More ESPN Flash mischief

Written by Adrian Holovaty on October 18, 2003

Jason Long pointed out in the comments to my earlier ESPN entry that some ESPN articles (example) display their headlines as a Flash image.

Ludicrous. Bizarre. Absurd.

Incidentally, there's a hole in their software that allows anybody to create any headline in their Flash font. I wrote a poem about it.

Comments

Posted by Julie on October 19, 2003, at 12:51 a.m.:

LOL, truly terrible. Carolyn will be so proud of you. =)

Posted by Mike Davidson on October 19, 2003, at 2:09 a.m.:

Not sure why you feel this is so objectionable, especially considering we provide two levels of graceful degradation for those without Flash.

This line spits out the Flash headline:

http://msn.espn.go.com/swf/storypageheadline.swf?h=From+the+best+to+just+so-so

This line spits out the headline as HTML text for those who don't have Flash:

SOB.altTxt = "<span style=\"font-family: Verdana; font-size: 22px; font-weight: bold\">From+the+best+to+just+so-so<\/span>";

And finally, this line spits out the headline for the tiny percentage of people who might not have javascript enabled:

<noscript><h1>From the best to just so-so</h1></noscript>

-------------------------------------------

We feel the ability use typographically richer headlines is worth the 1k of code it takes to make this happen... especially considering it's still plenty accessible.

Also, not sure what the "hole in the software" thing is about either. We have one Flash file which takes in text through a query string and we use it throughout the site. If for some reason, someone wants to grab that file and feed their own text in, why should that bother us?

Thanks, and keep up the generally great writing on this blog.

Mike

ESPN.com

Posted by kpaul on October 19, 2003, at 2:42 a.m.:

Why use text? Search-engines. Then again, most big media don't like SEs because of their hiding content behind pay-for walls - i.e. link rot.

Media companies should try for the best SE rankings they can. If it's a story that's going to disappear behind a sub. wall, leave a version at the URL the search engine picked up with one graf and a link to your pay-for archives.

There's a reason Bloggers sometimes rank as well (if not better) than big media web pages.

Posted by Dave S. on October 19, 2003, at 5:10 a.m.:

Dunno about that Mike. Can't say I agree that the 1k hit, unselectable text, and loss of search engine placement is worth what amounts to an extra level of blackness.

900 italic 30px Arial with a -1px letter-spacing isn't identical, but it's pretty damn close.

But if we're the only ones who've said anything, well hey. Ignore us.

Posted by Adrian on October 19, 2003, at 5:26 a.m.:

Thanks for taking the time to explain, Mike. Here are a few explanations of my own. ;)

I did check out ESPN article pages with Flash uninstalled, so I saw "From+the+best+to+just+so-so" (plus-signs included) as the headline in plain text. (I was going to say something about the plus signs but figured they were the result of a CMS limitation that wasn't fair to criticize.)

My problem with the Flash headlines isn't that they add to the page load, but that they add to the page rendering time and seem wasteful in general.

When I load an ESPN article page with a Flash headline, the headline doesn't appear until after the content has loaded -- exactly the opposite of what happens on a normal news article page. (I tried the ESPN article on two machines -- a 2.4 GHz Linux laptop with the latest Mozilla Firebird, and a 667 MHz Windows box running IE 6. Both are on broadband connections and have the latest Flash plug-in.) I suspect the pause might be happening because the Flash element is dynamic.

As for being wasteful, I can't help but think that putting headlines in an <h1> (like you've done in your <noscript>) in the first place would be simpler and much less of a hack than a Flash graphic that's backed up by non-Flash text that's backed up by a <noscript>. Something just doesn't sit well with me about that -- and clearly others agree, as I read through these comments.

There are also little things, such as not being able to copy and paste the headline, not being able to resize the headline along with the rest of the page's text, and not being able to "find in page."

(If possible, can you share your reasoning for not using images?)

