Showcase and discover digital art at yex

Follow Design Stacks

Subscribe to our free newsletter to get all our latest tutorials and articles delivered directly to your inbox!

So Many Solutions, So Little Success

So Many Solutions, So Little Success

Over the years, I’ve met hundreds of Flash developers, and many of them have their own way of handling Flash detection, but several approaches have risen to the top of the stack to become at least somewhat standard. These approaches vary wildly in features, compatibility, effectiveness, and user experience, but one thing stands true regardless: None of them work 100% of the time.

To make an informed decision about which approach is best for you and your site visitors, you need to know the facts. Lucky for you,

Before you move on, however, it’s important to understand what is needed to design a good Flash detection experience, for the simple act of displaying Flash content on your site presents several very key issues:

  • Does the user have Macromedia Flash Player?
  • If needed, does the user have JavaScript enabled?
  • Does the user have the required version of Flash Player?

Detecting the Existence of Macromedia Flash Player

To create a good detection experience, you need first to be able to specify what happens when Flash Player is not installed on the user’s browser. If you offer no alternate content, is the user going to sit there staring at a blank screen, hoping that his or her web-savvy neighbor will come along and save the day? Most likely, the answer is no. Instead, your visitor will head off to your competitor’s site, cursing your name the whole time. See, not every person that visits your site is going to want to perform a software installation just to view your content, regardless of how simple it is. So you need to offer your site visitor a compelling reason to perform the installation. In other words, you need to tell your users what they will see or gain by installing the player, and make sure it’s something that benefits them directly.

Detecting Whether JavaScript Is Enabled

If your Flash detection method is dependent on the use of JavaScript, you also need to plan what happens if the user has disabled the use of JavaScript in his or her browser. Ideally, you should be able to display alternate content, either asking the user (very nicely) to enable JavaScript and refresh the page, or offering HTML content in lieu of the Flash content.

Detecting the Required Flash Player Version

Next, you must handle old versions of Flash Player. If your content is designed for Flash Player 8, for example, and your site visitor has Flash Player 6 installed, he or she should see alternate content. Again, the alternate content can either ask very nicely for the visitor to upgrade or offer HTML content in place of Flash content.

Finally, you probably want the solution to be easy to implement, and so effective that you don’t have to think about it ever again.

Now that you have a list of required elements for a good Flash detection experience, let’s take a quick look at some common options currently in existence.