April 26, 2007

Flash upgrade; XHTML downgrade


I've really been enjoying reading all the reactions to the MTV.com redesign.

The story goes that MTV.com decided to switch from a Flash site to an XHTML site in response to complaints of users and because they wanted a quicker-loading, search-engine friendly site, an advantage properly coded XHTML has over Flash. They even enlisted one of the best to work on the code: Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits. All in all, seems like a sound plan for success.

But when MTV announced the launch of the redesign on their blog, users overwhelmingly disapproved in the ensuing comments. Someone on Kaliber 10K also gave it a thumbs down, although he doesn't say why. The comments on the MTV Labs blog, however, (the ones that are more constructive than "the new site sucks") reveal a common thread that a move away from anything but Flash for the entire site is a downgrade.

The XHTML downgrade

Take away the HATs (rotating Header Art Treatment), and you've got a pretty vanilla site. Sure, it's clean, a bit airy, and has some CSS drop-down menus that everyone loves these days, but it's not much we haven't seen elsewhere. Where has the unique user experience gone?

Because of this poor redesign, a lot of (but thankfully not all) people are pointing blame at XHTML, calling it a downgrade and asking MTV to upgrade back to the old Flash site. I'll give them this much: XHTML/CSS designers tend to be developers first and designers second, and their sites can sometimes reflect that. Dan Cederholm, for example, is known more for his opinions on XHTML/CSS and web standards than for his command of kerning or mastery of the web grid.

Flash web designers, on the other hand, generally come from graphic design, interactive design, and art backgrounds, and rumor has it that they make a lot more money. They focus on creating more of a unique interactive experience—usually so much so that it takes a little time to figure out how to use the site. If you flip through the portfolios of some of these designers, you'll see sites that don't look at all like web sites—they're abstract, they're experimental, and they ask the user to play instead of simply retrieve content.

As a technology, Flash is great for video, animation, games, interactive art, and even some text replacement, but as a platform for dishing out massive amounts of content, Flash is a poor choice. So, I think that MTV made the right decision switching to XHTML, and a lot of neigh-sayers may change their minds when they realize that, for example, you can now post videos from MTV on your own site like you can with YouTube. What gets me, though, (especially as an XHTML/CSS designer) is that this redesign is unnecessarily giving XHTML/CSS design a bad name. The creative interfaces of Flash can just as well be done in XHTML. Throw in some DOM scripting for interaction, and you can create almost the exact same thing.

The MTV experience

Really, this is what MTV should have done. Unless Fantasy Interactive held on to some copyrights, which is unlikely, there probably wasn't much good reason to change the design of the site's interface. That unique interface was what some people applauded so much late last year. And now this new design is, for some, another example of why good design is only done with Flash.

April 23, 2007

New As Meias out. I really like this direction the band is heading in. They're playing a show on Wednesday in Nagoya and another on Friday in Shibuya.

Crosswired 4|20

Damn, edIT's new stuff is good.

Crosswired 4/20 Crosswired 4/20

April 20, 2007

Fun with the Dainippon Type Organization

These take a little getting used to before you can start to see them. Damn, I'm going to start seeing kanji this way.

April 19, 2007

In Japan, speaking out risks public humiliation, so many don't.

Right, and in the US, we can stand on a busy street corner shouting about how we think that Bush should be thrown out of office, and no one would think us strange. And we can use our workplace as a platform for spreading our religious beliefs without fear of punishment.

April 18, 2007

Magnetic "deflector shields" could one day guard astronauts against dangerous space radiation, if experiments now underway pay off.

You gotta see the scientist's "imaginative view."

April 9, 2007

Those interested in truth rather than misguided ideology know that the responsible science on issues of climate change is clear and in direct conflict with the perverted versions made most public for purposes of anarchist propaganda and political demagoguery.

O, and I was enjoying reading this blog. My past experience in the scientific publishing industry has taught me that (1) the scientific community is overwhelmingly at a consensus over global warming and the effects industry has on it, and (2) that friendsofscience.org and co2science.org are not leaders of the pack in peer-reviewed science. Frankly, it reminds me of those scientists who try to claim that the issue of evolution is still up in the air.

But I initially agreed with the author's response to smashLAB's project. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the end of his post, I realized that my reasons were the polar opposite: designers don't "drive and define conversations" nor do they "determine the impact of specific messages". Designers have the talent and skill to create a clear and properly balanced message. They can steer your eyes to a specific element of the message. And maybe they can even help the client to galvanize their message, but at the end of the day, the message must be bought by the client.

Example: If a designer believes in the evils of sweatshops and understands that Nike is contracting their work out to South East Asian factories with poor working conditions, that message will never get into an magazine spread for Air Jordans.

I believe in the power of design, but I believe that it's a tool used, more often than not, by others.

April 3, 2007

Muji wine?!


A web designer/developer by trade, Brian lived in Japan for 5 years and likes to think he knows something about that. He's most recently into talking about design, culture, typography, and web technology.