Adapting Slideshowpro to suit my needs has proven to be quite an interesting task but I’ve finally got it to do what I want when I want where I want. Flash provides by far the most elegant, dynamic and interactive solution for photo slide shows. There are downsides, of course, and the next challenge will be SEO. But as it is, the gallery is fast, slick and I think it really serves its purpose as a showcase.
As I mentionned above, to retain some searchability, I’ve built the few text-based extra pages like Bio, About, Contact and the like in classic HTML. But they are served via Shadowbox in an overlay window that avoids a full gallery reload on exit and features a very dark and minimalistic style intended to not steal the show away from the main gallery. Again, this has drawbacks, like for the user not to be able to bookmark one of those pages directly. But they are merely support pages and I really wanted the focus to be on the photography.
It’s the first time that I am designing a web site for a targeted audience and with very specific goals in mind. I find it refreshing and quite a relief to be voluntarily breaking the sacred rules of compatibility and accessibility. I wouldn’t go as far as claiming out loud "If you don’t have the tools to view my site, you’re unfit to do so." I’d deserve a slap on the wrist and a wake up call. I will, however, offer my simple apologies and strongly suggest an upgrade. And I might even shrug my shoulders or sigh.
There seems to be a latent tendency in the web community to consider the web surfer as a king and the web designer as his slave; the slave must break his back to ensure the king’s enjoyment and safeguard his royal laziness. Everything must be done in order for the king to be able to access a site with the least effort possible, and while using as few brain cells as necessary. Content and design quality are sacrificed for this, and in the end, the king gets a more primitive product that is a brilliant compromise but does not necessarily yield a great experience. The king is unwilling to take his responsibilities and acknowledge the slave’s work by at least keeping his browser up-to-date and his plugins current.
I don’t think it has to be that way. I believe the public should be educated and shown that better browsers and a smarter understanding of the web will allow them a much better user experience and let them enjoy much more engaging web sites. The slaves spend hundreds of hours designing a site, the least we can do as web surfers is respect their work and accept to view it like it was meant to be seen, and used.
Just like one puts on reading glasses to enjoy a great book rather than complain that the font is too small or put the book down, one should address the web with interest and a willingness to learn and adjust. The web is an ever-changing medium with incredible capabilities that, according to Moore’s Law, are doubling every two years. Every web surfer is presented with a great challenge. A lot of people fall behind, or never even catch up in the first place. But that is not always the fault of web designers. They are the ones keeping up the pace. The public should, too.
If not, are you willing to change? I believe it will be worth it. No, not just to visit my amazing work of art. But to live here today and benefit from today’s wonders. As they unfold. It’s like magic. Except it’s not.
Update your browser. Get a new monitor. Enjoy the web. A lot of people are spending a lot of time designing it for you. Make their work easier. That’s my two cents anyway. Amen. ;-)