As for the "software hole," it's not a serious security hole or anything; rather, it's just a bit...messy. It's the same sort of messy that lets me put a Palm Beach Post local-news story into the sports-section wrap just by changing the URL. It's no huge security problem, just an unintentional (?) view of things under the hood that you may or may not want open to the public. And it was fun to point out. :-)

Posted by Tim Parkin on October 19, 2003, at 6:29 a.m.:

It's a little unfair to criticize flash for not loading and then suggesting images for the text. Although I think images are a better option in this case, if you're going to use this reasoning at least say that images will be almost as bad.

Perhaps it would be better to criticize the inconsistent sizing of headers depending on the maount of text within it. This can mean a variation of almost 3x in text size.

Saying all this, this might be a nice way to display logos that should resize depending on the font size provided by the user? And maybe it's a good reason for Flash to allow text selection.

Posted by Jason Long on October 19, 2003, at 10:22 a.m.:

I suppose that since I was the instigator on this one, I should follow up. I think that better alternatives are available. Dave showed how close plain HTML could match the current typeface. If that isn't good enough, generating an image (server side) seems better than embedding a Flash element.

Most importantly though, I think that it is very cool of Mike to stop by and explain the thought that went into the decision. His work on ESPN.com has been huge for the "standards" web dev crowd and for inspiring other commercial sites to make the (smart) move.

For those who haven't read them, I found Eric Meyer's interview with Mike to be quite interesting. Part 1 and Part 2.

Posted by kpaul on October 19, 2003, at 12:24 p.m.:

[900 italic 30px Arial with a -1px letter-spacing isn't identical, but it's pretty damn close.]

Arial Heavy might even be more closer, and I think a lot (most?) computers have that installed by default too...

Posted by Mike Davidson on October 19, 2003, at 3:06 p.m.:

Alright, responses to the responses:

Dave S. --

a) The 1k hit. Since we are using the same .swf file to display all story headlines, the swf file is cached on the user's hard drive and never needs to be loaded again (unlike a unique generated .gif). On some browsers, our use of a query string forces a swf reload but we will be moving to passing this text in through the 'flashvars' property shortly to eliminate this.

b) Search engine placement. Again, we have the h1 tags in there so this effect is negligible. Aside from search engine placement not really being a problem for us in general, what we've done here does very little to affect us negatively in that regard.

c) Arial. While I don't mind Arial/Helvetica in its printed form, its use and overuse on the web has caused me to reject it outright for all situations expect when I need tiny browser text to take up as little space as possible (Verdana takes up a lot more space). We believe the ability to offer a more original typeface to the 95% of visitors who can see it is well worth the tradeoff... especially since it degrades just fine.

I'm not really disagreeing with anything you're saying... we just place different values on different things.

Adrian --

a) Regarding the plus signs in the non-Flash headline. This should not be there. Sometimes when we roll new story templates out this stuff doesn't get caught. Admittedly, our testing is a little weak at ESPN, especially on the 'alternate elements'. We will get this fixed on Monday... it's one line of template code.

b) Regarding the delay in rendering of the Flash headline. This is a holdover from the Flash 4 days. We've been doing Flash headlines on our front page for about two years now, and back when everyone had Flash 4, the Flash player would not always render the headline correctly unless you manually added a short delay to it. Part of the utility of our Flash headline generator is that we've designed it so it automatically adjusts the size of the text to fit the width of the .swf, so that basically, headlines never wrap (more on this later). So in older Flash players, this size adjustment wasn't always made correctly without the delay. We'll look at our Flash 4 numbers and see if we can't eliminate this now... but jeez, it's only a second. Not a big deal in my mind.

c) Regarding the use of plain text being simpler and cleaner. Yes, of course I would agree with this. However, what shows up on the screen is 1000 times more important to me than what shows up on viewing of the source. I know this is blasphemous to a lot of standards evangelists, so don't go thinking that I *dont' care* what's under the hood. I just don't mind adding a few lines of javascript and a tiny .swf file to free me from the confines of whatever fonts Apple and Microsoft think I *should* use for my headlines. Why should they have a say?

d) Regarding headlines not being selectable. We haven't received any complaints about this and I'm not sure how many people need to do this, but if you really want to select our headlines, it's a two-second change in the Flash movie on our part. Again, easy stuff. I don't really see any downside, so I guess if it matters to people, we can make this change on Monday.

