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I may not be a full service number-one digital branding or content agency myself. If I ran one, though, I'd probably make sure my site looked ok on the iPad, which we should all know by now doesn't do Flash.

Here are 11 screenshots showing agency websites as seen on my iPad. These screenshots show the sites exactly as they appeared on my iPad (which was in landscape orientation). 

Nothing at all

This one just has the word "skip" on a white background:

This one promises "inspiring content" in the top left. But other than that there are some missing pictures and an offer to browse the site without Flash, with no obvious way to do so.

"You need to upgrade your Flash player". If only we could on an iPad, if only we could..

Branding and not much else ...

There's not much here, but at least you can see the company name, unlike the previous screenshots:

An apology and some contact details

They're sorry you can't use the site without flash - but  there's a link to their blog and details of how to get in touch.

A big hole

The rest of these use Flash as an element of the page, as opposed to having an entirely flash-driven site. That means that what you get is a hole where the Flash file would be. These sites are at least usable.

I'm not quite sure why the contact details had to be in flash - so on the iPad it says "Contact Us: Upgrade to Flash 8.0":

This one looks like they've tried to serve up some alternate content. It's just not quite worked as the iPad shrinks everything to fit the wide image on the screen. 

The main thing missing here is under "See what our clients say about us". A big white space ...

You can browse around - but there's a big white hole on the homepage:

A big black hole this time:

My personal favourite. Squint at the top left - yes, it does say "FAIL"


We've chided agencies before about their Flash-based websites. And only yesterday we pointed out that some ecommerce sites don't work that well on the iPad.

And while you could argue only two million people have bought an iPad so far (probably not a Currys iPad though), I imagine a fairly large proportion of that two million are the people agencies are going to want to impress ...


Published 11 June, 2010 by Malcolm Coles

Malcolm Coles is Director at Digital Sparkle and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also blogs at malcolmcoles.co.uk. You can follow him on Twitter here.

16 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Haven't tried this myself yet, but here's an iPad sniffer in JavaScript/PHP:


over 6 years ago


Harry Barracuda

Perhaps if Steve Jobs was a little less anal, you wouldn't have this problem.

This is one of many, many reasons to ditch the iPad and buy a netbook.

over 6 years ago



@Harry Barracuda

Given how Android seems to be gaining popularity, if Google (or whoever) can get a tablet running Android - with Flash compatibility - out to market before the iPad can establish itself too much, with any luck we'll have a fight on our hands ;-)

over 6 years ago


Robert G

@Harry Barracuda - it might sometimes leave a bitter taste in the mouth, but the anal-ness of SJ is the reason why apple products offer simplified, just work experience - you can't really have one without the other. He might be sailing close to  the wind with the anti flash stuff - but jesus flash is horrible a lot (most?) of the time, and 2 million ipads in 60 days says he might have called it right. 

As for a netbook - well like most people moaning about apple products, you completely fail to understand why people want, but and happily use them every day (more than ever) - so you don't have a ugly little platic thing that will likely slow and fail, or at least just be targeted by virus and bloatware, adding to an already uncomfortable windows experience (don't even started on linux is and will be irrelevant).

Robin calls it right - Google have a shot with Chrome / Android on lightweight devices - good luck to them - but i kinda feel like the time to move on from Flash has come - it was never that great to begin with!.

over 6 years ago

Jon Hudghton

Jon Hudghton, Development at Quayside Clothing Ltd

I personally hate 100% Flash sites; I've always hated them. It's just not how the web should work. You might as well just have a blank page and stick a link to an exe saying "Download this presentation you can click a bit to your desktop, because this ain't a website". Flash has its uses for sure; but not for entire websites.

So yeah, I wasn't too disappointed when Apple decided to ditch Flash.

For the agencies, if you do insist on having a 100% Flash website then it's really not hard to check the user agent and redirect if someone arrives on an iPad / Phone / Touch. Even if you just show your contact info, it’s still better than showing a blank page!

