What Annoys You About Flash?

I spend a large majority of my work day working with or designing for Flash-based interfaces. Flash is essentially how I make a living on a daily basis. That said, there are many personal/philosophical issues I have with Flash on the web that I struggle with everyday I work with it. Flash has almost always been a divisive technology for the web community. Most people fall in either the love or hate camps with few not holding a strong opinion about it. I am planning to go into my thoughts about Flash – my likes, my dislikes and everything in between later this week. But first, I wanted to hear what your frustrations are with the experience of Flash on the web. Your thoughts can hit any subject – vague to specific. I just want to hear from the people whose opinions are the most important, the users.

Recently I posed the question to myself of how many sites I visit on a daily basis that use Flash. When I really thought about it, the answer really shocked me. I would love to hear if my personal experience mimics yours.

Your comments are going to greatly impact how I direct my article, so please lend me your thoughts.

Update: – You can now read what annoys me about Flash.

37 thoughts on “What Annoys You About Flash?”

  1. Context menus gives me a sense of dominance and control over my computer. Flash’s context menu leaves me feeling either helpless or completely emasculated. One by one:

    Zoom In = useless. never used. remove, please.
    Zoom Out = useless. never used. remove, please.
    Show All = void if above are removed
    Quality = useless. never used. remove, please.
    Print = mostly useless – I have used purposefully once
    Settings = sure, fine, could be elsewhere
    About = boring and useless. remove, please.

  2. i feel sorry for the caged text. it feels oppressed. it cant breathe. and its wearing its pain–it looks slightly bedraggled, with its aliasing kinda frumpy. when i put my mouse on it, the effects are different. its usually not selectable. it feels like alternate reality illusion – like a mall – and i start to panic–WHAT IF I CANT GET OUT?! that poor text! and the images are in pain too! i cant grab them either.

    i feel like i NEED SOME SPACE, as do these poor little guys (the page elements). every element of the page is just sharing this one room together…i think maybe its time for them to buy a bigger house so they can have some privacy. i try to go to another room (another url) and AAAACK –i’m still at the SAME url!! you really can’t get out!!

    full flash site = haunted house

    there is one that i go to that DOESNT feel that way–

    its still fake, but it uses it to its advantage. it’s not a haunted house, it’s disneyworld!! i wouldn’t wanna spend most of my time there, but it’s fun for a weekend!

  3. Apologies if I missed out some other useless context-menu settings in the normal menu, I have the fancy debugger version with all sorts of ultra-useless things on it. If I missed some out, just assume I meant to say “useless. please remove.” for all of them (yeah, Loop, Play, Reewind, Forward, Back, you know who you are).

    What about the most obvious menu option: “Stop playing this annoying ad” …a stop button. Is that too much to ask?

  4. The only real thing that bugs me about Flash is that the FLA, SWF, FLV and F4V formats aren’t open source. There are loads of other little things that I could probably list, but that is the one thing that really I wish would change.


    Well for a start if the files were all open source you could use whatever app you wanted with them. For instance, I don’t really use ANY of the components that come with Flash. And likely never will. I prefer to build the functionality myself. Lets me do it how I want not how Flash wants. I see it as the difference between using a program like Coda and Dreamweaver. In this case Dreamweaver has all those added pretty features I’ll never use but if I ever needed were there. Coda has everything I do need and in a really clean, easy to use UI. Imagine if the same thing was true of Flash.

    Also, if the Flash formats were all open source it would take the control of the formats out of the hands of Adobe and would allow people to make make players and plugins that work better than the Flash Player, which is rather bad on Macs. All the Mac people in the room, imagine a Flash Player that ran on Core apps instead of the way it does now? It’d be infinitely faster than the current version and likely more stable.

    And the final reason I really REALLY wish they were open source? It would deliver a killer blow to Silverlight. Last thing the net needs is another plugin. With Flash being on over 90% of the computers on the net these days there’s no need to release any competition. The world would have been better served if Microsoft had driven for Flash being open source. Then create a better program for using those files.

  5. Open Source is a big deal for me too. Having an Open Source Flash player (GNash apart, i mean) would totally rock. Starting with embedding it on all sort of devices and applications.

    Yes, I’m aware of the recent Open Screen announcement, but that’s still NOT an Open Source flash player.

