Web Design News 04/05/10

This week: Steve Job’s shares his thoughts on Flash, Ben Ward makes us understand the web and learn how to calibrate color for the web.

Thoughts on Flash

Probably the biggest story of the last week has been Steve Jobs public statement about Apple’s attitude towards Flash which goes into detail about why they don’t allow the plugin on iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Of course this has ignited much debate, skepticism and even anger in some cases.

The statement would suggest an end to the relationship between Apple and Adobe which is backed up by Kevin Lynch’s quick response on Adobe’s blog stating:

…given the legal terms Apple has imposed on developers, we have already decided to shift our focus away from Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices for both Flash Player and AIR. We are working to bring Flash Player and AIR to all the other major participants in the mobile ecosystem, including Google, RIM, Palm (soon to be HP), Microsoft, Nokia and others.

We look forward to delivering Flash Player 10.1 for Android smartphones as a public preview at Google I/O in May…

Understand the Web

A really interesting article entitled Understanding the Web has been written by Ben Ward he opens with:

Perceptions of the web are changing. People are advocating that we treat the web like another application framework. An open, cross-platform, multi-device rival to Flash and Cocoa and everything else. I’m all for making the web richer, and exposing new functionality, but I value what makes the web weblike much, much more.

Ben’s article encourages us to take a step back from the murky waters of buzz words, catch all terms and the altruistic claims of rival corporations and actually think about what the web really is and how:

It is not acceptable to [him] that 21st century knowledge retention has become so short and shallow as to be overwritten by influential ranting on Twitter. A greater tool for the dissemination of misinformation has never been known.

He goes on to write, and this follows on nicely from our pervious news item about Apple:

Meanwhile, the feuding between Apple and Adobe regarding Flash on iPad took an unexpectedly public twist, with Steve Jobs writing at length everything that John Gruber had already described about defending his platform from third-party influence, but also that Apple are choosing to invest in native running open standards. Jobs incorrectly brands this ‘HTML5’. He also criticises Flash for being proprietary whilst evangelising the H.264 video codec (licensing for H.264 is not ‘open’, either.)

I won’t quote the article in it’s entirety here instead you should head over to Ben’s site and read it for yourself.

Designing for a hierarchy of needs

For all of us that took High School Business Studies, you should be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Created by American Psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943 it defines the idea of a physiological hierarchical system of needs in human beings.

This might be tricky to describe on an audio podcast, so do check out the link in the show notes, but the hierarchy is visualised as a triangle, with the widest point at it’s base, and sliced horizontally into 5 sections.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

The widest, at the bottom are the basic ‘physiological’ needs that we, as human beings, require in order to survive such as food, water, shelter and sleep. The next level up are our ‘safety’ needs, such as personal and financial security, health and protection from the elements. The cannot be met unless our basic physiological needs are met. Continuing upwards we have our ‘love/belonging needs’ which caters for family, intimacy and social interaction. Next, our ‘esteem’ needs which give us confidence, status, recognition and independence and finally, the main goal is ‘self-actualisation’ which grants us peace, knowledge, self-fulfillment and the realization of our personal potential.

The key concept in Maslow’s hierarchy is that our low-level needs have to be catered for before we can successfully achieve our high-level needs like esteem and self-actualisation. This article puts a web-related spin on the hierarchy which may come in useful when sites are measured against it.

At the bottom of the design hierarchy, in place of human ‘physiological’ needs are ‘functionality’ needs, a site needs to physically work and meet it’s basic functional requirements. Next comes ‘reliability’, the site needs to have stable and consistent performance. ‘Usability’ needs ensure the site is easy to use. ‘Proficiency’ needs allow the user to be empowered and achieve their goals and finally the ‘Creativity’ needs layer on aesthetic beauty and innovative interactions to allow the site to be held in high regard.

All in all, the Design Hierarchy is a little nudge to remind you to ensure your site hits those low level needs first. It doesn’t really matter if your site looks amazing if it’s plagued with performance or functional problems.

This isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ idea and seems to be a very contextual concept, but worth a look at.

How to Calibrate Color for the Web

Have you ever put hours into a design adding layers of detail and subtlety only for it to go unnoticed on someone else’s monitor? If you’re answer is yes then the How to Calibrate Color for the Web guide at the Web Designers Depot is well worth a ready.

Ben Gremillion summaries with:

Accurate, consistent color is one of those minor details that most people—including web designers—choose to ignore in the face of parsing errors, web standards, client misinformation and good ol’ deadline pressure.

But it’s also one of those elements that make for a better overall experience. Once designers start to notice deviations in hue and muddy shadows, not wanting to do a better job will become unusual.

He talks about Color Shift, White Balance, Industry solutions like ICC Profiles and tips on actually peparing the room your working in for color work.

If you recognise that the mobile web is important and you need help deciding on a strategy, then book a mobile consultancy clinic.

Book a consultancy clinic or contact Rob about a more in-depth review.

  • What I don’t get is this visceral hatred towards flash, I know it allows bad design, but so does jQuery, CSS3 and dear Photoshop. jQuery using more battery than flash for the same task.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think JQuery, MooTools and others similar are one of the best things to happen to the internet, but, just as flash, it’s not the panacea.

    People seem to forget that the main attribute to flash is not animation, it’s the ease for making things work across platforms. Plugin architecture is far from ideal, but clearly it has worked far better than asking Software Companies to stick to a spec. 3 specs if you want to do what flash does.

    If Steve Jobs claims sloppy coding on behalf of Adobe, but one can say the same about how Apple works with hardware.

    Flash has huge improvement to do efficiency wise, still needs ways to handle crashing and resource utilisation. Flash Player 10.1 addresses this quite decently. Still I was hoping that with SC5 they would work on something better.

    This is far from over, and I think this could lead to mayor mayor changes like the settlement of HTML5 as a real, stable, adopted spec. Or huge improvement on the flash platform and the fulfilment of the Open Screen Project (which, as a developer, am a bit ambivalent on).

    The huge problem I have with JavaScript is performance (even on Chrome), compared with ActionScript 3, which is absurdly fast considering it is an interpreted language.

    That would be the rant I had been choking on for a few weeks.

    Let the wrath of the Open Source righteous rain on me.

    • Adam B

      There’s one additional thing I’d like to tack on to the Flash debate. When it’s said that Flash isn’t an “open system” the idea is that Adobe controls the Flash/Flex Builder product lines, pricing, etc. True, but it is very possible to develop ActionScript applications without using any of their products!

      In the same way that Apple has released an SDK that any Apple developer must use, so has Adobe released their Flex SDK with a Flash Compiler Shell. You don’t even have to sign up for an account to download it. With this tool, I’m programming web applications and even games without any Adobe product.

      This sounds pretty “open” to me…

  • I agree with you both. While I do understand why Apple is restricting Flash from it’s hand-held devices, I don’t understand why the design community in particular has jumped on board with the backlash against Flash.

    I think it’s obvious that this debacle has more to do with protecting Apple’s financial interests than it does with Flash’s performance or the future of Flash on mobile devices. For example: If Flash were available on the iPhone, it would be possible that millions of applications that would be sold through Apple’s proprietary store, would now be available in Flash format through any means possible via the web. This equals large revenue losses for Apple.

    I’m not so sure about Steve Jobs claims in his open letter either. All it takes is a quick Google Search on Flash Player 10.1 benchmark tests for other mobile devices to see that it in-fact runs much faster than the current alternatives. In any case, if efficiency and battery-life are Apple’s main concerns with Flash, why the fear of letting the user decide?

    I’m not a Flash developer and personally don’t enjoy the user-experience of 100% Flash-based websites, however I do think that it’s a highly advanced technology for other aspects of the web such as gaming, video delivery, online applications and feature-rich animations.

    I just don’t understand the backlash from the designer community on this one.