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Rob Ford recently wrote 10 Reasons Why Flash Cannot Die, listing 10 Flash projects. His article lead me to think about how campaign or ‘experience’ websites have been affected by the change in technology?

The reality

The reality is the world is becoming increasingly more mobile with each passing year. Although many of us who work in digital are usually browsing from a desktop or laptop, the average person is increasingly choosing tablets and mobile phones as their primary way of consuming content.

The projects Rob listed were uniquely Flash experiences. They resonate with people who create for the web because they have attention to detail, polished motion design, slick transitions, often mind-blowing graphics, but the most important quality is empathy. You feel a connection to an experience just as you would playing a video game or watching a movie.

Flash stigma

Much of the stigma around Flash comes from a period when sites were being built with little content, tiny text, bad usability, and animations that took center stage whether you wanted them to or not. When the industry shifted it wanted to avoid those things, but went too far in the other direction. Whether intentional or because of available tools we started seeing projects that had little to no animation (or worse: bad animation), but generally better usability and of course, mobile compatibility.

Middle ground

The sweet spot lies in the middle ground. We need to take all the positive things we learned from Flash and mix them with the positive things we learned post-Flash. We need to continue building more projects that are usable, polished, and most importantly useful. It’s been a steady ramp up, but we are beginning to see these experiences being launched more often.

The perfect blend

Here are a few sites released in the last couple of months that demonstrate a blend of Flash-like animation with sensible usability that is maintained across desktop and mobile:

http://oregongridiron.com

This experience has much of what we’d expect from a traditional Flash site. Full screen video, slick animations and transitions. More importantly, the navigation is straightforward and easy to use even though the site has a large amount of useful content. The best attribute is the way the site lets you imagine what it would feel like to be a player for Oregon.

http://enjoyyourprivacy.com

While this site has the usual polish and animation, it shines with story telling. You feel the human emotion of the people whose stories are being told as you uncover their secrets.

http://cubeslam.com

As with all Chrome Experiments, this site is technically impressive. Using 3D and WebRTC it connects two players together to enjoy a game. A literal human connection is made as you are face to face with your opponent, or in the case of single player mode, a playful character with a range of expressions.

Common themes

There are a few common themes in the projects above. They all have a well thought out and smooth mobile experience, great transitions and motion design, but most importantly they make it easy for the user to feel a connection. Flash-like animation and graphics, coupled with good storytelling and an easy to use interface is the recipe for an amazing experience that reaches people on an emotional level.

Technology?

This has nothing to do with technology, rather it’s about making it invisible so visitors can connect with the content. We’re seeing more projects who have that almost indescribable feel, but there are still many more that fail to achieve it.

Where do we go from here?

There is nothing technically holding us back. CSS Animations and Transitions are hardware accelerated and work great on mobile. The GreenSock animation library brings all its powerful features from Flash to JavaScript. WebGL is rapidly gaining browser adoption and can be a serious consideration for most projects. Three.js is one of the most powerful open-source libraries ever created and has many more features than Papervision, which was widely used in Flash. Browsers are updated every 12 or so weeks with better performance and new features.

Perception

It’s almost as if there is some perception that an HTML site can only be one particular thing, never able to be like a Flash site. Although the process of development is different, it’s the same blank canvas that we can use to create expressive projects. Designers and developers should envision the types of experiences they want to create and bring them to fruition despite trends.

Dominant devices

Phones and tablets will become the dominant device for the web. We should begin making this our focus and take advantage of the fact that users can physically touch our experiences. There is so much room for innovation and we will be making things we couldn’t have imagined 5 years ago.

Emotional connection

For all of us who long for the creativity of Flash, let’s remember that we can achieve the same experiences with JavaScript. It’s about the emotional connection and we would be best served by creating incredible experiences by thinking “What would make a great project?” and not “How are HTML sites supposed to be built?”.

 

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Michael Anthony is the Technical Director of Active Theory and an FWA judge. He tweets as @michaeltheory


Links

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http://oregongridiron.com
http://oregongridiron.com

http://enjoyyourprivacy.com
http://enjoyyourprivacy.com

http://cubeslam.com
http://cubeslam.com

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