    Also something i really, really don’t understand and i think is SO unfair regarding fellow HTML developers is that fact that we have a HUGE deal with components. HTML developers don’t *ever* think about if a Radio Button would add too much weight to his/her application. Components are just there, no one worries about them. And HTML components work *flawlessly*. Could you imagine FF, IE or any other browser having a bug with such a basic thing?

    Zarate’s last blog post..Vaporware nunca mais

  6. My problem with flash is that it seems to be used to develop pointless things.

    Most flash “web” animations are redundant and not worth the time that it takes to load. Some glossy line going over the navigation when you hover over is so pointless and ridiculous.

    As mentioned above, using flash to develop your entire site, unless it is developed well, is a nightmare. Even for broadband users.. takes minutes to load one page, and another few minutes to load a link that you click on. I want content, and I want it NOW.

    Flash is also used to create a lot of splash intro pages, which is one of the most annoying things in the entire world. If for some ungodly reason you need a splash intro, for the love of god put a skip link.

    Audio. Flash audio overtakes the music I’m already listening to and it becomes a chore to find where the application is playing and disable the music. More annoying than closing an ad pop up, in my opinion.

    Flash is also often used to create advertisements. I’m sure I can speak for a large majority of net users when I say that advertisements are bad enough when they aren’t playing audio and swirling around all over the place.

    In short — Flash is used often enough to create long loading websites, unnecessary intros, and annoying advertisements. What’s the point in using flash to develop anything other than interactive games and/or video players?

  7. Having to hold everything in memory by virtue of the size limitation of shared objects.
    No background processing ( lots of architecture needed to hack this, doesn’t scale to processing speed ).
    Absence of common data structures means that every library has its own implementation of HashMap, etc. and they’re all different.
    No copy of SWFLoader assets ( forces named document class ), no cubic bezier curves.
    There, I’m glad that’s of my chest.

  8. IMHO flash should be used for 1) Some games and 2) Animations. Anything else is usually overkill and a different technology would probably be delivering it better. I *hate* splash/intro screens for websites and I *hate* entirely flash based websites. If you need to use flash for an app that demonstrates something useful then sure, go ahead and give me that virtual tour of a product but for the love of all that is sane, don’t use it for things like website navigation menus. Things like not having the link show in the status bar drives me mad.

    Flash can be a neat tool for web development but it really needs to be used sparingly and only when it can do something better and faster than the other technologies available.

  9. I own the little-computer-that-could. It’s an old Powerbook but certainly a tough one, and has served me through heaven and hell for the past few years. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough funds to continually keep up with memory etc. So in many situations when my computer encounters a flash heavy site, it gives up and crashes my browser. The usual culprits are splash screens, or 100% built flash sites. And for what reasons were these sites necessary? None. Splash screens are rarely useful. As well as the web index-unfriendly websites. While I am not a Flash developer or avid user that’s able to expound deep knowledge on the program, it seems that my experiences from being an everyday web user proves that Flash isn’t efficient. Flash seems pretty and fancy at first glance, but for the most part, convolutes functionality and efficiency. A solid example is the typical movie website. For example, I wanted to learn about the plot and other details for a certain blockbuster. Instead of finding some basic info, I had to deal with loading the flash interface which took forever, and dealing with all kinds of animation sequences just to reveal the navigation. By that point, I could care less about the website. The Oooh and Ahhh factor of Flash has gotten old. I just want to get to my damn website. My time is precious.

    Also…EVERYTHING Regina wrote.

  10. I don’t think that some of you understand (eg. Doug, Zarate) what the Open Screens project is about. It does allow anyone to make an open source Flash Player or IDE. Anyone can see the source. It’s not open source in the sense that there is community control over the SWF spec itself but it is a big step in the direction that you guys are talking about, eg. native Mac flash player. In fact, I think that is the primary point of Open Screens – to get Flash on as many devices as possible. I think it’s Adobe sending a message to Apple as well – “If you think the Flash Player is too slow to be on the iPhone, write your own”.

    And BabyCakes, of course you can’t get rid of Zoom In – not everyone can see as well as you.

    A lot of the other issues that people have mentioned come down to poor developers, eg. of course it’s the developers choice whether the audio autoplays or not.

    My biggest issue with Flash is the IDE. I find it so quirky and counter-intuitive. But I’m a Flex developer and I love it so long live Flash!