e) Regarding not being able to resize the headline along with the story text. Ahhh, but this is the beauty of the Flash headline in the first place! Our editors and writers can write headlines of whatever length they'd like and Flash resizes it all to fit on one line. This is the same thing graphic designers do at newspapers in order to fit headlines across columns, but we've eliminated the need for human intervention. This is very important for a site like ESPN which publishes new stories at all hours of the day and night. At the same time, it encourages our writers and editors to write short, concise headlines because the text appears nice and big when this happens. But in the infrequent case where a very long headline must be used, Flash handles it perfectly and scales the text fit. By the way, how come no positive comments on our Typeface/Size selector??? No major media site offers as flexible of a solution as we do for this. Plenty of people let you increase and decrease your font size, but we let you actually pick your typeface as well and once you set your prefs, every story page on ESPN honors it (except for a few pages which haven't been switched over to the new templates yet).

Anyway, to sum up... we're not perfect and we know this. Our first allegiance is to the user and what they see on the screen is most important to us. What's under the hood is important to us as well, but the current state of the web does not always allow you to put exactly what you want on screen without making certain, small sacrifices under the hood. This situation will eventually change, but for now we think we've struck the right balance.

Posted by Dave S. on October 19, 2003, at 3:52 p.m.:

"we just place different values on different things."

More or less, as we would both make different choices in the end. I understand where you're coming from anyway: anything but Arial.

I think I have to dispute your point c) though. The typeface you're using is just black Helvetica, or an equivalent (Swiss perhaps?) If that's not Helvetica itself, it IS a knock-off of the original. And I think even hardcore typography geeks have more or less accepted by now that typography on the web is limited to the point where Arial and Helvetica are interchangeable out of necessity.

Posted by Mike Davidson on October 19, 2003, at 5:43 p.m.:

Hi Dave. Actually the typeface is Akzidenz Grotesque, which is not only our corporate font used on TV, print, and other media, but it has been around since 1896 and predates Helvetica and Arial by quite some time. Thus, it cannot be considered a knock-off or a derivative but quite the opposite.

To me, the differences between Akzidenz and Arial/Helvetica are clear, especially once you start to view it in its different weights and widths, but again, I understand how the differences may be not enough to justify using Flash in some people's minds. For us, we don't mind being a little different.

Posted by Julie on October 19, 2003, at 6:52 p.m.:

For the record, the "truly terrible" element to which I was referring was Adrian's poetry ... but I'm not wild about the whole using Flash for headlines thing either.

Mike gives a good technical justification for their decision and why it's not terrible, but count me in the crowd that's left with a quesy feeling about it nonetheless. I guess I'm left wondering 'what about what the users place value on?'

"Our first allegiance is to the user and what they see on the screen is most important to us."

Very good, but I guess I question whether seeing a new branded font is what's important to your users. I feel confident that the overwhelming majority of Web users never think once about a site's font selection unless it's difficult to read. As much as some designers and typography geeks hate the limitations of standard Web fonts, I think the lack of variation is kind of nice as a user. Less adjustment required on the part of my eyes/brain.

The truth is, ESPN is in the fairly unique position of being the undisputed leader in its industry. They would have to really muck up their site before people actually stopped using it, so they do have the luxury of being "different," however, having said that...

I'm currently on a Dell Dimension using IE 6.0 on DSL (about as average as you can get) and I'm waiting 8 to 20+ seconds for ESPN story pages to load. Other sites are zipping right along. Obviously this is not due entirely to the headline Flash but as a user I'd much rather see ESPN doing everything possible to reduce page weight and speed up load times so I can get my sports news faster than making headlines which (arguably) look cooler.

And yes, Mike, please do make the text selectable even if it's just for us Web nerds. =)

PS. I think the Typeface/size selector gets lost among all the other right-side info. I didn't see it until I looked for it after you mentioned it and even then it took some hunting because it's an unusual interface for me at least -- I'm used to looking for something more along the lines of the small A, medium A, big A.

