If I Can’t See Your Content, Then I’m Not Coming Back

At this point, there is simply no excuse for large blank swaths of prominent websites. What am I talking about?

Let’s start with the audience. There are increasingly more devices accessing the Internet with no plug-ins like Adobe Flash. Most people forget that all Apple devices (iPhone, iPads, iPod touches, and yes, all Macs) are shipping without the Flash plug-in by default. This is not a personal vendetta against Adobe (or Macromedia) but is based on a carefully-reasoned argument as outlined by the late Steve Jobs.

And if you’re skeptical of Apple’s marketshare, check out their last quarter in raw numbers.

The mob of devices without Flash is already here.

J.Crew website without the Adobe Flash plug-in
Using a MacBook Air and the Safari browser with default settings, this is what the J.Crew website looks like.

But look around the Web and you’ll invariably see a number of major websites without a Flash fallback solution. This is even true for some of my favorite brands like J.Crew, Old Spice, and REI, all of which lack a solution for those customers who want to digest interactive and video content but cannot.

Just think of the potential decrease to customer satisfaction or the lost opportunity to present rich media to eager customers. We are on the site to learn more about the brand but are implicitly told, “No.”

And I get it. In many companies there are plenty of political or organizational hurdles to overcome to make website changes of this magnitude. I’m there with you.

But at this point, if I cannot see your content, then I am not coming back.

It Gets Better with Age

Tonight I watched Objectified on Netflix—ironically, while ironing—and spent some time contemplating the various man-made things we use on a regular basis. The documentary film by Gary Hustwit is a follow-up to his brilliant tour de force of typefaces called Helvetica, but this time focuses on industrial design and its iconic celebrities.

There was one moment that resonated with me, though. I think it was compelling in its hopefulness. IDEO co-founder David Kelley spoke of objects that get better with age rather than degrade with it, which is a design concept that is becoming more foreign to us nowadays. Using the example of his father’s leather suitcase, the leather breaking in over time, Kelley believes our propensity for flash-bang consumerism is pulling us away from passing objects down through the generations. And I think I may agree.

So how could we design objects that get better with time? What about user interfaces? Websites? How can we apply the principles of classic industrial design—that which was practiced by Dieter Rams, Charles and Ray Eames, etc.—to the intangible world of pixels and code?