Flash, DHTML, CSS, Marquee and Professionalism

Please note that this editorial has been written in late 2001. Not everything stated here is necessarily still my opinion. I'm leaving it here for the sake of the basic premise which is as valid as ever: building websites in a compatible ('right') fashion. The methods to achieve this might have changed, but the goal can't be repeated often enough.

It seems as if every webmaster is striving to have as many cool effects on his site as possible. Everything should be moving, changing, morphing, floating or whatever. Hover effects in CSS were just the beginning of it - today, nothing can be static anymore if you want to be taken seriously!

At the same, many webmasters try to make your whole screen look like their site. They don't stop at being satisfied with the contents of the browser window to design. No, they ask the user to use 'full screen mode' or just change the whole browsers appearance! A custom cursor is of course also included.

That's the newest technology, so this attitude can surely be called modern. Sites like this one - written in classic html - are so 'old-fashioned'! But is 'modern' always better?

The first point against this is related to the contents. Abandonware sites are about classic games. Did these have 3D rendered graphics and surround effects? No. Are they still great fun and masterpieces? Yes. Form and contents should be in harmony, they should 'merge' to a completely unity which can't be seperated anymore! Hardly possible with 'kewl fx'.

Next is the visitor ease. Webmasters tend to love as many design tricks on their sites as possible. It seems to make them feel better because they succeeded in including a script they found somewhere or something like that. But the same webmasters don't like long-loading effects anymore when they turn into visitors! Suddenly they complain about exactly the same things they're doing themselves! Without noticing the link though. So before you add a Java Applet next time, please think about your poor visitors with maybe slower connections.

The same goes for extensive Flash animations. Flash is used more and more. Sometimes even in the background of text or on another striking places. In many cases, these animations really look good! But are they really good for constant display on a website? Have you ever tried reading something while a huge party took place right in front of you? Yes, it distracts your attention if there's something moving and spewing sounds all the time!

In most modern OS' today it's possible to change the looks of the system. Many Windows users customize the colours of their 'desktop' for example. But then some webmaster steps in and thinks, he has to convert the world to like his colours! So he changes the scrollbar's colour, the browser's icons and so on and so on. And he's proud of himself. But what he does in fact is mess around with a thought out colour scheme! People don't just randomly choose anything, but they have their reasons to choose their favourite colours in exactly this combination! Who gives a webmaster the right to 'overrule' these decisions?

But the most important point is certainly compatibility! Not everyone has the Flash plugin installed. DHTML is handled completely differently by every browser. CSS 2.0 isn't fully supported by any browser - the effects you see sometimes (even some which are wanted by the webmaster) are just errors in browser-interpretation! Some browser companies (especially Microsoft these days) just add 'html extensions', i.e. they add non-official tags to the standard (like marquee), and there are always enough people who just use those. Sometimes without the knowledge many people won't even see what they were planning it to look like!

What's the point in having a great design if not everybody can see and use it? "But the Internet Explorer is the dominant browser!" some might say. So what? How would you feel if somebody decided to use JSSS (JavaScript Style Sheets - Netscape's old approach to DHTML) on his site and you could read the text anymore because of that? You'd be pissed. And that would be justified! But why is it everyday's routine the other way round?

I would even go as far as claiming that people who have only one browser installed (or only test their sites in one) don't have the right to call themselves webmaster! Being a webmaster means offering a service. Would you buy something in a shop where only white people are wanted? Yes, it's discrimination - that's happening in the Internet every day!

That is why I didn't use this all in this design. The site has been written completely by hand in raw HTML. It's been tested in Netscape 4.7, Netscape 6, Mozilla 0.91, Opera 5.11, Internet Explorer 5.5 and even Lynx (note: this refers to the previous design; the current one has been tested even more thoroughly)! And it looks identical in all those - apart from the text-based Lynx of course in which it can't look identical, but still works perfectly! If you're running any other browser and the pages don't look right in it, just tell me, and I'll do my very best to solve it. That's a promise!

I just want to give you all one thought to the end: what is professional? Is it using the latest technology, to create a cool looking site? Or is it taking different things into account to make the results as good as possible for everyone? One quick look at huge commercial sites like ebay or Yahoo should answer this.

But that doesn't mean you should make your sites as plain as those of course! It's just also possible to make a personal and unique design with the basic methods. And considering how most people do it, that has even more personal touch...

Mr Creosote