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:
- no Flash Player detection employed
- no alternative menu offered
- navigation not immediately obvious
- unnecessarily long load times
- menus ‘bounce’
- cannot right click menu choices
- 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.