Back in March, I wrote about finally succumbing to the need for add blocking when flash adds on several sites were measurably impacting the performance of my system. When I reloaded my system I decided to forgo installing the flash player as my solution as the add blocking software was still kind of a pain.
Well, after a month or so of living without a flash plugin it seems I have to reverse my decision. Too many sites out there are totally unusable without flash. Many use it as an integral component in their site navigation (try researching Dish Network's offerings or look at SciFi's channel info (2/3rds of the home page is blank with "this section requires flash")... Others use it for processing particular functions (I can't us discover's secure credit card number generator because it only works with flash, I couldn't order my daughter's school yearbook from Jostens because the required personalization step requires flash with no alternative).
While all this glitz is nice for the marketing guys, I think that this is a bad thing. Especially when you consider that flash doesn't work all that well for accessibility (just imagine the blind person trying to make sense of the glitzy flash driven site navigation system). The Web Accessibility in Mind folks have a good article on accessibility programming with flash but they note that it's hard to do well.
- If you do use flash, provide reasonable alternative, keyboard based, means to obtain information from your site.
- Evaluate the accessibility of the information and make use of the suggestions provided by WebAIM.
Ideally what I would like to see is an option in Firefox to manually enable flash processing on a site by site basis -- those sites that abuse the privilege by writing CPU intensive flash apps would be blocked, while the more typical mundane implementations could be allowed.
BTW - Given that no browser includes flash out-of-the-box (it's always an add-in plugin as far as I'm aware) I now have some good ammunition to use when I run up against those that resist authentication models requiring software on the client.