The Six Apart Design

17 February 2005

There has been a whole lot of chat regarding the redesign of the Six Apartsite recently. The work has been noted mainly for two reasons. Firstly because it is a really nice design---well thought out architecture, clean and crisp visuals, and validating mark-up. The second reason is to do with the use of sIFRfor a number of the headers and section titles. As you may know, I am a great fan of sIFR, and I know we are going to see a sharp rise in its use over the next few months. However, I'm not so sure that it is being shown in its greatest light on the Six Apart site. As I've said before, something about using sIFR for links really irks me. At Six Apart a lot of the Flash headlines are also main navigation links to different parts of the site. By using sIFR to render these they have provided a very flexible and extensible basis to the architecture. New parts can be added or headlines changed very easily, which is an important consideration for any large website. However, by using Flash replacement instead of a CSS based image replacement, they are forfeiting what is in my opinion, a vital part of the user experience. The contextual right mouse click. The question has to be: is the flexibility that the sIFR headlines provide for site updates and additions, more important than a key facet of the users browsing experience? I do not know the workings of the Six Apart site architecture, or the process of site updates. It may be that there is a very significant reason why the decision to use Flash replaced links---in light of the user experience problem---was taken. If there is, I imagine it must be a very good one. sIFR is at its best when it is enhancing the user experience. Its (arguably too extensive) use on my site does not detract in anyway from the accessiblity or usablity of the site, but does significantly enhances its visual appeal. The key is to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of sIFR and to decide how best to use it on your own site. Would it really be that hard for Six Apart to create a few more headlines in photoshop, particularly considering the time spent on all the other graphics and headlines which aren't Flash replacements?