Thursday, February 03, 2005

Toys are for Playing; Tools are for Business

Macromedia Flash is a toy!

As I was surfing through websites of law firms including those of the Elite Excellence in Legal Marketing Award winners I was dismayed to find so many that require the Flash plug-in to see some or all of the their content. Though I was told recently that I'm not "tech savvy enough" to work with a firm I was speaking to in the Midwest (that comment still sticks in my throat) I actually do get a lot of calls to help companies make technology choices around their marketing initiatives.... OK, I ramble on.

Over the last several months web browser and plug-in trends have been undergoing a significant change that marketers have to be aware of.
  1. Internet Explorer is losing market share faster than Howard Dean in the last primary. With security holes in the code the size of tanks many users and IT directors are moving to browsers offering greater security and functionality. Leading the pack of these alternate upstarts is Mozzilla's FireFox (If you don't have it yet, get it!)
  2. In the technical and user forums that buzz about internet security, browsers, plug-ins and the like, an emerging trend is a disdain for third-party plugins for a variety of reasons. Usability experts and users complain about slow load speeds, to much glitz and not enough hard information, confusing design and interfaces, and security risks in allowing your browser to download and execute code, etc. What they're doing about it is turning off plug-ins. I have seen dozens of discussion posts ranting about sites that still deploy executable code through scripts and players right at their front page. A common refrain is, "I'm not plugging in so too bad for them."
As EVERYONE in the connected world hears more and more about how easy it is to "get hacked" or to contract a system virus, EVERYONE is listening to ANYONE with suggestions about how lower their risk. The word on the technology street, at least for now, is; Just say no to plug-ins.

My advise is to look at what you've deployed. Does your site require the reader to wait for content? Does she/he need more than a basic browser? How many clicks and re-clicks does it take for the reader to get to the meat of your site?

If you'd like to get an outsider to surf your site and offer an opinion of "easy or hard", go find a pack of sixth graders (no kidding). You'll discover more than you might have ever imagined!