Are Flash sites dead?
There is a lot of buzz and debate going on right now about Flash, open standards, and things like "iPhone ready" sites. With the recent debacle of Apple vs. Adobe, and the cross-talk about standards, it can be very confusing to know what to think - especially since the majority of photography websites are being developed primarily with Flash and with the release and success of the new iPad.
Here at intothedarkroom, it just doesn't make any sense. If you understand browser technologies, and build a website on a solid platform, there is no debate -- only the right way to do things. You're probably left wondering "Is my site iPad/iPhone ready?". The question that you should be asking yourself is "Is my site progressively enhanced?".
Progressive Enhancement is a fancy web developer term for delivering the best possible experience based on the technologies available. In the case of the new intothedarkroom templates, it means if all your device can render is text, you get text. If your computer or device can render a styled HTML site, you get a styled HTML site. If you have Flash, you get the full interactive experience. And it does this all while delivering your site in a branded, cohesive package. This process of progressive enhancement allows for the broadest range of devices and users to view your website without singling out just Flash-enabled users, or just iPhones/iPads.
If you start with the question "Is my website iPad/iPhone ready?", you are already headed in the wrong direction. The iPhone, while a very popular and robust (not to mention cool) smartphone, is not the only fish in the sea. With Blackberry and Android devices picking up market share here in the States and the Nokia s70 platform being the gold standard in Asia, the iPhone is not the end-all, be-all. Sadly, many companies are creating band-aid "iPhone versions" of their sites that either look like an iPhone settings panel, or worse yet -- just plain ugly or generic-looking. Is that the branding you really want to convey to your users?
We don't think so.
We think that no matter what mobile device you are using, you should get a branded, consistent, page-for-page experience -- whether that is the Droid, the Palm Pre, the iPad, or the iPhone. We think your website should show up on a 10 year old Nokia text-only handset. We think Linux users (that usually don't bother with Flash) should get the same consistent experience that desktop users with Flash get -- even if it's a little more basic, and maybe it's not as interactive. In this environment, do you really want all the bells and whistles anyway? Chances are, if you are browsing around on your phone, you want the experience to be quick and easy, and crash free.
So, go ahead and ask yourself: "Is my site mobile ready?", "Is my site consistent to all users?", and "What happens if they don't have Flash?".
The answer to all these question is the same: develop your site with the right foundation, and the rest will fall into place. That's the beauty of standards, and how plugins like Flash should work. We don't think you should have multiple admin panels to manage different versions of your site. Those kinds of band-aid approaches have no longevity. We don't think user agent "sniffing" has any place on the web including delivering custom iPhone sites.
We've been developing progressively enhanced sites the right way for over 6 years, and we believe it's the only way to do it. Steve Jobs thinks Flash has no place on his devices, and we couldn't care less. Adobe thinks it can deliver to mobile web, and we say more power to them. We'll just keep on doing our thing.
So? Is your site just "iPhone ready"? Or is it progressive. You decide.