Posted by kpaul on October 19, 2003, at 10:15 p.m.:

Mike -

Good responses. You about won me over. :)

Question(s): have you thought about using the same technology/scripts to do pretty pullquotes from the stories? or even better, maybe something that takes numerical data from a story and automatically formats it in Flash? or, going far our here, a way to automatically link all city names in a story to a flash file that has a standard map that highlights a certain area depending on the name of the city fed to it from the text?

I wonder too if there aren't other uses too. :)

Posted by Mike Davidson on October 19, 2003, at 11:54 p.m.:

Thanks for the clarification on the "truly terrible" comment Julie. I was going to flame you about it but your picture was too damn cute. So let's see if I can ease your remaining queasiness a little:

a) You said you're not sure if users actually value seeing a richer-looking headline or if they notice it at all. First let me say that I believe the former can happen with or without the latter. The real value a user assigns to a site is determined subsciously from all of that user's collective experiences on the site. The user does not need to stop and notice exactly what typeface we're using in order to have a general feeling that "ESPN pages just look really good." <patselfonback /> So I guess what I'm saying is that I believe our use of rich headlines is just one of the elements on our site which make our pages look nicer. Do I expect people to send thank you letters in? No. But people seem to really like the story pages.

b) I'm with you on the "lack of variation is kind of nice" thing, but only as it applies to body copy. If every article I read for the rest of my life was styled in 11px Verdana, I'd be a happy guy. Display type, however, plays by different rules. Not only are your users reading much fewer words, but your display type can also really set the design theme of whatever you're working on.

c) Regarding slowness of the site today, I'd imagine this was more of a server issue than anything else. We get absolutely hammered every Sunday in the fall because of NFL games and sometimes the effect is noticeable. I didn't notice any slowness, but then again, I'm in Seattle where the site is served from. Ars Technica recently did a Mac browser speed test using ESPN.com and PGA.com and we came out ahead on many of the tests. As low as 3.5 seconds in some browsers. And we're talking about pre-Panther OS X here.

d) I'm also with you on the fact that we should be trimming our pages down as much as possible, and we have indeed been doing this. We're just not where we want to be yet. Getting there.

e) Finally, placement of the Typeface Selector. Yes, it is intentionally shoved off to the side and down below the contextual content. We felt that since it would only be needed once or twice by the user (the settings are cookied and used from there on out), it needn't occupy prime real estate near the top of the page. It is probably not an ideal placement for people who don't come to our site very often, but our more frequent visitors seem to find it just fine. The ideal solution would be to maybe place it really high until you use it... then place it below the sidebar.

Posted by Dave S. on October 20, 2003, at 3:33 a.m.:

Aye, you definitely win that round Mike. Akzidenz trumps Helvetica, at least from a historic perspective.

Posted by pF on October 20, 2003, at 6:43 a.m.:

Still sounds like overkill to me.

No one chooses a news site on how cool it is. People choose news sites on relevance, ease of use and speed. Placing an SWF, Javascipt and H1 tag just to display a title is just crazy.

"To me, the differences between Akzidenz and Arial/Helvetica are clear, especially once you start to view it in its different weights and widths, but again, I understand how the differences may be not enough to justify using Flash in some people's minds. For us, we don't mind being a little different. "

I guarantee MOST of your readers wouldn't know the difference between the two and i bet it's simply not important to them. I think you should worry less about how good it looks from your perspective and worry more about - will the user really benefit from this feature - and will they really care, if we instead gave them a slightly less pretty version?

(I may have gotten the flow of this wrong - excuse me since I didn't have time to read everyones for/against arguments)

Posted by Jay Small on October 20, 2003, at 9:02 a.m.:

Julie...what's WRONG with Adrian's poem? :-)

Posted by Curt Wohleber on October 21, 2003, at 4:29 p.m.:

It's a very fine poem. The single-line couplets evoke the hemistich-caesura-hemistich structure of Old English poetry, imparting an epic quality that limericks usually lack.

Posted by Julie on October 21, 2003, at 11:45 p.m.:

OK, I give... Adrian's poetry is fabulous.