  11. I use OpenLaszlo, so from my point of view the Flash runtime is pure bliss. OpenLaszlo provides a very effective development language to wrap around the Flash runtime. Especially with its data-binding mechanisms, constraints, and instance-based programming model, OpenLaszlo is a huge productivity boost on my projects. Generating code to the Flash runtime ensures consistency across operating systems and browsers, with only a few quirks between them. Having the ability to flip a switch and generate DHTML from the same code base is icing on the cake.

    Robert Yeager

  12. the web is first an experience, like life. where do you get content in life? from seeing, hearing, thinking… these things don’t happen in a vacuum, they happen in a particular context. if you design for the need, flash can be an amazing experience. something properly placed, properly used, is a thing of beauty; flash or not. the point is to think when you design or develop; what is the need?

  13. I think gratuitously using Flash where page based HTML would work just as well tops my list of annoying flash uses. For example, Flash based blogs are generally not a good idea. At this point in time, I think it’s become pretty clear that Flash works well for web based application development, but not so good as a text based content delivery format.

    Another thing I find annoying is that Flash does not provide an easy way to load or save files from a browser based app without first passing the files over the wire to the server (and does so in a clunky fashion at that). If Adobe can let the Flash player access my webcam and microphone without it being a security issue (by simply -asking me- if it’s okay), surely they can come up with a way to let me save and load files locally in both an easy and secure manner.

  14. Interesting comments. I think you should have also asked for age or maybe even an age range in the comments. I would base the need on demographic and content. If your demographic were Slashdot users and your content is news or article driven I’d probably shy away from the Flash Platform, but if it were high school or college students and video driven, then the Flash Platform is your guy. Personally, I enjoy watching SWF content evolve, it can provide a rich experience if done properly.

    Age: 35

  15. Lack of Mousewheel support on the Mac. Weird issues with wmode = transparent, such as the hit area being offset in Firefox 2 on Windows.

  16. Here’s a few from the top of my head:

    1. Accessibility APIs are poor and not even supported on Mac OSX.
    2. Fonts must be embedded to rotate or change alpha. That sucks. (crappy bitmap hacks exist, but I’d never use them).
    3. Better browser integration would be nice, especially for text.
    a. Hook into browser’s Copy-Paste commands (especially so that they show up correctly enabled/disabled in the Edit menu).
    b. Hook into text selection (select across multiple textfields much like you can select ALL text in an HTML page)
    4. Native support for browser back/forward and URL updates (which would bring native bookmarking into the mix for free too!). Not through iframe hacks, either. The browser plugin APIs should make this available. If this isn’t part of the plugin APIs, then Adobe should be trying to make it available!
    5. As BabyCakes said, remove all the rarely used context menu items. Most flash content isn’t frame-based animation anymore, and how many people zoom? There’s one use-case, as someone stated, for users with poor eyesite, but that’s an accessibility feature of the OS.
    6. Replace Flash Player’s context menu with the browser’s native menu. I’d love to create links in a SWF and have the browser’s native “Open in New Window” and “Open in New Tab” take care of the details.

    Josh Tynjala’s last blog post..Adobe needs to improve accessibility in Flash Player

  17. My gripe with Flash is when it doesn’t work. When I get an error message, I call my technical support – PJ of course – who cheerfully comes to tell me that in 9 cases out of 10 that I need to restart the browser. Bah.

    I was trying to think of a site that I go to frequently that has Flash and PJ pointed out how much I complain about the video player on the NY Times site. I actually enjoy watching the videos, but they usually play for 1-3 seconds before pausing to buffer – leaving me to watch a video in a serious of audio hiccups. I even talked PJ into emailing the NY Times to translate my frustration into computer lingo. And alas, I look longingly at the videos while I read the other content on the site. Abstinence is better than high blood pressure that the damn thing won’t work.

    PJ will comment and tell you all that this not the technology, but rather the execution (he warned me he would debunk my comment a bit), but I must say, as an average user, not a developer or designer, that a site that works is the best kind of user centric site. And so I fulfill my video needs by watching The Daily Show instead.

