Webby Nominees in Best Use Of Photography

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  1. Has anyone noticed how each of these nominee sites is authored in flash?

    Flash is at the heart of every great photographic website. Apple’s refusal to put flash on an iTard is a disservice to photographers, one of their core client groups. It forces thousands and thousands of photographers to spend additional money making their sites work on the iPad.

    My open letter to all photography organizations that can bring pressure to bear on Apple:

    I am an award winning photography and magazine website designer (Webby, PDN, Communication Arts). I am personally invested in Flash because it is the best solution for providing media rich websites. I don’t mean video, I mean combinations of media, multimedia in fact – on the same canvas (video, images, text). This is what an online magazine will be. This is what the web offers over print. Mixed media, beautifully laid out and ready to share.

    I have been watching the iPad and its development for some time. It’s clear it is an important device for the publishing industry. There are arguments for and against its value etc., but it is important.

    To the moment and a call to action. The iPad does not support Flash. Aside from my personal investment in it running Flash (all my client websites, my 10 years of experience etc.) I think all photographers should be invested in making the Apple iPad run Flash.

    HTML5 does not offer the same level of support for building multimedia websites as Flash. Apple are not telling the truth regards its ability to fulfill what flash does (and focusing more on its use as video player than a multimedia canvas). HTML5 supports media as a plugin to a word led, structured and dominated page. The New York Times pronounces professional photography is dead (how long until professional journalism is dead?). I once commented on this site about the fact that an image is not even worth a word (let alone a 1000) in the world of search engines and potentially is spam and malicious. Every decent photographer website is built in Flash. Every beautiful website where photography forms the backbone of the site structure is built in Flash.

    Photographers need to be howling at Apple. Apple are reducing the importance of images and media, dumbing down users, allying themselves to a world where words are more important than images. Not withstanding the fact that virtually every photographer is going to have to redo their website (an unnecessary cost). Apple are doing this to support their competitive advantage, video format and app store revenue, not because flash is inherently bad (it is not perfect, but not perfect does most people very well – Windows for example). The issue is not Flash, the issue is Apple, competitive advantage, its video format, and iTunes store revenue stream. Photographers have supported Apple by using their hardware with Adobe software long before the iPod, iPhone, iPad or any mainstream product came from them. Apple are returning the favor by choosing their own proprietary formats over user experience at the real expense of photographers, the money they have invested in websites (which will need to be redeveloped), and the importance of the image (and therefore its value and photographers incomes) in web content.

    Please tell Apple you would like Flash on the iPad.

    • @Mike Hartley, Apple has been riding on their old reputation for awhile. They stopped making professional quality monitors years ago. It’s all BlingGlass now.

    • @Mike Hartley, I think it’s a little far reaching to say every decent photographer’s site is built in Flash. Flash is hurting photographers. It’s not SEO friendly and it punishes users. I have flashblock on and the number of photographer’s sites that are flash only is outrageous. There are ways to create rich multimedia sites built without flash. It may seem that Apple is trying to hurt photogs but as the world moves to a mobile platform more and more small processors will be running sites. And I personally don’t want to view a Flash site on a phone. That’s a ton of processing for a mobile device to do.

      Photogs and the music industry are one of the last holdouts for creating full HTML sites. As someone who does webdev in conjunction w/ photography it hurts me to see friends lean on Flash as an answer to the internet. It’s not good for anyone.

      • @Ryan, I don’t want to view a flash site on a phone either. But on an iPad, I do, and it should be able to cope. Other tablets will cope easily.

        You say ‘There are ways to create rich multimedia sites built without flash’. Can you explain what these are and send links to some example sites running right now?

        ‘Photogs and the music industry are one of the last holdouts for creating full HTML sites’. That’s because their demands are for multimedia sites which HTML is not very good at. Flash is very useful for certain tasks.

        Plus, inherently, rendering large images, videos etc is going to be processor intensive because they are big files. So, if you want a big experience, it takes processing. Flash, like any development tool, can be good and can be bad, it depends on the developer, but the notion that flash is slow by definition is not actually true:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUWo19BcC7s

        ‘As someone who does webdev in conjunction w/ photography it hurts me to see friends lean on Flash as an answer to the internet. It’s not good for anyone.’ In what way does it hurt photographers to display their work to its best?

