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Steve Jobs Makes Us Re-think Web Design

steve jobs

Apple recently announced that they have absolutely no plans to enable
Flash content on iPhones, iPods or iPads and this has made everyone in
our business re-think the utilization of Flash in web content. But the
more conventional wisdom would be to think multi-platform. Think
inclusive rather than exclusive.

What this announcement really brings home is the difference between
the wired and mobile web. The world is changing and mobile devices are
leading the way. If popular devices such as Apple’s repertoire do not
support one of the most popular animation applications on the internet,
an adaptation or a correction if you will, has to take place somewhere
down the line.

One thing seems certain. The adaptation will not come from Apple.
They have listed reason after
reason why their devices will not support Flash.
. And all these
reasons are quite valid. Apple believes in the open web, and Flash is
closed and proprietary (even though many of their products, including
the operating system on the iPhone, iPod and iPad are proprietary). This
closed third-party architecture can be quite ubiquitous for
developers when trying to integrate with these platforms. From a more
basic perspective, Flash doesn’t support touch navigation, which is a
biggie, and can be a big drain on battery life. Another biggie.

So I get it. I understand Apple’s position. It makes sense.

That doesn’t change the fact that this stance they are taking is
completely incompatible with today’s web. So many sites offer Flash
today as a central part of their content. The smart sites detect if a
the Flash player is available, and if it is not, it serves up a boring
placeholder image, and that cool user experience is lost. It’s not
Apple’s fault. It certainly isn’t Adobe’s fault. And it also really
isn’t the designer’s fault either. It is the fault of the web as we know
it today. The web is primarily designed for the wired, not the mobile

Yes, there are plenty of mobile versions of sites being produced.
Basically, these are stripped down versions of websites, lightweight
interpretations that play nicely in the mobile world. But the iPhone
offers an interface canvas that can easily allow for all the bells and
whistles. The iPad in particular certainly should be able to keep up
with the media rich content of today’s web, no? Considering that you can
play HD quality video on the thing!

What we have here is a complete change from what we expected a few
years ago. Back then we were starting to see platforms coming together,
making web design simple in that it was truly becoming a build once, run
anywhere medium. But that has changed because the media has changed.
Mobile users demand that content be delivered compatible with the
devices they own, and at the same time, they will be unimpressed with
the overly stripped-down. We are reaching a time where content from the
world wide web will need to dynamically and drastically adjust for the
platform, and web designers will be challenged to make that happen. Even
more challenged will be the agencies as they try to convince their
clients that they don’t just need to add the mobile version for their
website, but the iPad, or touch navigation version as well.


  1. Cory Grassell
    Cory Grassell May 12, 2010

    Excellent points! It’s important to reiterate this message to companies. Many clients still think building mobile platforms is as simple as taking their current websites and “shrinking” it for the mobile screen. It’s a completely different medium. Even SEO for mobile is guided by different practices and principles.

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