I have a fundamental problem with websites that use Flash for their scrollbars. This is wrong on so many levels. In this post I’m going to reel off a list of reasons why you should avoid this practice. While they won’t be true in all situations where Flash is used, it will be for a significant amount.
Let’s look at the example below. Click on the image to try out the Flash scrollbars.
So here are a bunch of common issues you might experience when playing with a page that uses a Flash scrollbar:
1. The scroll wheel doesn’t work
For those of you that use the scroll wheel on your mouse to move down a page (ie most of us), this doesn’t always work with content that is controlled by a Flash scrollbar. It will simply do nowt, leaving you rolling your wheel back and forth in anger. Maybe not always anger. For me….always anger.
2. Scroll speed is different from what you expect
If your scroll wheel does happen to work on the selected area, most of the time the speed at which it scrolls is completely different to how the scrollbar works in your browser window, forcing you to continually over and under-scroll. This can make it feel as though you don’t have total control. That’s not nice.
3. Scroll rate is different from what you expect
Following on from the previous point, the rate at which the content is revealed and the amount you have to scroll to reveal it can be completely different to what you would think. In a browser window you have a pretty solid idea of how far you need to scroll to get a certain amount down the page. Flash scrollbars remove that dependency. And dependencies are vital in providing a good all-round experience for the visitor.
4. Text is not selectable
In many situatins that a Flash scrollbar is used, the text contained within it will not be selectable with your mouse, which makes copying it impossible. You might think that’s a good thing for the people that own the website because of copyright infringement and stuff. But it’s not if the text you want to select is helpful, like a phone number or address would be. This is more of a general point on Flash, but it’s valid nonetheless.
5. You can’t jump down the page
You know how you can click in the blank area beneath a vertical scrollbar to jump down the page? That doesn’t always happen with Flash ones. You have to click the bar and drag it. Just make sure you judge it right, because it won’t necessarily go at the same speed that most other non-Flash scrollbars do.
6. It is not instantly recognisable
If it doesn’t look identical or very similar to your browser’s scrollbar, not everyone will instantly recognise it as a scroll bar. Those few seconds spent scanning the area for a way to find the text which is clearly cut off can prove very frustrating.
7. It won’t keep your place
If you refresh this page in your browser right now, it will remember your place. The scrollbar will stay in the same position and it’ll remember how far down the page you were. Now go ahead an try that on a Flash site. Again, this is a general Flash issue, but it still stands.
8. It interferes with your browser scrollbar
If you over-scroll on the Flash scrollbar you browser window can also scroll, forcing you down the page. Then you enter this irritating cycle of trying only to scroll in either your browser or the Flash content area.
9. It doesn’t dynamically resize
Because not all Flash scrollbars resize to fit the browser window, if you are viewing a site on a small screen, for example, you’ll have to scroll in the browser….just to get to the top or bottom of the Flash scrollbar….just so you can scroll in that. This is silly. Very silly.
10. It just doesn’t feel right
Scrolling in the browser ain’t broke. Don’t try to fix it.
This is not meant to be a rant aimed at Flash. There’s enough of them around…and I’m sure I’ll get round to one of those soon enough anyway :) And I’m not necessarily against Flash being used in websites. Used in the right way, it can really enhance a website’s appeal and even extend it’s usability. But there is no excuse for using Flash to control something which is globally catered for already and that we have spent the internet’s lifetime learning to use. Why change it and put people out of their comfort zones? Scrolling in the browser, as with mouse clicks, is a fundamental action. Everybody knows how to do it. Everybody know how it works. Unless you can recreate it and all of it’s functionality exactly using Flash, please leave it alone!