Making Communications Buzz

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Flash Detection: Who Cares?

My version of Firefox (1.0.7) has only Flash Player 5 installed, not Flash Player 7. Shortly after switching to Firefox from Internet Explorer about a year ago, I noticed that some Web sites didn't display, or only partially displayed, in the Firefox browser. At first, this was annoying, but when I realized what was going on, I found it to be a useful tool, because it was a quick way to find out if sites used the latest version of Flash and — more significantly — how they chose to inform a visitor that their site requires the latest Flash Player.

Some sites don't bother to use Flash version detection at all. That is, they don't tell you that you need the latest Flash Player to use their site. All you see is a blank, or partly blank, screen. Here's one example: the WebSideStory site.

This is what the WebSideStory home page looks like in a browser without Flash Player 7. There's no Flash detection at all. No message displays to tell me I need to get the latest version of the player — nothing.

You can see the top of the page: the logo, utility naviagation, search box and horizontal navigation bar, but the dropdown menus for the horizontal nav don't work unless you have Flash Player 7. A totally useless interface.

I guess decisionmakers at think that unless I can figure out that I need Flash Player 7 on my own, or I work for a company where someone else will figure it out for me, they don't need my business.

There are many professionally-designed sites out there like this. For a while, I took the time to inform webmasters at these sites of their erroneous ways. But I soon realized that no one really thinks it's a problem. Am I the only one?


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