[July 11: Please see new update at end of article]
Thanks, Adobe. I just noticed you made it harder to support my webinar attendees with an update to your Flash Player installation process.
Many web conferencing products rely on Flash to support event registration and operation. This means that every potential attendee must have the Flash Player software installed on their computer in whatever web browser they choose to use.
For many (even most) computer users, this is not a problem. Flash is very common. If you use Google Chrome, it is an integrated part of the browser. But given a large enough sample population (is the worldwide population of computer users large enough for you?), some people have difficulties.
I have written in the past about companies that choose to block Flash on employees’ computers because of concerns about security or impacts on productivity (Flash is commonly used to run games, animations, and entertainment videos). I can’t tell you how fun it is to tell all the employees of a major financial institution or government agency that they can’t watch your webcast and there is no workaround.
Other users simply have an old and outdated version of Flash on their computer (or in the particular browser they use). Adobe has a web page created to help check and upgrade Flash Player versions. I forward this so often that I created a short URL to give it to people in a hurry… http://j.mp/vercheck
Go ahead and click on that link. Steps 1, 2, 3 are simple and straightforward. Is Flash running? Here is your installed version. Here is the latest version. Excellent!
But… BUT!!! Look down at step 4. Let’s say you need to upgrade your version of Flash. What happens when you click on the link labeled “Download and install the latest Flash Player version”?
In a stunning “upgrade” from the simple download page that used to come up, you now get directed to an endless page (15 scrolls on my big, high-resolution monitor) filled with troubleshooting tips and special case scenarios. The first thing you see in large type at the top is the word “problems.”
The average end user takes one look at this and says “Fuggedaboutit.” Go ahead and scan the page. Can you find the download link you were promised, that actually lets you download and install the latest Flash Player version? Maybe it is 1/3 of the way down the page under “Installing Flash Player.” Point 3 says “Download and install the latest Flash Player version.” Click that and it reloads the same web page, a few lines farther down!
Now you are treated to a master class on browser configuration. You are advised to change security settings and filters, something most casual users are loathe to fool with. Eventually (halfway down the page), you hit yet another link: “Download Adobe Flash Player.” That link actually takes you to the download page you need. But now you are faced with bloatware. By default, it installs not only the underlying support software you need (just so you can get back to what you were trying to do in the first place… join a webinar), but it also tries to slip in the Google Toolbar as a browser add-in.
Adobe, this is untenable. If Flash Player is to be used as a general purpose, universal support platform for consumers, you MUST find ways to simplify its installation and the instruction process. Let people try the download and installation. If they have a problem, THEN you can send them to 15 pages of help and troubleshooting. And get rid of the icky partner software installation. The very minimum I would stand for is the checkbox option UNSELECTED by default.
For shame. This is no way to promote widespread adoption and use of a technology.
[UPDATE: JULY 11, 2012] I am happy to report that Adobe made a change to the version check and install pages. They are back to being shorter and easier to manage. The version check now takes you directly to the download/install page. Thank you, Adobe!