I’m gonna rant. Ready? Go.

Things that suck: the Pizza Hut website.  I almost forgot about this, and it’s a good one.  A great example of what happens when the marketing department manages to override the IT department.  Either that, or the folks at Pizza Hut’s corporate office are drooling idiots. 

Okay, that’s not fair… that’s an insult to drooling idiots everywhere. 

Pizza Hut’s website opens with… ta-daaa!  A big fat flash intro/tunnel page thing. Here, check it out.

Now, normally this isn’t much of a problem.  98% of web users have the Flash plugin (or some derivative like gnash) installed in their browser.  Personally, I think that number is inflated, but it could be that high, I suppose.  Anyway, like I said, normally a big fat fancy Flash-based intro isn’t too terrible an issue.  But then I think about it.

Even if we use the 98% usage statistic, that means that 2% of the potential user-base don’t have access to that first page.  From a marketing standpoint, you’re losing out on 2% of your potential revenue.  Depending on the size of your audience (in this case, the internet users of the world), that percentage could be a huge number.  From a usability perspective, that 2% is flat-out unacceptable.  If you’re going to use Flash that heavily, have an alternative ready.  A usable alternative.  Otherwise, be prepared to have people turn away from your site and head over to Papa John’s or Dominos (like I did.) 

For my own experience, I was running Firefox on my Fedora box (that’s Linux).  I had installed gnash (a Flash-plugin, only open-source) and it wasn’t running right.  I didn’t feel like getting the actual Adobe Flash plugin installed, I felt like ordering a damn pizza.  Pizza Hut didn’t even have a phone number to call on the home page!  How am I supposed to order from them if my Flash plugin isn’t working right (or isn’t installed at all?)  Anyway,  Papa John’s was closed for delivery so I ended up going to the Dominos site, which runs nice n’ fast, and ordered my pizza.  Anyway, the point is that my sale was lost because of the fancy Flash tunnel page, and I was so irritated by this that I probably won’t score my pizza from Pizza Hut.  Petty?  Nah.

The problem isn’t that the Pizza Hut site sucks.  It’s that the improper use of Flash by animation-crazed marketing monkeys sucks.  A guy I used to work for used to rant about (among other things) how Flash is like crack to the non-technical marketing types.  I agree.  And I say it’s like crack to the technical types too.  The potential – the possibly uses – are pretty amazing.  You can do quite a bit with Flash.  The question is, should you?  I believe there’s a time and a place for Flash.  The home page of the Pizza Hut site (or your site) is probably not it. Use of Flash is usually unnecessary, can generally be replaced by the much more responsive and standardized AJAX techniques, and (I hate to say it) it usually looks like crap.  Oh, but the rants about Flash can go on and on – I’ve been using Flash since 1999 and I’ve gone through the crackhead phase, so there’s no shortage of experiences here.

Things that don’t suck: the clothes at Twice Shy.  Sure, their servers are slightly overloaded, but that happens.  Their stuff is stylish and cool looking, and apparently it’s made using recovered/recycled materials.  Of course, it’s expensive.  Everything that is recycled or reused is, for some reason, significantly more expensive than a brand new item made out of pollution-causing materials and assembled at a sweat-shop in Indonesia.  Why?  I mean, I can speculate – smaller, boutique-style handling and assembly of the product, the processing of the material takes time, and that has to be taken into consideration, etc.  Whatever.  It’s like food – as long as it’s cheaper and easier to eat food that is unhealthy for us, we will not change for the better.  So long as I can go buy a shirt at the mall for less than it costs to nab one of these ‘designer’ super cool recycled jobbies, there’s a stronger likelihood that I’ll do that.  It’s unfortunate, but hey, economics is economics.