The new Ster Kinekor website is an old story already and a lot has been written about its pros and cons. I got back into the story yesterday when someone behind the Ster Kinekor Twitter account engaged with me when I tweeted about my frustration with the site.
What followed was some engagement with Ster Kinekor in a series of direct messages. I was pointed to a terrific post and even more interest comment thread on Rian van der Merwe’s blog which a number of people contributed to, including Tim Bishop from Prezence, the company that built the site (Rian responded to a couple of his points in one of his comments). The thinking behind using Flash for the site basically comes down to the number of devices that support Flash compared to the number that don’t, coupled with the apparently amazing work the Prezence team was able to do with Flash to create a relatively speedy and resource-light site.
Although I am not a designer or a developer and have a pretty superficial grasp of the technical stuff, my thought is that with all the magic being done with HTML 5 and the fact that it seems to be supported by all modern browsers and a good number of mobile devices, sites should be developed with that rather than Flash. Its probably a little naive of me to think that given how little I really know so I should probably change my approach to the following critique as a user:
Tim’s comment on Rian’s post takes issue with more vocal people on Twitter who complain about the site while ordinary users who are still apparently using Internet Explorer 6 (old, insecure and doesn’t even know what HTML 5 is, let alone support it) in substantial numbers (I don’t believe it and Rian points to IE6 use in SA as being roughly 5.7% at the time, now roughly 4.5%). The local Twitterati have been pretty critical of the new site and while they are in the minority of South African users who use the Ster Kinekor site and who probably find all this fancy stuff quite nice, the Twitterati are influencers, pioneers and make sense for the most part. I am probably in that boat, at least in the sense that I use Twitter to complain and vent (not so sure about being influential, pioneering or even making sense) but I keep going back to my experience with the site. I am not new to the Web or to Flash sites and I struggle to do what the site is meant to help me do: find information on movies and show times and then book tickets.
I am an edge case in many respects. I use an iPhone which notoriously doesn’t support Flash at all and I am a Mac user. I use my phone a lot and have come to expect services I use to give me mobile access via an app or a decent Web interface. Bishop pointed out (somewhat facetiously) that a new mobile site is on the horizon which will work on pretty much all mobile devices including the iPhone. That’s good news because the Flash one is a pain to use and I want to be able to do stuff like that on the go anyway. What is also clear is that the Ster Kinekor site is not going to drop Flash anytime soon, despite the vocal outcry about how heavily the site uses Flash and the design decisions which were made. That means that critics should either just deal with it or not use the site at all. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few here and that isn’t a totally unreasonable approach. It is just an unsatisfactory one. As Rian pointed out in his reply to Bishop’s comment:
And I’d also like to point out that whatever the statistic is on % penetration of Flash, let’s not forget that there is a technology that has 100% penetration in all browsers: HTML. This also then settles the mobile argument, in my opinion.
Ultimately the feedback from Ster Kinekor leaves me feeling a little ill at ease about how it regards the vocal minority that is clearly passionate about usability, effective design and development. Its also a reminder that just because we make a lot of noise in our little ecosystem, when the numbers are tallied the Twitterati is not perceived to be the equivalent of pesky mosquitos. Its certainly not my happy place.