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Thursday September 7, 2006

Hey, I have an idea: let’s forget all this crap about XHTML, accessibility, hyperlinks, and all that bollocks, and just put everything on the internet in the form of gigantic jpegs. (I got an e-mail that linked directly to this jpg, by the way: it’s not part of another page somewhere.)

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Wednesday July 26, 2006

What's up with the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts website?

When Miami Performing Arts Center announced they were changing their name to Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, they had a new web site ready to go, and it was up and running the same day. Let’s take a look.

The Center’s previous website [screengrab] was certainly due for an overhaul, what with its undistinguished home page and clunky menu system. The new site ditches all of that for an almost all-Flash design. Now, you can on and on reading good explanations of why Flash is bad (and please do). But for starters, let’s just take a look at what the user sees when they load up the site:

internet explorer
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This is what I got in Internet Explorer. IE has a recently added quirk wherein you have to click on any flash animation before you can use it. This causes some of the content to not display, and some to display but be unusable until you click. Since there are four distinct Flash animations on the home page (!), that’s a lot of clicking. In Firefox, the situation is different. If you have flash installed, the site loads normally (albeit slowly), unless, like me, you have flashblock installed, in which case you get this:

internet explorer
Click image for full-size

Oops! But nevermind; unless you’re one of the unfortunate who don’t have Flash installed at all, sooner or later you get to the actual site, which looks like this:

internet explorer
Click image for full-size

We get a main-window animation with all sorts of faces. Clicking on someone’s face lets you order tickets for their show, right? Wrong: it takes you to an all-text listing of all shows. You search for the name associated with the face you just clicked, then you can buy tickets. Three boxes along the right give you more information (like about parking) in hilariously minuscule type. But you can increase the font size in your browser if your eyes aren’t so good anymore, right? Wrong: this is Flash, remember? That type is staying that size. At the top we get a banner with a little slide-show, and underneath that the main menu. Ah . . . the menu. The glorious little menu.

Well, I sat a couple of people down with this menu and watched them try to use it (apparently nobody at Carnival Center thought of doing that before unleashing it on an unsuspecting world). It invariably gave them fits. Each position on the menu opens a little horizontal submenu underneath. But as you go to click on one of these submenu items, if you brush past one of the buttons on the main menu, the submenu changes. Go ahead and try it! Pretend you want to volunteer! Go to the site, activate the menu, hover over “Membership & Support,” and try to click on “Volunteer.” See what I mean?

Most of the interior pages are just ported from the old site, and are unremarkable except for that funny menu you have to keep dealing with. (There must be multiple versions of this menu, too, because sometimes clicking “Home” took me home, sometimes it did nothing.)

What’s amazing is that it’s not that difficult to do this right. Miami Light Project, a Carnival Center “arts partner,” has a perfectly hip and very usable web site. The Lincoln Center, which MPAC has spent a lot of time comparing itself to, has a silly (but skipable) Flash intro followed by a Flash-free and relatively usable regular site (with a text-only version). The LA Performing Arts Center has a . . . well, you get the idea. I wonder what happened. Does the new Carnival site work for you? Let me know in the comments, and let me know what browser and version you’re using.

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