The a rant about the new Pitchforkmedia.com (I like the logo)

I’m really not against change. I welcome technology. I like things that give designers greater control, especially online. But some things just aren’t there yet.

So let’s start with my first complaint. Flash.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Flash… for some things. Homestar Runner for instance or little movies compressed to thirty seconds starring bunnies.

There are more serious uses, like protecting work from easily being right clicked and downloaded. That’s good stuff for musicians or artists. Compressing video with flash is a nice alternative to media players with different codecs and their errors. This doesn’t mean a whole site needs to be flash though. In fact, that can be very bad. It’s slow, increases chance of error for the user, and paradigms are lost (back buttons, google searches, increasing font size).

So the latest offender is Pitchfork Media. They’ve just launched a redesign which for the most part, does not displease me. It’s wide, sure, and there are ads everywhere—but they have to make money I suppose.

What bothers me is that they’ve used Flash for site navigation.

What bothers me more is that the animation contained within that navigation could have easily been implemented with other methods that would achieve the same effect. It’s totally a gross use of technology.

My next complaint is using Flash for typography. See ESPN or ABC News (the article headlines are in Flash) for example. They use this technique to enforce their brand experience.

A brand is more than a font. That’s when marketing decisions rule out over the right decisions.


  1. In regards to ESPN and ABC, aren’t they using sIFR? Assuming this, it’s actually quite accessible, if that’s your concern. The article I just linked to gives a very detailed history and in-depth information about how it works. Personally, I think it’s a great piece of technology.

  2. I know myself and a number of people who, the instant they see a flash animation loading on a site, close that fucking window as quickly as humanly possible.
    So yeah, Flash overload? Bad.

  3. Ugh – while the new Bitchfork is better than it’s ever been, it’s still horrible – the user IA was shot to hell when they decided that these ads had to go up. Plus it shifts the whole site something odd in the side there – the nav looks way to the right, ’cause of those ads I’m sure.
    I guess money matters eh? I suppose when they started to make a living off the site, oh those ads, preminum placement.

  4. Matt: They are indeed using one of those IFR acronym’d switcharoos. Which I think is a great idea, just maybe not for mass consumption yet.
    Case in point, I know Flash has great market saturation. Well over 90% for version 5 at the least. Suspect as I may be of ANY client side technology with that adoption, I don’t think it represents errors.
    My Flash isn’t working in Firefox. Hasn’t for some time. I’ve tried everything I can to uninstall and reinstall, but it just won’t fly. I’m kinda geeky, I can root around better than most folks. Still, to no avail. I must switch to another browser to see Flash.
    Many sites have stopped using Flash detection, just assuming it will work. I’m fine with that, but for mission critical items (like navigation or headlines) I get empty space with no indication that something is wrong.
    I bet I’m not the only one.
    I recently posted this same entry in LiveJournal, and the response was spirited and largely, against Flash in these uses. Of course, it was a more general audience. One response was, I wondered why the headlines always loaded last.
    I bet if there was a good study done with users, folks would prefer speed and operability over a particular font.
    I agree, it is a great piece of technology, but perhaps more suited on AIGA sites.

  5. Chris,
    I’m with you on the whole flash debacle.  I make a point to not use it unless absolutely necessary.  I usually have a little coniption fit everytime there is a flash intro to a site.
    You bring up good points about audience.  ESPN is especially bad about overusing new technology.  They have some great flash work on their site (the whole ESPN Motion thing), but I doubt that all of their users want to see tons of video and whatnot.  Their page is a behemoth.
    Still, like you said, there are times when I think IFR is appropriate.  Also, I think it’s not one of the worst offenses by flash developers out there.  If you don’t have flash on your computer, it just defaults to whatever font you specified in your CSS file.  So, it’s one I can definitely live with.
    It just seems that flash gets a bad rap because so many people misuse it.  I
    hate to see it dismissed unilaterally as it has some great uses. Nonetheless, I can understand your frustrations.

  6. More importantly than all of this, I can’t stand the new Pitchfork. They didn’t really do anything to improve the information design, which was the biggest problem. It’s too bad, b/c someoddpilot has some great stuff. I especially like the Empty Bottle website.

  7. Matt – I was surprised too when I saw it. Aside from a slightly niftier logo, and some proper type, there’s not much else going for it. It looks like abit of a rush job to me.
    One of the things that bothers me the most is the aliased text (like in the archive links and on a review page, the go buttons). If you’re going to try to use a screen font, then just use it – it looks horrible and out of place when you have smooth type on your screen.
    If you’re going to do that, then why not just use a bitmap font.
    AND, what’s with the tables?
    Oh, a pet peeve about the Empty Bottle site – a lot of graphic loading going on where they needn’t be, take for example the calendar section. Why not use Flash there instead?
    I’ll say this: SomeOddPilot do some nice work, but as web designers, they’re not quite on top of their stuff.

  8. I hate Flash, but I like the idea of sIFR, and as of the latest incarnation, is 100% accessible, from what I understand. In non-Flash situations, you see the text, plain as day, and in Flash situations, you see a better looking headline. The file itself is as small or smaller than the equivalent image of a headline, so there is no problem with that either. The only problem is copying and pasting… You can select the headline, but you can’t copy/paste it. This sucks if you want to send that info in (say) an email. Of course, the same situations applies if you use an image for a headline (as many sites often do).
    What would bother me, is any sort of “dancing bologna”. I’m at a site to read the content. It takes me longer to do that if there are countless animations going on all over the screen. Things like that make me not return to a site. From what I can gather Firefox has a cool plug-in that can selectively load Flash animations on a page… perhaps I will give up Camino for it

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