        • @Mike Hartley, One of the biggest downsides of flash is URL’s. I can’t send a link to a client for an image because it’s locked up in Flash. Some sites contain everything in one package. They can’t even share a gallery link.

          Load times (I’m on my work connection which is notoriously slow but all things will be equal. I searched “photojournalist” I chose 1 flash 1 HTML. I did not pay a lot of attention to design simply flash v. html)
          DavidBurnett.com: 847ms (HTML)
          BenjaminKrain.com: 2.04s (Flash & post cache)

          Recently I had friends using Livebooks (flash) who lost their Google ranking for a time. It’s not impossible to do SEO w/ flash but it’s not as easy.

          Some people hand create their sites in flash and I tend to see those less up to date. Some have images that haven’t changed since I started taking pictures almost 5 years ago. I personally run my site on a gallery software that I wrote a custom theme for, to update my site all I do is drop an image in a folder. It automatically picks up my IPTC data and is live w/in seconds. Google is able to read my caption data both in my ALT tags and on the page.

          Flash can do pretty things but as someone who doesn’t like for people to do things like play music on their site because I find it rude to the viewer I feel the same about Flash. I should give the viewer the most compliant, fast, easily accessible, site I’m able to. I’d like have a full frame image that I can easily swipe. Then the photographer does get every possible pixel out of the iPad and I’m sure w/ some time a dev will build a simple addon for systems like WordPress and Zenphoto that will allow a high quality gallery that does fullscreen swipe.

          • @Ryan, Flash sites should have deep links, if not, they are badly built. I take your point

            Regards swiping images, in my experience photographers do not want people to be able to do that.

            Regards SEO. Yes, this is an issue. But on balance, photography has value because it inspires, communicates meaning, explains and demonstrates amongst, I am sure, a host of other things. If a site promoting a photographer does not do these things, then whether or not you can find it is irrelevant. Absolutely one must be able to find a site, but then it has to sell the product. It’s not hard to make a Flash website ‘findable’. I have not found a non flash (or silverlight site) that sells the product as well as flash or silverlight. You did not send any links, so I assume neither have you. Please do if you have. I am genuinely interested. I am only in interested in the debate about flash in as much as it is the best technology to display multimedia. Silverlight is also unsupported on the iTard.

            Regards music and other rich media experiences. I have no desire to make you listen to music, but I do have a desire to be able to make web experiences as compelling as TV, print or anything else you care to mention. If we don’t, the creative output of photographers (and others) will have less value as we move from TV and print to online because it will just not be as important. Multimedia, mixing images, video, sound and text is actually digital’s competitive advantage and to me should be the focus of development on the web.

            Further, RIAs (Rich Internet Applications), sites which deliver compelling experiences within a page, or iPhone/iPad apps etc. all suffer the same problems with SEO. Content in an app is not indexed, and neither is it in an RIA built using .NET. HTML5 or Javascript. Search engines index what is on the page at time of load, and not elements that are loaded as a result of user interaction. Personally, I would rather try and build compelling experiences that add value and meaning to our lives and then promote them than tie myself to a page structure dictated by Google that values words over multimedia in the hope that someone might find me (when I know they can do that anyway).

            What’s happening right now is Apple is breaking its policy of progressive enhancement to favor competitive advantage. Even if flash was as bad as you think it is, it should still be supported until it dies a natural death. In fact, if flash is dieing (rather than these stories being a cover for a pernicious non brand consonant strategic decision) why ban it and push the cost of re-tooling to your users?

            Jobs releases statement in support of China “Filtering content without explanation is part of leading,”

            http://bit.ly/d0EKLS

  2. Sorry, but if the rich content in Flash sites are not power-efficient enough to maintain the user experience that apple intends on its devices, then it is their prerogative to avoid the technology.

    I avoid many websites altogether because they contain flash content. They are often buggy and slow, even if beautiful. Moreover, flash is a huge target for exploits and malicious code – and one which miscreants regularly use to their advantage. Fact is, neither Adobe nor Apple have clean hands in this argument.