Mike, I wasn't suggesting that you move your Typeface selector... just offering its inconspicuous location as a possible reason why no one had commented on it. And despite a fine effort, you haven't really won me over on the whole headline thing, but I'm a hard sell ;)

Posted by Mike Davidson on October 22, 2003, at 4:47 p.m.:

Alright Julie, well at least you have your selectable text now, so select away! Also, the plus signs in the alt text are gone now, as is part of the delay.

Posted by Mike Thompson on October 22, 2003, at 6:35 p.m.:

I think it is interested that nobody has noticed the flash headline thing at ESPN until now. When I had first noticed it (probably a couple months ago by now?), I actually thought they were putting the headlines in a graphic. Thinking that was odd, I checked the source code to find they were using Flash.

I think I'm on Mike's side on this one. Degradation is there, can't complain about that. The font ties in with their branding. It looks good. The flash applet will cache, so will be speedier than graphics in the long run (I had never noticed any delay, but I'm also in Seattle). Even if the headline is delayed as Adrian sees (I've never noticed), I'm not sure it really matters all that much. In all likelihood, you clicked on a headline link somewhere else to get to that story so you already know what you are getting (plus it appears in the title tag). As for generating a server-side graphic, this is bad unless the CMS does it at the time of file creation and links it in as a graphic. You certainly wouldn't want to generate it each time an article was called.

On the other hand, if they would get rid of the moving home page (because of the resizing flash ad), I'd be a happy person. Nothing is worse than when you are about to click a headline on their home page and it starts moving on you. If you are going to insist on the giant flash ad, I'd rather it cover the text and shrink after a few seconds (like cnet does often for instance). At least that way, when if I click the X to shrink the flash, the page doesn't start moving on me. Or if I'm scrolling down the page for headlines, they don't start moving.

Posted by Jason Grigsby on October 23, 2003, at 4:51 p.m.:

I think what ESPN has done is a great compromise. Everything is a tradeoff. In the choice between the need to brand a site and the need to have pages that download quickly, I can't think of a better solution. Great job!

Posted by Marc Broad on October 23, 2003, at 5:39 p.m.:

Sometimes reading all these sorts of roundabout conversations i get the impression sometimes some of us can't see the forest for the trees....

Personally - i think this one of the best uses of flash a major company has used in recent times. It's small , quick, the downside is so minor that only the hardcore few will actually find beef with it and for a company the size of espn - the time it must save would be a huge figure.

No it's not perfect - and i think you all have provided food for thought. It's great to see Mike actually taking the time to listen and front to these suggestions and comments - let's hope many more webmasters from major sites adopt this policy.

Espn has been a major influence in turning around opinions on accessibility in my workplace ( I live in New Zealand - so espn isn't always first port of call ) .

Fantastic job Mike and great to see the community making a constructive critique.

Posted by Hilarie on October 24, 2003, at 2:18 a.m.:

Wow, this is a tough crowd! I can't believe so many are against the little 'ol Flash headlines.

It's a great use of Flash. It takes the user's online experience at least one little step closer to the brand experience they have been trained to expect from ESPN via broadcast and print--at no extra cost (though I can see that the majority here unnecessarily disagree with that thought).

I know I'll get hung out to dry for this comment, but I think the majoratiy of you that are troubled by this turn of events, just really don't understand enough about web graphics and Flash in general to "get it". I mean if you suggest using server-side generated images instead...there you have it. And if you didn't know that text in Flash CAN be selectable if the developer wants it to be...there you are. It's not like it's some 30-second, bitmap-filled, "skip intro" thing. It's a 1K .swf and a few additional bytes of code. It's even got fallback galore for those surfing like it's 1995.

Damn those "web designers" who tried their hand at Flash 3 and screwed it up for all the rest of us.

:-)

Posted by Ben on October 24, 2003, at 12:20 p.m.:

I think a general point people maybe are making is that the "brand experience they have been trained to expect from ESPN via broadcast and print" does not mean making things graphical. My opinion would be that keeping things in text is more inherent (and savvy) to the experience of the Web, and making it look slightly better (and that's obviously subjective) is a small step in the direction of trying to make the Web too much like a medium it is not. (That may be a poor way to describe that... maybe someone can expand on that or say that in a different way.)

