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Macromedia Flash and Web-Based Applications

Story:

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.

Analysis:

Several other findings were particularly noteworthy:

  • Users have less motivation to understand advanced features in Web-based applications, because the applications are not typically a core part of their work.
  • Users rarely return to the same Flash application multiple times, so they'll rarely benefit from a build-up of learning about a specific GUI.
Jakob Nielsen is often seen as a spoil-sport by content developers, who know that people want to see something entertaining. However, if you (the business owner or responsible executive) are not getting your investment back from a web application because it is not usable, then it won't matter how "entertaining" it was.

Link:

Click here for the story (opens in new window)


 

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