When good people use good software to do bad things to websites

Flash is a wonderful piece of software when used to add functionality to a website.  It is not a substitute for HTML. In particular, it may shut out some people from using your website. I’ve already written on the fact that iPhones and iPads don’t run Flash. Now I’m going to tell you about how a site has made itself so annoying to use that I’m not going to use it again until they fix it.

I’m not going to name the guilty party, because I don’t like to burn bridges, but I’m sure they’re not the only ones doing stuff like this:

  1. Putting text in gray.
  2. Making text really small. On my monitor it’s coming out as 7 lines of text per inch. If I had gotten a 20″ instead of a 22″ it would have probably been 8 lines per inch.

Now there’s a big gap between those two apparently fashionable practices and my needs:

  1. I find it easy to read black text and hard to read gray text.
  2. I find it easy to read text that is 4 lines per inch and really tiring to attempt to read text that is 6 lines or more per inch.

Now here’s the rub. If the site were in plain old HTML it would be no problem. I could tell my browser to ignore the styling, use black text or enlarge the text and rewrap it to continue to fit on the screen.

But because it’s Flash, I can’t do any of those. (Flash does have a zoom feature, but the site designer apparently decided to disable that feature and in any case it doesn’t rewrap the text to fit the area, which can make it really hard to read paragraphs.)

It does turn out that I can in fact copy and paste the text into another program, but I had to try two programs because the first one didn’t maintain the space between paragraphs. But it’s a pain to select the text as it goes on for several screens full and I can’t just use Command-A (the Mac’s Ctrl-A to you Windows folks) to select all of the text.

They are a theatre-related website, so any difficulty I have using the site may inadvertently result in my not seeing this play or that. The text in question was an article about a play that is opening this weekend. If I weren’t so obsessed with discovering a new local theatre I would have given up in disgust. As it is, I won’t return to the site until and unless I hear they’ve gone back to HTML, which would probably be a budget issue, or until they add a button to allow more accessible formatting on site visitor request.

Please, webmasters, use Flash to enhance the site, not to be the site.

P.S. Yes, I did write them to complain.

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