As a web designer/developer, a search engine optimization specialist, and website manager and overseer for my clients, I have registered many of the websites I have created with Google Analytics, an enormously helpful tool to monitor visitor sources, interests and preferences. Each day, after checking my email, I spend a generous part of my morning analyzing its reports which include how many visitors viewed each website, how they were referred, what keywords they used, what pages they visited, how long they spent on each page and what service provider they utilize, among other things. I check the last item because it often specifies the name of a company, a university, a government agency or other specific source as opposed to a behemoth IT provider like Verizon or Comcast. Often this is critical information about who is visiting our sites.
Recently, and I admit I am late in addressing this subject, I have been intrigued by what page they “landed on.” The reason for my interest has to do with a concern about their ability to receive Flash, currently a contentious topic due to Apple Computer’s refusal to include this technology on some of its latest, very popular products which include the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad.
As a lifelong Mac user and lover, I usually admire and support anything and everything Apple, based on firsthand positive experience with their fantastic products and stock performance. I have benefited greatly from both. However, after having purchased Adobe’s Creative Suite software several years ago and exerted the arduous effort to teach myself Flash, I have a vested interest in being able to continue to utilize those sophisticated files on many of my major websites, particularly since my clients have paid me for their creation and they add glamour and pizzazz to any page they appear on.
But this recent development sadly appears to be little more than a nasty, competitive rivalry between two outstanding technology companies. Whether prompted by gluttony for market dominance or lack of compromise or cooperation under the guise of a better user experience, it has impacted everyone who has a website that uses Flash in its presentations. In researching what the consensus of opinion is on this topic, I read one account of a professional woman who was entertaining business guests in Great Britain. One of the guests was proudly showing 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 is what triggered my worry. When he arrived at her website, all they saw were big black holes because her website was primarily dependent on Flash. Her embarrassment was mortifying.
Realizing that my own company website home page is composed of three rather large Flash files along with some requisite HTML text, not to mention that some of my clients’ newly showcased home pages also flaunt large Flash movies to inspire, bedazzle and impress, I focused on my recent curiosity about some of the Google Analytics’ reports I had seen which showed 0:00 time spent on the landing page. In the case of my own website, the landing page is almost always the home page. It occurred to me that if visitors arrived there to view nothing but black, who could blame them for defecting immediately? Could such visitors be using the latest Apple products? Although Google Analytics does not specify the brand or type of computer or device used, it does pinpoint the operating system and browser which in this case would be OS X and Safari.
Changing what happened in the past is a fruitless pursuit so my goal now centered on controlling website visitations in the future. Having used Adobe’s Dreamweaver software to create my Flash files, I was aware and had already utilized a behavioral control which places a sensor on the page to identify whether a visitor has the Flash software necessary to view a Flash movie. If not, the visitor is automatically rerouted to an alternate page made specifically without Flash to accommodate this somewhat rare situation. But as with everything we encounter these days, the sensor does not work with all browsers (in this case, the old standby culprit: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer which historically, in my experience, has always included ubiquitous roadblocks to user-friendliness) so the web designer is left with a dilemma. What to do? While the intuitive sensor gives you the option to choose to reroute the visitor to a new page or just allow him to stay on the original Flash page if no detection is possible, this does not solve the problem. Everyone knows that Windows and Internet Explorer has been the predominant platform for most Internet use, despite Apple’s surge in popularity in recent years. But it seems that Google’s new Chrome browser has just overtaken that honor. That means that it probably makes sense to allow such visitors to stay on the original Flash page since they in all likelihood would have the Flash reader. After all, it was the Mac user which prompted this quandary, and only certain Macs at that. And supposedly the sensor would be able to detect Flash presence on a Mac operating system. To confirm this assumption, I researched further and found that Adobe’s Flash 10.1 is officially WP7 bound. This new update will be launched for all WP7 devices; this means that the entirety of the internet will be available on the browser for Microsoft’s latest mobile platform. The Google Android OS was the first to receive support for 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 – except for Apple.”
Although I was hoping to try to get another year out of my present operating system and dependent software, I think I have confronted a major reason why I need to upgrade soon, probably before the end of the tax year to get the benefit of these necessary business expenses. Unfortunately for me that will mean a possible expensive or cumbersome conversion to OS X 10.6.5, along with a need to also reinstall Parallels to simultaneously run Windows, which allows me to check how each browser and operating system is displaying my website creations. And as if that isn’t enough, doing such an upgrade will truly be the proverbial “opening a can of worms” because now I will need to upgrade all my other creative software, the least of which will include Quark 8.0 (which, by the way, now currently offers Flash creativity, a function I have until now been snubbing), Adobe CS5 Photoshop, Adobe CS5 Acrobat Professional, Adobe CS5 Illustrator, and Adobe CS5 Fireworks. Sorely missing from that list is my beloved Adobe CS5 Dreamweaver. Without being able to predict the future, who will prevail in the technology wars over open source vs. proprietary coding, or whether we all will eventually switch to smaller devices for Internet access, the question remains: To Flash or not to Flash?