Use of Self-Contained Platforms

In current web development, there is a balance between a functional integrated approach and a visually appealing approach to designing a web page. Web designers often use “self-contained platforms”, such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, to distinguish their website stylistically speaking. These platforms have an interface to create applications with video, audio, animation, and charting – all of which make it easier to have a standout web page. However, there are two main drawbacks with over-dependence on self-contained applications.

First, a visitor to the page must host a reader application on their computer – something that creates another set of problems. If the reader is not on the visitor’s computer, they will be interrupted to download and install it – an annoyance. In addition, as there are advancements in the platform, the visitor has to download and install updates to the reader application; surely you have gotten that pop-up message from Adobe saying it is time to upgrade to the new version of Adobe Flash.

Second, there is almost no external integration with a self-contained application. It is possible to integrate them with a database ( Action Script with Flash and XAML with Silverlight), but otherwise the application cannot work with its external environment. An example is developing a page for search engine optimization (“SEO”) with Google (or any other search engine).

  • The general approach to SEO is to build a web page with smart textual content in a hierarchical structure, so that it can be effectively read by a spider or robot visiting the website. The better the structure and textual content of the page, the more likely it will appear in search engines. However, over use of applications created from a self-contained platform can render a web page ineffective with SEO; none of the content within the application is readable by the external application.

There are a few takeaways here. First, a web page should have textual content presented in a logical, hierarchical structure. This is a requirement to get a web page to interact with outside applications such as search engines. Second, the use of “self-contained platforms” should be used in moderation. There is nothing wrong with developing an application with a “self-contained” platform because it can improve the appearance of a web page (the first takeway still applies).  Also, it is always worth determining if the same application can be created using alternative technologies like Javascript, Jquery, and/or AJAX. Finally, HTML 5 may be a “game changer”. HTML 5 has many new element tags to enhance the content and structure of a web page. The canvas element has drawing and animation features that can be used with Javascript to build more stylistically appealing and inclusive web pages – removing the dependence on “self-contained platforms”.  As an aside, there is a rumor that Microsoft recently dropped the development of new versions of their Silverlight technology because of the introduction of HTML5.

The difficulty with creating web pages with HTML 5 now is that the language has not been fully implemented in the latest versions of the browsers yet. Moreover, it will take time before the majority of users install the latest versions of the browsers (currently most IE users have version 7, and version 9 is the latest).

2 thoughts on “Use of Self-Contained Platforms”

  1. HTML 5 will certainly be the game changer as many have talked about. But there is still the argument that so many websites currently use flash so much, that regardless of the new language, users will still have to download flash to access the many sites that rely on it. Plus flash development is expensive, and how many companies and sites can afford to invest in a totally new site based on HTML 5? People will be using flash for years to come, and eventually Adobe will come up with a way to make flash compatible with HTML 5.

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