The Right Way to Tell Me I Don’t Have Flash Installed

21 November 2011

When I installed Lion I made the conscious decision to remove Flash from the system. I don’t tend to visit sites that require Flash and, for those sites that do require it, I fire up Chrome, which has it’s own version of Flash, one that is separate from the system-wide plugin. I’ve been running this setup for months and it works just fine.

Not having Flash installed means I come across a lot of “Flash isn’t present” messaging. It generally follows a pattern of telling me that I need Flash to view the content, which can’t be found, therefore something is wrong with my system and I need to do something to fix it.

Take any page with video or audio content from the BBC website as a good example of this kind of messaging.

An example BBC page

The message is presented in a very negative manner and leaves the user with all the work to do if they want to enjoy the content. The burden is on the user to update their system, rather than on the content provider to offer an alternative non-Flash version of the content.

Whilst this is obviously the path of least resistance for most large-scale organisations I find the shift in blame annoying. With the death of mobile Flash and the proliferation of mobile devices (to use just one line of argument) the emphasis is surely now on responsible content providers to make sure they have suitable non-Flash alternatives in place for those systems that don’t support Flash, either through design (e.g. iOS) or choice (e.g. my Mac).

Now, I’m not so naive to think that this is the work of a moment. Nor do I believe that Flash on the desktop is going to go the same way as Flash on mobile devices anytime soon. But I do believe that Flash will cease to be the de-facto method of displaying all rich media content and that content providers should be communicating more clearly with users to reflect this shift.

The Audi website is a good example of how to do it.

An example Audi page

The basic message is the same — that this particular part of the site requires Flash, which isn’t present — but rather than telling me I need to install Flash to view it, the message tells me that Audi are working to resolve the problem which, one assumes, means a non-Flash version of whatever this content is.

It’s a much more positive way of framing the message.

The burden shouldn’t be on me to have Flash installed. It should be on content providers to serve up decent, non-Flash content. Their messaging should reflect that.

Tagged with Experiential

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