Nina Rollinson
Nina Rollinson
Digital Designer/Developer
10.10.14

Nina, is this Flash?

Being the go-to Flash girl, I am often shown a website and asked if it is built in Flash – much more often than not these days, the answer is no. In fact, it’s usually a website built using HTML and/ or a range of other modern web-technologies.

Flash sites are known for being very interactive and highly animated. However, for at least the past 5 years, Flash sites have become less and less common as modern HTML sites are taking their place. This is because open-sourced web technologies have developed massively in the last few years meaning that technologies, which were once only experimental, can now be used a lot more freely. These technologies include HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, CSS animations, Web-GL, Canvas Element, SVG and HTML video and audio.

Although it is around 18 months old now, one website that I think demonstrates and utilises many of these technologies well is ‘Find your way to Oz’, which was created by Disney in partnership with Google. You could be forgiven for thinking that this site is built in Flash as it hands the user a fully animated and highly interactive scene to navigate themselves around. As you move around the fairground using your mouse or keyboard, you are able to engage with a range of different types of interactive content; whether that’s flying the hot-air balloon, using your webcam to take a photo in the photo-booth, or compose your own tune for your journey to Oz.

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This site is built using HTML5 and CSS3, as well as many of the modern web technologies I’ve listed above including: Web-GL, Canvas Element and HTML Audio, and the graphics are SVG. All of these technologies are brilliant and allow web designers and developers to create such wonderful interactive content. However, in order for these technologies to work, the web browser they are shown on needs to support them. This means that unfortunately, websites similar to Find Your Way To Oz aren’t accessible by everyone at the moment. They are what is known as Chrome Experiments and only work at their best on Google Chrome, and occasionally in other modern browsers such as the latest versions of Safari and Firefox.

Here are a few examples of websites that are either Chrome Experiments, or utilise the very modern web technologies… (Again, click the images to visit the sites)

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One potential worry with using modern web technologies on client projects is that they won’t work on all browsers, especially older ones such as IE8 and 9. So, some may question why it would be better to build a site in HTML rather than Flash when it won’t work properly on these older browsers. It is widely regarded that building a site in HTML is much more preferential than building it in Flash for many reasons, including the fact that Flash requires a third-party program to be installed on the user’s computer and Flash sites aren’t beneficial for SEO purposes.

As long as fall-backs are used for the new technologies incorporated into HTML sites, I believe it’s ok to give the users of browsers with less capabilities a slightly different experience as long as they are still able to use the site for its intended reasons. A good example of a site that has done just this is the site below, by G-Star Raw.

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On Google Chrome, it uses Web-GL to give a very interactive and dynamic experience to its users, whereas on Safari and other browsers it still allows the user to navigate around the site but in a less dynamic way. The users on these other browsers don’t have their experience hindered, as they still have access to all the information they need, so essentially don’t know what they’re missing.

As of October 2014, around 58.7% of web users use Chrome to browse the web. This means that 58.7% of people are able to view Chrome Experiments and all of these lovely web technologies. So why build a site that is catered to users on older, less-capable browsers when the vast-majority of users could experience a much more interactive, dynamic experience? The solution is to just make sure you use good fall-back methods for users on older, less sophisticated browsers, so the majority get to see your vision in all its glory.

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