  18. So once again, wow. Thanks to all who have commented. I’m going to try to respond to each comment now.

    BabyCakes – Oh yes, the infamous right-click. That definitely tops the list of many-a-user. I do not remember the last time I have used any of those options. Once thing I will say is the right-click in Flash has become a little more important to me since that is how you view the source of Flex projects where the code has been made available.

    regina – I couldn’t have summarized this subject any better. The analogy of Flash as Disneyland is perfect. You should write on a blog or something. 😉

    Doug S. – Thanks for bringing up this subject because it is a sore point for me as well. I understand the sticky points of making FLA files open source, but the rest should be open. On that subject, the FLV should be no more a year from now. I really appreciate that Adobe worked to make Flash play H.264 Quicktime video, but I want to see support for OGG and/or Theora codecs. Frankly, this is for Adobe’s own good as it further differentiates Flash from Silverlight’s WMV-only format support.

    Zarate – Please don’t get me started on UI components in Flash. Most people have no idea how hard it is to make a good scrollbar or dropdown. It is incredibly easy to make bad ones however and that’s why we are where we are with Flash. People have had far too many bad experiences with bad Flash UI components. This is definitely a major gripe of mine.

    Tyler – Sadly, your concerns are not on the technology but rather on the community using the technology. I say sadly, because I feel the technology may be easier to push in a better direction than some folks in the community. Yes, Flash does have a bad rep in this regard, but this is definitely an instance where I’ll say Adobe/Macromedia aren’t at fault – we (as the dev/design community) are.

    Markas Read – Really good points here. I have heard through the rumor-mill that we may be seeing some help on the data structures front – but I could be mistaken.

    buggy – I completely agree with you, although I think you’re missing one of the major uses for Flash – video. Other than that, I’m right with you. As for your list of hates, well I can assure you that you’re not alone.

    Jensa – Yes, StopAnnoyingAdButton is something we can all support. 🙂

    As for the comment on Adobe’s move towards open source, I definitely agree – they are really moving in the right direction and I commend them on a steady push towards an open platform. It’s taking some time, but it’s definitely happening.

    kellie – Your comment is full of good points. We really need to question whether we are designing for our own amusement or for the user. Sadly, my site has crashed your browser far too many times for excessive and unnecessary use of Flash. Sorry, I’m working on making that go away.

    Darren – Really good point about Open Screens and the iPhone. Flash isn’t perfect in terms of performance, but in terms of what you get from a lightweight plugin, it’s damned impressive.

    Actually, in terms of scaling, I would recommend embedding the SWF with ems, so when you scale a site’s type (with the browser) the SWF will scale along with it.

    Robert Yeager – You know, I’ve heard amazing things about OpenLazlo, yet I have yet to give it a shot. I’ll have to check it out at some point.

    Kris – I will say that SEO with Flash can be a little tricky due to its potentially non-hierarchical structure. Most websites nowadays have a common informational structure (to varying degrees of course). That cannot be said in the slightest when it comes to Flash sites. Still, Javascript SWF injection takes care of 80% of the cases.

    stephen eighmey – Agreed. When it comes down to it, most of these issues would not be concerns if we did just what you suggest.

    Noel – Yes, Flash blogs probably aren’t a good idea for a myriad of reasons…

    As for the passing of files, that would indeed be nice. I don’t do too much work around that area so I’m a bit surprised it’s not there to begin with.

    Duncan – Um, yeah – that would have been a damned good question to ask… Golden opportunity missed. Any of you folks mind leaving another comment with your age? 😉

    As for age impacting Flash-aversion, that’s a really good point and something I’d like to see played out for a few more years. It will definitely be interesting to see how that impacts web development in the future.

    Jamie – Yes, once again, we take those well-groomed OS components for granted until we don’t have them…

    Josh Tynjala – Great list all around. It seems like your comments (and many others) center around better browser integration. Flash has been around since the late 1990’s and it still is just a inaccessible box (minus ExternalInterface) that sits in your browser window. I’m disappointed about how this hasn’t progressed, although I can understand the difficulty.

    Leah – At the end of the day, don’t we all just want “it” to work. There literally is nothing worse on the internet than a buggy Flash app.

    Nothing. Period.

  19. @Everyone – good comments. I have had many of those thoughts over the last 10 years of developing with flash (I am feeling old now).

