Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Flash Banner Menus

Disco Sucks!Even disco balls have their time and place, just so long as the time isn’t during my pastor’s sermon taking place in the church sanctuary. This sums up how I feel about Flash banner menus atop church websites. Aside from being distracting to the point of irritation, they’re often as practical as a spinning disco ball in my 11th grade Sunday school class … though I suspect some of my students might disagree.

This is why I haven’t and won’t install Flash on my primary browser, Mozilla/FireFox. I do this so I can read articles on e-zines and online newspapers without getting a headache. It also helps me sniff out church websites that employ Flash without the benefit of ‘auto-detection.’

Case in point: the Mandarin Christian Church of Jacksonville, FL.

Here we have a church website bulging with well-organized, well-written content … for those of you with a high-speed Internet connection the latest and greatest Flash plug-in installed in your browser.

There are seven things I hate about this:

  1. no Flash Player detection employed
  2. no alternative menu offered
  3. navigation not immediately obvious
  4. unnecessarily long load times
  5. menus ‘bounce’
  6. cannot right click menu choices
  7. maintenance issues

What I suspect has happened here is some very technically competent people who are obviously Flash gurus, bit the apple of ‘gee-wizardy‘ and have shoehorned in an opportunity to strut their stuff at the expense of usability, accessibility and maintainability.

There are six reasons why this is a bad idea:

  • users don’t want to wait 60 seconds for their navigation;
  • users don’t want to see the pre-menu ‘introduction’ every time they load the home page;
  • older users and users with disabilities may not have the hand-eye coordination to follow the bouncing menu;
  • some users, such as seniors, are afraid their computer may blow-up if they load anything their son-in-law didn’t install last Christmas;
  • users without Flash get nothing but a huge block of white space above the fold with little or not clue as to what went wrong;
  • unless the Flash menu is data-driven (and Mandarin Christian’s might be), then you have to figure out a process on how to synchronize new pages with both the re-rendering of the Flash menu and the text menu along the bottom of the page.

How I would heal this site in 30 minutes:

Lose the (bad) Flash banner menus in favor of some faster loading, easier to manage and read HTML (possibly DHTML) menus. If I couldn’t remove the current menu system without invoking a church crippling schism, then I would at least employ some Flash Player detection so users without Flash … and search engines (ahem) … aren’t confused with a big white nothingness. That said, if this is a political issue, then perhaps a good compromise might be to render the menus as HTML (possibly DHTML), while continuing to render the banner using Flash.

One other thing, I’d lose the evil scrolling Marquee.

Aside from that, the page layout and information hierarchy all works for me.

11 Comments

  1. The Privacy Policy has an interesting section at the bottom – they’ve actually developed guidelines for “unofficial” sites referencing the church:

    http://mandarinchristian.com/resources.php?pId=8

  2. Agree that the site _looks_ nice. I have high speed and don’t mind flash so that doesn’t bother me, personally — disregarding useability completely, that is.

    Question: Can spam email address harvesters opperate on pages with parameters like this “contactus.php?fuseaction=staff”? If so, the webmaster left no less than 49 emails exposed to the evil harvesters. Copy ‘n paste the this uri into this form and see what I mean.

  3. Commenting on Mike’s comment – that’s interesting. I have an uncomfortable feeling about it. I definitely understand their motivation – I just think it is probably useless. They are trying to control the uncontrollable.

    Frank

  4. “some users, such as seniors, are afraid their computer may blow-up if they load anything their son-in-law didn’t install last Christmas;”

    I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this, it is so true!!

  5. </lurk>

    The background image isn’t wide enough – 1024px may be enough for the majority of users, but with my 1600×1200 screen, a second round of the double vertical line background appears right in the middle of the content text.

    Nevertheless, besides the Flash menu (and I don’t have a problem with Flash menus, but this one is bouncy – slows down the user for no good reason) it is a pretty compelling site.

    - Ted

  6. OoOoOh, the flash makes me seasick. The search function doesn’t seem to work (I tried search term “music”). The page titles do not reflect the page content.

    I very much like the idea of a Your First Visit page (Parking Ministry!?), but wish it had more information, like whether I should wear a tie (or long pants). I also like the Email Groups page. It’s probably a requirement for such a large church.

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  9. For users of Mozilla Firefox, who despise flash, but often go to sites that display it anyhow, there is a wonderful extension available that replaces all flash windows with a “click to play” button. It makes browsing flash-heavy sites much nicer.

  10. Let’s not forget to notice (and mention) the small white graphic below the fold…it says “community connection” and shows up 105×70. It’s really 600×400, scrunched instead of resized. That’s why it’s fuzzy, which is a dead giveaway. They always make me open them up and see the filesize…which, in this case, is 50kb. That’s probably ten times the data necessary for a graphic that size.

  11. Let’s not forget to notice (and mention) the small white graphic below the fold…it says “community connection” and shows up 105×70. It’s really 600×400, scrunched instead of resized. That’s why it’s fuzzy, which is a dead giveaway. They always make me open them up and see the filesize…which, in this case, is 50kb. That’s probably ten times the data necessary for a graphic that size. Compare that to their almost unreadable map, which is less than 35kb!