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Macromedia Flash and Web-Based Applications


In this Alertbox from Jakob Nielsen, the web's foremost usability expert, the results of testing 46 Flash applications are summarized.

Flash is Macromedia's multimedia product; it allows content creators to combine graphics, music, text and video in an interactive format. Developers use it to create applications that are more functional than a web page (and also more interesting!).

His biggest finding?

"Most current Web-based applications are ephemeral and must be immediately understandable or users will fail. Usability requirements for Web applications are far stricter than they ever were for traditional software."
In testing for success (no credit given if the task was not completed), the average success rate was only 45%; most users failed on most tasks.


Before you spend a lot of money developing a flash presentation, consider that this application is something that your clients are likely to only see or use once. Users rarely return to the same Flash application multiple times, so they'll rarely benefit from a build-up of learning about a specific user interface.

If your clients are using an interface on your site frequently, make sure that you have optimized that form for their use.


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