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NRA Needs to Hire Competent Web Developers

It looks like NRA has redone their web site yet again, and it is also another Flash monstrosity. If I were giving lessons on the problems Adobe Flash creates for web developers, NRA’s web portal would be my Exhibit A. Let me just review the ways this screws NRA and its membership:

  • It does not get NRA message out there. It’s a giant black hole to Google. One reason NRA-ILA and Blogs rank so highly on gun searches is that we’re not a black hole to Google, because we only use Adobe Flash sparingly.
  • It’s slow to load. It takes several seconds to load even on my 35 megabit/sec FiOS connection. To someone with a slower DSL connection, or, God Forbid, a dial-up or Satellite connections (something still prevalent in rural areas) it’s going to be excruciating.
  • It imposes a size on the user. In my preferred browser size, I cannot see the entire page. I have to scroll, or re-size my browser in order to see the whole monstrosity. A good page design won’t impose unreasonable size requirements on a user. The total page size is gigantic. It imposes itself over most of my 1440×900 laptop screen.
  • Breaks web usability standards. Browser navigation buttons fail to work, but most importantly, disabled users can’t increase the font size so they can read, nor could a blind user have the web site read aloud to them.
  • Breaks analytic software. Flash breaks the ability of knowing which pages people are coming and going on. Now it’s possible this is built into the flash application, but I don’t notice anything on the front web site that loads analytics software. NRA probably has no idea, and can have no idea, how people are using their site with Flash. If you’re a webmaster, that’s a critical bit of information.
  • Not linkable. I can’t link to anything that’s not a URL, and a Flash page is not a URL, but a bit of code that’s embedded into a Flash application.
  • Breaks Mobile Devices. It looks like NRA’s web folks have redirects in there for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but that doesn’t help the millions of users who use alternative devices like the Droid and Blackberry. Even when these devices are Flash enabled, the site is not friendly to the small screens.

This “classic” page is a much much better home page for NRA, and would work much better as NRA’s main portal. But even this could still use some work. NRA would be wise to trash the flash monstrosity and make the “classic” page the default. At the very least, it should at least remember that a user picked the “classic” site and load that upon subsequent visits. Good web design and programming are easier than good Flash programming, so if NRA has the internal ability to do one they ought to be able to do the other. It’s just a matter of adhering to good practices.

12 Responses to “NRA Needs to Hire Competent Web Developers”

  1. Thirdpower says:

    I actually have reduced my visits to the NRA page because of that crap. I have the pages I normally visit bookmarked and go from there.

  2. Bitter says:

    I get a sneaking suspicion that it’s not who NRA needs to hire as much as who they need to stop hiring.

  3. ExurbanKevin says:

    Agreed on the classic site being better than the Flash site. I’d be willing to bet that the NRA person in charge of the site comes from a TV rather than a publishing background.

    Flash is an addition to and not a substitute for a good website.

  4. Kevin says:

    Flash site suck. Plus flash is insecure, so I have it blocked by default. Almost never does a flash site have never have anything worth the amount of effort it take for me to see them.

  5. Tim Covington says:

    I’m a flash developer, and find what they are doing irritating. As others have said, Flash should be an addition to a web site. Requiring it, dissuades people from visiting your site. And, to be honest, most of their site could have been done with CSS and not even used Flash.

  6. Kathy says:

    Oh yeah… that’s why I don’t bother going to the site anymore.

  7. DirtCrashr says:

    I don’t even go to the NRA website any more, it’s a hopeless muddle.

  8. I just want to state that many of your gripes are not so much an issue of Flash as an issue to the implementation.

    1. “It does not get NRA message out there. It’s a giant black hole to Google.”

    Actually, Flash sites using SWFOBJECT embed method get indexed quite well.

    http://www.nxtbookmedia.com/why/hybrid-indexed-flash.php

    2. “It’s slow to load.”

    I can concede this one a bit. There are ways they could lessen the load by not incorporating so much, and loading other areas of the site on request.

    3. “It imposes a size on the user”

    Well both the Flash and HTML version suffer such. But minimum sizes have long been a stalwart of the web. So I think it’s more of an issue as to whether the chosen size is the proper minimum for much of their clientele.

    4. “Breaks web usability standards.”

    This is only partially correct. Flash can be enabled to utilize browser navigation buttons. And Flash has a number of accessibility features to facilitate it being read by aloud for the blind. Flash also allows for zooming in/out for those who need larger print. Not sure why it’s not allowed on the NRA site.

    So once again, much of this is just an implementation issue.

    5. “Not linkable.”

    Once again it’s an implementation issue.

    As you will see this link goes to a content area. States and displays can be linked via Flash.

    http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/moaa/mo1009/#/60

    6. “Breaks Mobile Devices.”

    Site does not need to break. Using SWFObject embed methodology, a site can be made to degrade more gracefully when Flash Player is not present.

    http://kevinjmcmahon.net/articles/10/flash-and-gracefully-degrading-navigation/

    ============================================

    I just iterate this in order to show that the problem is not so much the use of Flash but rather the implementation of Flash.

    “Good web design and programming are easier than good Flash programming”

    I’ll grant that statement. Though there are a fair number of benefits that Flash can provide.

    Nor do I view AJAX as a good alternative to Flash’ abilities. having had a lot of issues with heavy AJAX sites (such as Facebook) crashing the browser (particularly Firefox).

    I also believe a site done right, that degrades gracefully can be done entirely in Flash (not just as an addition).

    =============================================

    So what is the real crux of the problem? Information overload…

    Look how much info the NRA has, how many divisions, areas, etc. They’re trying to throw so much at their readers in a single dose that it becomes nigh impossible to be anything but over-whelmed.

    If I were the NRA I would simply my entry to the site. Break things down into primary categories (2nd Amendment, Hunting, Training, Organization & Membership, & maybe a News area).

    Look at the menu. We have “Member Discounts”, “Member Services”, “Membership”. All of these items should be contained in a parent member area.

  9. Robb Allen says:

    Man, if there was only some web designer / developer out there who specialized in firearm related web stuffs.

    *waves hands frantically*

  10. RogerRoger says:

    http://www.americanrifleman.org and http://www.americanhunter.org are both NRA sites and don’t seem to have the issues that you list above, Sebastian. Any comments on them?

  11. SigSauer Sam says:

    The site is a cruel joke, especially for someone (me) with a slow connection. I can’t even get into it most of the time. I wonder how much of our dues is being laid out to the morons who developed this monstrosity?

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