Shortcomings of Flash to overcome (HTML comparison)

By , May 27, 2009

1. UI Navigation. This should have been Flash strength but somehow seems to be one of the common traps for new application developers.

Horrible UIs deserve a volume in my upcoming encyclopedia and modal dialogs will definitely be one of the first chapters. Coincidentally, this seems like one of the most abused UI concepts in Flash applications that I observed. Open up a detail page and do not let a user navigate away from it without pressing Cancel or Save… Why would anyone want to see two detail pages side by side? Work on few things at once? Why would anyone want to open tabs? Just because the dialog is semi-transparent it does not mean it ventured far from its green screen ancestor.

The special award goes to pop-under modal dialogs (AKA “click me if you can figure out that I am there”). Second place is taken by Windows 3.11 style cascading errors that seem to be popular with a bunch of sample Flex applications.

Simple browser option to right click and open new window or tab goes a long way in making applications easier to use.

2. Text search and selection. HTML and good browsers spoiled most users, people do not often even read the page – they just start typing the search word to jump directly to the sentence containing their search term. In addition, text on the screen is normally selectable and can be easily copied into other documents. This trivial common behavior is not so common in Flash – takes special effort to create UIs behaving in data-friendly ways.

To catch up to HTML a good UI framework needs to build good search capability that includes labels, text, form fields. Also have to provide a way to select just about any text in the application.

3. HTTP GET (and bookmarks). Sending, saving and posting links is one of the most common ways of sharing information on the web and the support for this in Flash per initial review is limited to very few 3rd party libraries that I do not see in action. That means that absolute majority of the applications out there offer no way to share anything except the main entry into the application. A good Flex UI framework should provide a way to export the current UI location as URL path.

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