... in 2010 Steve Jobs pressed the nuke button on Flash

Your name, plus your original "web name/handle" 

Martin Hughes - Wefail 

Your first web encounter, year etc. 

It was 1998 and I was running an errand to drop some floppy disks off at a Design Studio in Salford Quays.

It was at the time when Ordsall was being gentrified and years before I'd been brought up in a pub right opposite, but they'd evicted everyone and put tall railings around the whole neighbourhood, I could see trees growing through my mate's old house.

Anyway, this shiny tall glass building had been built next to it and in there I watched a very serious designer in Camper shoes and a Paul Smith T-shirt animate a little flame on a timeline, that was my first encounter with Flash..and a serious designer. 

I started playing around with Flash, enrolled at Manchester Uni on a Graphic Design degree course but the head of dept didn't believe in computers and thought the internet was a fad, plus he wore espadrilles.

So I left and started going to a free course over the road at a place called IDEA. They taught me the basics of Flash on one of those half-egg shaped G3 iMacs.

I remember showing some cocky lad in there my earliest site but 5 seconds into loading he made a Family Fortunes noise, "ERRR ERRRRRRR" and said "I'm sorry but if your site doesn't load within a few seconds it's bad design, I mean, that's surely 250KB..it's way too big". He was an idiot. 

In 2001 I met Jordan on a Flash design forum, we used to spend our days and nights trolling new sites and saying how crap they were. It was at that time when every studio had a shop front that looked like a futuristic robot and played hardcore techno on their intro while buzz lines zoomed up into view, 'Are you ready for the FUTURE?', 'System ORION is loading up from DEEP SPACE 9'. It was easy pickings for us.   

What our readers might recognise you most for, when you first hit the web. 

We eventually got bored of annoying people and made our own site, wefail.com.

It launched in 2003 and we weren't expecting anyone to care, but it got picked up by all the Flash award sites and portals, meanwhile we'd built our first client site for Bob Schneider and that too caught a lot of attention.

Then came the emails from ad agencies and famous people offering us contracts and pots of gold, well..silver...maybe copper at the very least. Actually some of them offered us nothing more than the 'prestige' of making a site for them, those went straight in the bin.  

Your digital journey since.  

There then followed many years of contract work building Flash sites. We still kept overheads down to nothing, Jordan working from home in LA and me working from home in Manchester.

Which was a good thing in hindsight, because in 2010 Steve Jobs pressed the nuke button on Flash with this article: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/ 

At the time we laughed it off, because although there were some real crimes against web design committed by Flash, there was still a huge amount of great work being made.

But unfortunately every ad agency the world over went into panic mode overnight and treated Flash as a leper.

A lot of studios closed down, the ones that didn't, started frantically learning how to make tower defence games in javascript for Facebook, or experiential HTML5 sites in which the experience came from dragging a scroll bar and seeing the page move up and down.  

I don't think anyone knew what to do and what direction to head in after the Jobs' bombshell, in my opinion he got it wrong, but not in the way you think I'm about to moan about.

It doesn't matter what tool you use to make a fun experiential website for mobile, HTML5 or Flash...it's not the issue, the problem is that there's no audience for it anymore.

People no longer sit at a desktop and look to be entertained by a website, smartphones changed all that. I think a mobile user looks predominantly for content from a website now (the news or social media, video clips of cats), and for entertainment they look to apps.

You can go and grab any amount of free games on iTunes or Google Play and happily play them on your commute to work, so why would you trawl the internet looking for a website to entertain you (badly) while selling you a brand. 

We decided that route was not for us, and so we made the move to creating iOS/Android game apps in Flash.

It meant we didn't have any new found restrictions on what we could make, we could still use all our old tech knowledge but move it over to a new platform that we could still have fun with.

It was a harsh learning curve, trying to get a complex animation running on iPad without hiccups was not easy. But we relearnt how to develop for mobile and from all that came our first app, Monster's Socks ( https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/monsters-socks/id521546698?mt=8 ). It's a kids' book that launched last year, it's been featured in The New York Times and also won some lovely awards. So that's nice. 

What are you up to now? 

I've just finished a contract on feeding our new twins for a year, very demanding people. Especially at 4am, they always seem to want a meeting at stupid hours to go through what I'm doing wrong. They convey this message by screaming and waggling their arms and legs furiously. I'm done with them though, they can fend for themselves from now on. 

Right of this moment we're looking to make some kind of game or highly interactive fun mobile app for a new client that currently doesn't exist.

We're talking to a couple of book publishers and hopefully we can take an existing well known kids' book character and make an app for them.

We're also looking for a recording artist or a brand that would be up for us creating a fun app.

But it's hard to convince clients to make that leap, I think most are still stuck on the idea of making a parallax scrolling site in HTML5 that no one will bother to look at, or another tower defence game on Facebook.

We'll hopefully find someone willing to try a new approach to promoting their product through an app who will get in touch (that was a huge HINT). I hope so anyway, or I'll be climbing over those railings in Ordsall and moving back into our tree infested pub.

Martin Hughes, Then and Now
Martin Hughes, Then and Now

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