    When you build a business model around the tools provided from a single source, you become a slave to that company, their business strategy, and the level of support which they provide to their products. Life’s tough and you have to make compromises. My compromise is that I may give up discovering some great photography on the web, due to the artist’s chosen media platform. Does that hinder my growth as a photog? As long as I have access to the many photobooks in publication: No, it does not.

    My 2¢.

  3. Mike has an interest point, but I do not agree. Flash reminds me of Fortran in 1980. Large clumsy, and goofy. I know, call me a heretic, but I am just not into the whole Flash as sacrosanct band wagon. It makes me smile that Mike believes that Apple would really care what photographers think. Sorry, Mike, unlikely. A better use of time would be exploring apps and methods of making content look great on an iPad. That excites me. Lets find ways of making great content work across platforms.

    • @David Harry Stewart, That’s what Flash offers. A way of making great content work across platforms. It is one of the only platforms that does this. Apple has broken that. In fact, their entire move is intended to create content on the iTard that is not available on other devices to ensure competitive advantage for Apple and iPhone OS and the iTard.

      Flash is not sacrosanct, it is just the most useful and cross compatible development tool for online content there is. I wish it were better and their were alternatives that were as good. There are not.

      Plus yes, hoping Apple gives a damn about me and photographers is somewhat naive and hopeful. But what kind of sap am I if I won’t stand up what I believe in?

      • @Mike Hartley, I am of the same school as M. Scott Brauer below. Flash sites look like dinosaurs to me, but that is just me and my taste. I had my photos on a iPad tonight and they looked unreal, amazing being able to push them around and expand them. The tactile experience is not to be underestimated. What I want is an proper App that will do a portfolio on an iPad. I would pay serious money for this. My intention is to do away with my printed portfolio. It costs me about $1500 each time I reprint them, which is twice a year. Then there is the expense of FedX and the pain in the ass of having to pretty much shut down my studio of the 2 weeks that we are making them. Even if this App cost a couple hundred dollars, and coupled with the cost of the iPad, I would still be ahead of the game. Calling all Geeks! Make a portfolio App and get rich!

        • @David Harry Stewart, The iPad is a great device for viewing photos, that’s my point. Web design can always improve. Flash is one of the more useful tools and many photographers have invested in it. There is no technical reason to trash this. Preference yes, but then just don’t install flash on your iPad. Simple.

          Let’s just hope when you buy that app and then submit it into the App store for approval that your creative work does not ‘ridicule public figures’, because Apple might just not approve of your Pulitzer winning ways and ban you (i know yours does not, but allow me to make a point):

          Apple Blocks Pulitzer Prize-Winning Cartoonist From App Store:

          http://gizmodo.com/5517890/apple-blocks-pulitzer-prize+winning-cartoonist-from-app-store

  4. Thank you for sharing. National Geographic link was fast to load, and nice grouping of images – I give it a thumbs up. NY Times was worth the wait for flash to load – it also gets a thumbs up for nice layout of photographic images. The others not so much, my A.D.D. kicked in. Slow loading flash, couldn’t keep me on the sites.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone (who isn’t a photographer or designer who uses flash) that likes flash websites. Read the comments in this thread, which gets at what most normal viewers feel when they encounter a flash-heavy photographer portfolio. There are some services that do flash in a less-obtrusive manner, livebooks, neonsky, APE’s own PhotoFolio, etc., and they work okay, but not great. NeonSky websites particularly aggravate me, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ll only sit through the wait of 2 or 3 photos on NeonSky sites before I close the window.

    Remember when the Big Picture first showed up and it’s wave of popularity? I’d hazard that a good deal of that popularity was due to the site’s extremely simple and easy to use interface for viewing pictures. Users didn’t have to click or swipe anything, just scroll like every other non-photo website in the world. Not every portfolio needs to be stripped down like that, but there should be a happy middle ground between a page of photos and the unusable flash abominations that are most photo websites.