    Remember, if you have anything you feel is actually a bug (rather than a feature request), then use the new Flash player bugbase – https://bugs.adobe.com/flashplayer/

    @Leah – So you are blaming Flash for your slow connection ? 🙂 The daily show uses Flash for its browse videos by timeline functionality as well as the videos themselves, so….

  20. @Aran – we actually have a fairly decent broadband connection, so I don’t think that the connection is the issue. Technical support agrees. 🙂

  21. My main gripe -as a developer- is text handling, that’s really the thing that always ends up doing weird things you would not expect and you are not sure how to fix. If they could make that reliable, and more stylable – it seems Flash10 will include more styling, but if it’s still as messy it won’t help much.

    Now as a user, but I don’t think it’s the scope of this article, of course I would like to see more smart use of flash than just “let’s do flash because the boss thinks its cool”.

  22. @ Jordi – I completely agree. I would also like to see more smart use of flash than just “lets do flash because the CLIENT thinks its cool.”

    @ SRD – Designers certainly need to tone down their ego and figure out if they are designing for themselves or the user. That is why I applaud the interactive designers out there who truly care and put the UI of an application or website as the primary goal. I personally believe that graphic designers with little UI knowledge building flash sites is a dangerous thing. On the other hand, your site, although it’s crashed my browser infinite times, redeems itself with other far more valuable qualities. First of all, by not being completely built in Flash!

  23. @Kellie – What I meant by “boss” was the client company’s boss, but it doesn’t matter who’s guilty anyway, it should just stop. The worst thing in all this is that it makes some people hate flash because “it’s crap only used to make things that annoy me”.

  24. @ Jordi – I think we are thinking the same thing here. 🙂
    It certainly needs to stop and gives Flash a bad rep.

  25. I believe that a good replacement for FLASH will be Microsoft Silverlight technology. It is really quite cool, seamless animation, but not automatically compatible. Thoughts?

  26. nothing annoys me about flash. AS3 looks very promising along with flex. alot of the major problems have been fixed and AS3 is faster. Also AS is a real language now. I like the fact that i can build a site and have it display exactly the same on all browsers. what annoys me is flash designers who dont optimize there images and sound. the key to a good flash site it keeping it lite. Flash Vs Ajax? i can under stand ajax for big sites but i’m a flash dev i can spit out a gallery faster in flash then ajax so i will….deal with it.

  27. I think my gripe list is a bit different than most folks. They are more language and runtime features.

    1.) No API for direct access to HTTP headers. I know this isn’t included because of some old browsers. In that case the API should return null or maybe even throw an error, whatever. It will work fine in modern browsers.
    2.) Collections and generics. Somebody else mentioned collections, i.e. hashtables, sets, lists, etc. These need to be standardized and genericized. I am tired of doing myArray[i] as User.
    3.) Multi-threading. Also mentioned by others… I would not recommend a shared memory model like Java, C#, but a message based system like you can get with JavaScript + Google Gears.
    4.) Virtual Machine APIs. We should be able to force garbage collection, find out memory usage, etc.

    And finally, my biggest complaint by far :

    5.) The Flex framework needs to be included with the Flash player. The cross-domain caching of the framework as an RSL is a band-aid. Make the Flash player a 2.5 MB download instead of 1.9 MB. Silverlight has a big advantage as an RIA platform because of this.

    Michael’s last blog post..Dynamic Language Performance

  28. I will agree with the statement that it seems like flash is used to only design pointless things. There are times where you see something that has used the potential of the technology in an effective way, however most of this time flash is used just for gimmicks.

    Gimmicks really annoy me, as a designer I seek out projects that have substance and actually mean something to someone. I despise things that exist purely to exist, flash makes it easier for these projects to appear worthwhile. This is not entirely the fault of flash, yet maybe the expectations that unexperienced clients put on it.

    Zinni’s last blog post..Establishing Criteria for Good Internship Experiences

  29. First off, Flash is horrible for SEO purposes. Second, the internet is not technologically ready for flash yet. If your connection is not the fastest, trying to load a page that contains flash is a nightmare. I know I keep a list of websites that do not use flash and I go to those instead of the alternative (sportingnews.com vs espn.com). Once the internet catches up with flash it will be great, but for now, it is horrible to deal with.

  30. What annoys me – that is when I’m going through open tabs in Firefox, flash will catch keyboard focus (Ctrl+Tab) and will not release it until manual mouse intervention from my side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *