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Sins: Don't break the back-button

I was looking at the website of a local design agency the other day. I've worked with them in the past creating a few small sites. Their previous website was quite a nice, quirky html site that I thought served them well. Now, they've moved to a 100% flash site for some reason. It's a mystery to me, because they have some full-time web developers working there. I can only assume that the marketeers there saw that they could have lots of motion and thought that would be a good idea.

It reminded me of an old chestnut that needs re-hashing: don't break the back button.

You may wonder why, if you include something similar within a Flash movie, you should not break the browser's back button.

It's a question of trust. Users vary significantly in their confidence when it comes to using a web browser. Part of the "deal" they have going is the consistent "language" they use to communicate with it. If you do something ninety-nine times and each time get a consistent result, then changing that on the hundredth attempt is like jumping out from behind a bush shouting "boo!" The expectation the user has — rightly — is that hitting the back button will take them to the state the screen was previously in. They don't care whether that's embedded in an object and not a separate URL. I'm with them on this: it's incredibly annoying to progress through several screens of a flash site, hit the browser "back" button and then be booted out back to a completely different site.

So don't do it. If you must have a completely Flash-based site, then do it sensibly. There are several utilities out there for this. You could use SWFObject combined with SWF Address, but there are others.

Technorati: Usability


Jason posted this on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 5:56 pm. Leave comment.

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