My ideals of the ESPN Web site are information, speed, and native interchange with other things I do and with other Web sites. Right now, #2 is slightly hindered (sure, very slightly, but I see a downward spiral on the horizon), and #3 is slightly hindered as well, since I now can't do something simple like copy and paste the headline.

Other question: Is this using Generator, or is this something more hand-made?

Other off-topic question: Do you possibly have any clout to get the ESPNmotion app to NOT notify me when new content is available? I can't stand that thing in my taskbar, and seeing the push to develop MORE of that stuff, it's just going to get worse...

Posted by Jason L on October 24, 2003, at 1:09 p.m.:

I must admit, at first glance, I thought the idea of a flash headline was absurd. However, having gone through the discussion and learning more about the process... it really is quite a clever design solution.

Would I use a solution such as this for any of my work? Definately not in most cases, but for a large, CMS driven website with demanding brand requirements, it seems like a very nice compromise. Great work Mike.

Posted by Kris H. on October 24, 2003, at 1:11 p.m.:

I don't think this use of flash is so terrible, and I doubt that users would see anything to complain about.

It might seem inelegant from a certain developer perspective ("Flash Bad -- with well-defined and limited exceptions"), what with the current trend being to downsizing and "purity", but one needs to be careful not to put too much emphasis on what they see when they view source, as the target audience is primarily oggling the rendered markup, see.

Grandma judges a recipe by the family's enjoyment of the end result, and you should, too.

Keep on cooking, Grandma, err.... Mike!

Posted by charlie on October 24, 2003, at 2:42 p.m.:

I just want to address pF's comment:

"No one chooses a news site on how cool it is. People choose news sites on relevance, ease of use and speed. Placing an SWF, Javascipt and H1 tag just to display a title is just crazy."

pF - "No one"? do you have that on good authority? Have you canvassed *everyone* and found that out of 5.6 billion people, *none* choose the Web sites they view based on aesthetics?

Hey, I'm not advocating presentation over content...I absolutely believe the content is the most important aspect. But I guarantee you that to some people, the packaging of the product influences their decision.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion...but to suggest that to do it any other way than yours is "crazy" seems to be a bit short-sited and myopic.

Posted by Gahlord Dewald on October 24, 2003, at 4:25 p.m.:

Trying to keep branding consistent across multiple media formats is an admirable endeavor. Mike's solution lets them keep their headline in their corporate standard font (anyone who doesn't think that's important probably hasn't been involved with identity and/or branding long enough to have a useful opinion; as for the similarities between Arial and Akzidenz... my old philosphy prof used to say that the road to relativism lead straight to hell). It also prevents Mike and his team from having to cook up a zillion different .gif files at all hours of the day/night. It also probably loads faster than said .gifs. It also allows the possibility of selecting the type (as noted above).

Those who continue to whine about this exceptionally clever design solution should get out in the sunshine more often.

Free beer in VT,

g

Posted by Jay on October 24, 2003, at 4:39 p.m.:

Just because I want to offer an opinion that appears to be outside of the norm (for web geeks - although I'm not nearly as geeky as some of the company here, and I mean that as a compliment) - the look and feel of a site is quite important to me when it comes to my news. In fact, despite the fact I get Sports Illustrated at home rather than ESPN the Mag, I NEVER go to SI.com for my online sports news. I always go to ESPN, and it's primarily because of the look and layout of the site.

Kudos to your gang, Mike.

Posted by David Schontzler on October 25, 2003, at 2:55 a.m.:

I know I'm "late" in the conversation here, but one thing I'd like to say:

Mike, I really like what you guys have done with the site. I go there all the time (ESPN Motion is all the TV I've got!) and everyone at work loves it (I work in recreation -- but I'm the web guy). Rumor has it that the uni bottlenecked the site since folks were wasting so much time there.. boy were we pissed.

Anyhow, my point...

