-out Flash sites.
What really annoys me are the websites that should never have been built in Flash. The Red Cross’ 911 Legacy, represented in the 2007 edition, is particularly sad. it holds reams of great content, good design, and positive messages — and it’s all locked behind a wall of Flash. (Go ahead, look at the source code. It’s so sad they could make a chick flick out of it.)
It’s not unexpected that CA is honoring beautiful but completely inaccessible work. But it’s disappointing that the surge of standards awareness and a renewed passion for accessibility and fundamental usability is completely disregarded by the industry’s leaders. Seven years after the battle cry, and I’ve yet to find evidence of its influence in the professional awards arena.