    In addition to these problems with general usability, SEO and deep-linking issues mentioned above are more reasons why flash is a bad answer to webdesign. HTML5 should address remaining concerns about video and audio embedding. I, personally, cannot wait for an internet without flash; it does so much more harm than good.

    • @M. Scott Brauer, I like your site. You have done a great job. But you need to get out more:

      ‘I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone (who isn’t a photographer or designer who uses flash) that likes flash websites.’

      I know plenty.

    • @M. Scott Brauer, This posted started with all the websites being nominated for best use of photography in the Webies being authored in flash. Are all Webby judges photographers and flash designers?

  6. Jeff Goldfarb

    Flash vs. HTML is a complex (and presently, highly political) issue. I don’t want to get into the “he said/she said” of surface details. In my opinion as a long time developer (and photographer) flash may have been a convenient technology for some, for a while, but it is neither the right answer or the long term survivor in this fight. Broad HTML5 adoption may be still in the future, although developers are now creating sites which are as full of the eye-candy some are so attached to without flash, which work across a broader range of devices.

    The transition from horse and buggy to car was filled with naysayers :-), and there are those who may long for the day… but here we are.

    • @Jeff Goldfarb, And can you please post some example links regards this:

      ‘developers are now creating sites which are as full of the eye-candy some are so attached to without flash’

  7. gregsmithsays

    I’m trapped in a dilemma at the minute as I’m trying to edit a pic on the fly via my mobile phone. Don’t judge me, I live in Africa and at present my mid-range mobile is my ONLY on ramp to the internet. Flashless online basic editors … where are such animals ?

  8. It seems Mr. Hartley that you have a lot invested in flash and hope it continues to be widely used. It is a tough situation to be in when things are changing. I would say maybe you could look at this as an opportunity to build a portfolio app and cash in on the iPad craze but I just saw on your twitter you demanded a refund for the ipad dev. program. The good news might be your clients coming back to you to have you make iPad versions of their flash sites.
    Flash is the best for multimedia but its so damn clunky and buggy. Of the 5 sites mentioned in the post I got the spinning beach ball on 2. The best by fan in terms of speed and ease of use was the NYT site. And while checking you some of the work off of acurator I had problems with the burlesque site. screenshots… http://i.imgur.com/fUpki.jpg

    I had a flash site I was very happy with for years. It had big images that scaled to fit different browser window sizes. But as it was upgraded I occasionally heard people say they couldn’t see the site because they didn’t have the latest flash plugin. I was going to build a backup site in html, but I ended up scrapping the flash site in favor of a horizontal scroller. I had been seeing more and more of them popping up. I do miss the scaling full screen images, but I really like that it only takes 6 clicks to see my entire site instead of 70 or so on the old flash site. I also like that you can quickly scroll through a portfolio in a few seconds instead of the click and wait, click and wait most flash sites have.

      • @anooon, I am invested in Flash. So are many photographers, or rather, many photographers websites are Flash so their investment is / has been in Flash.

        It remains to be seen whether the cost of developing an iPad portfolio app would be a good business. I expect so, but at the same time, right now Apple’s decisions leave me wondering who wins in all this? I don’t think anyone does and that may hurt the iPad. But we’ll see.

        Regards ‘The good news might be your clients coming back to you to have you make iPad versions of their flash sites.’ I do not see my clients having to spend more of their hard earned cash on me because Apple want what wahetever Apple want as good news.

        They are also making worrying decisions about creative work regards who they accept into the App Store and not, would a Jill Greenberg Portfolio be acceptable as an app for example? (See my earlier comment regards this),

        I did get a refund on my Apple iPhone developer program and I returned my iPad (having been encouraged to test it by Apple when I rang to cancel my order). I did this to register my discontent with their decisions. I’ll wait and see if it becomes the device it promises to be before reinvesting.

        None of this changes the fact that that the absence of Flash does not sit well for me with a brand who claim things just work. Nor does it for many others and Flash still remains a very useful tool.

  9. @Mike Hartley
    I agree completely, I don’t understand why people aren’t waking up to the fact that Apple is betraying the people who kept them going when designers, photographers and others in the visual industry were the only people supporting them.