I love the headlines. I had no idead they were Flash. Personally, I think you would be better off using server-side functionality to generate the headlines (PHP or .NET can do it) so then you can just plop in <h1><img src="headline..." alt="headline..." /></h1> and be on your merry way. That'd silence the critics (my only beef was that they didn't have alt attributes and took some time to load, now I know that's the Flash). But the argument the folks don't notice the difference is BS. It is little touches like custom font titles that make the site.

Keep up the good work. My only beef is that ESPN Motion seems to have some logic bugs (icon showing up before video is available, showing up multiple times for already-watched videos). Oh, and someone needs to do a cover story on the Cougs (WSU!), although I don't think you control that sorta thing.

Best, David.

Posted by Peter J. on October 25, 2003, at 12:39 p.m.:

Also late, but I'd point out that even the "no flash" workarounds don't work if users have something like the Flash Click to View extension installed. ESPN has no fancy headlines, as far as these users (me included) are concerned. The headline is the page title -- which is always displayed as I want because it's under the control of the window manager/OS, not the browser -- and that suits me fine..

I think what people are having qualms with is that ESPN has been touted as a model of standards-based redesign. This means that it's also become an example for other designers, who may decide that because "ESPN does it this way" it means they can put Flash everywhere... without necessarily putting the same consideration into fallbacks that Mike D. and his team have. It's not ESPN's fault, per se, but it's the way things happen.

Disclaimer: I rarely read espn.com, and then only for the occasional glance at Rob Neyer's column. In other words, Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved. :)

Posted by David Schontzler on October 25, 2003, at 4:59 p.m.:

I know this is the wrong place to do a web request, but since we're on the topic of good/bad web practices, I don't like how ESPN uses a # link when it opens new windows. It makes the browser scroll up to the top of the window and makes the link inaccessible. A nice little [a href="linky" onclick="openWinFcn(this.href);return false;"] would really improve the browsing experience.

Posted by Zach on October 26, 2003, at 1:43 a.m.:

Jeez - I just accidently came across this.

I discovered this little flash file its seems like years ago (no clue if they have changed it any or not since). While I disagree with like everything ESPN is doing design wise, what does anyone else care about a nice little headline thingy. It gives em what they want how they want it. I think personally ESPN is the biggest example in webhistory of what not to do (I still want to know who that one poor sucker was that went to ESPN on Monday morning after the last site redesign with his speakers on, his boss walking by the door, and a now surfing the net workl policy was - there has to be at least one person that site design got fired, seriously)

ESPN does many things good - most of it in their side pages and the design of their speciality pages, like a special on the bowl games, or with out looking I am willing to be their world series design kicks, the rest of what they do is great for how its done, bad for the end result - but then again I also thing they have the best design out there - if you use the right one - http://lite.espn.go.com/ - the regular site? Bluntly I wish someone in the big media companies would realize that its the internet, not New York City. Real Estate is cheap - spread out, create 250 40k pages, not 50 200k pages - and get more page views, and more places to show ads, with out crowding.

Posted by Joe Grossberg on October 27, 2003, at 6:03 p.m.:

Dave S.:

"900 italic 30px Arial with a -1px letter-spacing isn't identical, but it's pretty damn close."

Sometimes it is, depending on what browser you're using. I'm on Firebird 0.7/Linux. Here's what I see: a big difference.

Posted by S Page on October 28, 2003, at 5:54 p.m.:

Fine debate. Now that the text is selectable, it's almost impossible to get the "About Macromedia Flash Player...." menu item to appear.

kpaul wrote I wonder too if there aren't other uses too. :)

If the header is Flash, that can give you more room for other Flash to pop over it without needing to use WMODE or layer tricks. A few years ago I worked on a prototype for macromedia.com that combined the global nav bar and the header to give secondary navigation an extra inch to appear. This was before flashVars so we used a tiny loader.swf to load in the (cached) bigger swfs and hand them their parameters. It worked well enough; however, the extra space still wasn't enough to do a normal drop-down, so we wound up sticking with h1 images.

In general there's a lot you can do if the top of the page is all one Flash movie, but it's enough effort to organize that you need a compelling reason to do it IMHO.

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