Adobe Edge: Wrong technology, wrong job

Paul Boag

Do we really need to recreate Flash as CSS animation? Apparently Adobe think we do. I am not so convinced.

Adobe have just released an alpha version of something called Adobe Edge. The product enables you to create CSS/jQuery animation without writing everything by hand.

My curiosity got the better of me and so I downloaded the alpha release.

I have no intention of reviewing the product at this early stage, because it is far from ready. However, playing with the software has left me with one fundamental question – why?

Do we really need a CSS animation tool?

To understand my concerns you must understand the direction that this tool is taking. For those of us who used early versions of Adobe Flash the similarities will be apparent. Adobe appears to be recreating the animation functionality provided within Flash using CSS and jQuery.

You may consider this a good thing. But is it really? Do we really need a “flash equivalent” that produces CSS-based animation?

What website needs a tool like this?

From my perspective most website animation falls into two categories.

There are those websites which make heavy use of animation. These are typically sites for sectors such as gaming or movies. They are high impact, visually appealing sites that are more about branding than content.

Then there are websites that use animation as small enhancements. On these sites animation is not critical. An example of this may be an e-commerce site where items visually move into the basket when selected.

If we look at these 2 scenarios it becomes apparent that there is no place for a product like Adobe Edge.

CSS animation should not always replace Flash.

For those websites that make heavy use of animation the basic features provided by CSS animation probably are not going to do the job. These sites typically include large amounts of interactivity, video and sound. It strikes me that in such situations Flash is by far the superior tool and should be used.

We choose the moon website

Do you really need a tool from Adobe to create basic CSS animation?

As for sites that only use animation to create small visual enhancements, a tool such as Adobe Edge feels like a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. There are a number of simple, free, online tools that can produce these basic animations. Alternatively you can just hand code them, it really isn’t hard!

To me this just feels like another example of using the latest technology simply because it is trendy to do so, rather than it being the right tool for the job.

A tool that encourages bad practice.

Maybe I’m turning into a snob, but as I look at Adobe Edge I fear we will see the same horrors that the web experienced when Flash came on the scene. This tool cries out for you to create pointless animations that add little value to your site. Worse still it requires any animation to occur within a fixed area (no responsive design here) and produces code that many will not have a hope of understanding.

Perhaps this tool is meant for the the low-end of the market, where websites are produced using WYSIWYG editors and next to no money. However just because this segment of the market has been the domain of bad design in the past does not mean it should be perpetuated. In my opinion a tool like Adobe Edge could well do exactly that.

So what do you think? Is there a place for a tool like this? Am I just being a miserable git or worse still committing heresy by suggesting that flash should not be replaced entirely? I’m sure you won’t be shy in letting me know in the comments.