Flash, ubiquitous mediocrity

So with all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over Adobe Flash in the last few days, I just wanted to make sure I got this little tidbit in. When it comes to user experience, Adobe just doesn't understand. Their "platform" of flash brings a mediocrity born of the Internet of 5-10 years ago into your browser window. Why? Because, with Flash you can build once and deploy everywhere.... Wait a second, wasn't that Java? Have you ever used a Java application? They just don't feel right on any platform and neither does Flash. My troubles today began when I headed over to the Adobe site to give them my bi-annual upgrade fee...

As painful as it can be to spend $600 every two years or so to keep your Adobe products up to date, they still have some of the best professional products out there, especially Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I tolerate DreamWeaver, but less and less every year, especially since I have some very talented people working the web work for me these days.

So, I headed on over to Adobe and got a big Flash window to start with. Unnecessary animation, and with no video going 100% of one of my 16 cores operating. Now, to be absolutely clear, there is no reason for this CPU use. They have some vector animation going on and are sitting in a tight loop while waiting for me to do something no the screen.

I continued on the purchase track, navigating the information about the various types of upgrades and noting that you just can't get everything you want without buying Master Suite, but as with last time, I skipped it as I will likely not need the other features anyway.

Clicking on "Check Out," I went to another, slow-loading flash page. This finally finished, but rather than do a narrative, I'm just going to list out the things that just plain don't work well for me on the Adobe site, all due to Flash:

  • 1Password secure login credential manager can't be used to log in- I had to go dig out my password. Thankfully, at least they support paste, but that was as far as I was able to automate my login process.
  • 1Password secure credit card entry doesn't work either. Probably redundant to the first one, but it was highly annoying.
  • Scrolling with my magic mouse doesn't work. Yes, there's a very standard event handling API on the Mac for this, but apparently since it isn't part of the Adobe platform, my user experience as a Mac user is going to suffer. If this were an HTML5 Application, the scrolling and user experience would be appropriate for whatever platform I was running on, not some middle-of-the-road platform developed by Adobe that lowers every platform to the lowest common denominator.
  • Double-click selection behavior doesn't work. Double-click and drag doesn't do extended word selection like it does in every Macintosh Application.
  • And this is all without commenting on the extremely lame use of the Akamai (Java-based) download manager.... 3 different windows opening every time I add another file, and there were 7 of them..... lame.

This is just a small list. When you are working in a Flash environment, things just feel "wrong". It's not always easy to put your finger on it, although the additional background CPU usage certainly contributes to some sluggishness on the entire machine, not to mention in the Flash "application".

I understand the purpose of using Flash. For Adobe, it's a way to try and out- do Java (develop once and deploy everywhere), which never worked that well for the users (or for Sun for that matter). For designers, it's a way to develop and application without having to hire a programmer. Adobe even describes it as drag-and-drop programming. That's all well and good, but as a long-time developer, I understand that the quality of a product is often based on the amount of work that you put into it. I don't doubt that you can create reasonable user experiences with Flash, but I don't think you can create them easily. What Flash enables is piss-poor quality content creation for everyone.... ubiquitous mediocrity.