One little thing Malcolm; perhaps I misunderstood but you said at the start of the post you're not naming these agencies - I can read all the URLs / Page Titles in your screenshots, even with my contact-lens-requiring eyes :)

over 6 years ago

David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

I don't like Flash sites that much, but they exist. If this was anything other than Apple we'd be saying "What on earth, they made a computer that doesn't show you the internet properly".

over 6 years ago

David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

I agree Malcolm. But you could equally have written the article from a "My iPad broke the internet" angle. Presumably the iPad is more than just a big phone that doesn't make calls.

over 6 years ago


Malcolm Coles, Director at Digital Sparkle

David: What? I thought it was a big phone that doesn't make calls ;)

Anyway, I could have written it from that angle, true. But there are ways any website owner can, if they want, identify cases where their site may not work, which aren't unique to the iPad (and there are likely to be accessibility issues around a 100% Flash site, too, as you know).

They can then choose to do something about it, or not, depending on their audience / time / cost etc.

If I ran some sort of brand / design / content agency - which is what the headline addressed - I think I'd make sure my site didn't look rubbish on an iPad. Still, maybe they're all out winning business and earning £££s while I'm sitting here complaining.

over 6 years ago


Alec East

To be honest, anyone with a genuine care for their clients' business resolved this issue back in 2007 when the iPhone took-off.

If you genuinely want maximum reach for your clients - and why wouldn't you? - then you really should be considering all those web-enabled devices that come between Android and the X-Box.

Ironically, I remember contacting someone at eConsultancy to mention that comments didn't work on iPhone. I was informed, very politely and eloquently, that it was a low-priority issue. And so it goes....

This is the first comment I've made since then, and I'm doing it from a desktop PC just in case.


over 6 years ago

alex avery

alex avery, Inbound Marketing Consultant at Alex Avery Inc

How about agencies just do testing on websites: period.

99% of the time it is built either by a developer or designer using one browser, and not tested in other browsers let alone browser versions. Don't get me started on screen size, usability factors etc.

Issues with Flash are a decade old. Changing your sites for one hyped device is not *the* reason to change your m.o., it's *another* reason.

over 6 years ago



There's two issues here:

1) The graceful degradation of sites.

2) Flash as a platform.

On the first, there is no excuse for having a site that provides progressive decay of functionality. If someone is still using IE6, because their IT department says they have too, then they should still get at least something useful when they come to your site. The same for people who have to use screen readers to access the web. It is unacceptable, and makes little commercial sense.

The alternative site doesn't have to provide all the functionality, but enough to get one.

On the second, If I said "there's a new device on the market that only just came out. It's targeting a minority of owners. We must redesign every website to work with it" - you'd say, rightly, that I was mad. There are nearly 2 billion people who use the Internet. That makes iPad users <0.1% of the market, even by Apple's best figures. Now, if iPad users are your target audience, then knock yourself out. However, don't forget that 100% of iPad users have a web-capable browser or laptop/desktop.

Apple is trying to bully the world into playing on its (proprietary) terms, via a closed app store and development environment. If we play that game, ultimately the only users will be us, the customer. Flash allows the rapid development of rich interactive applications (we built <a href="http://milestoneplanner.com/">http://milestoneplanner.com/</a>, which works across 99.999% of the web visitors to the site, in a fraction of the time it would have taken in other tools).

over 6 years ago


Phil Hawksworth


My company is associated with one of those examples and I'm saddened to see how Flash dependent it is. I'll be putting that right.

To me though, the issue isn't about how well sites render on the iPad (although the recent enthusiasm and coverage for the iPad brings an important issue to the fore), it's more about how well sites degrade and how often people use technologies like Flash inappropriately.  

I've long been a proponent of unobtrusive technologies and progressive enhancement. This stuff is really important on the Web and it doesn't just come into play when a snazzy new device comes out. 

Our company site (http://theteam.co.uk) has some Flash components on it but critically, they are complimentary. They offer a bit of extra shizzle, rather than anything important to the experience, and they degrade to images where Flash isn't available.

We didn't design the implementation for the iPad. We just designed the implementation for the Web. The recent Flash v Apple scrap only highlights for me the need to embrace Web fundamentals and focus on delivering content to the widest possible audience. When you do that, new devices like the iPad shouldn't impact you at all. If they make use of Web standards, and you develop against Web standards, it's all gravy.

over 6 years ago


malcolm coles

Benjamin / Phil - yes it's the degradation / enhancement that's the main issue (and it's not just Apple, to be fair - my Windows mobile phone doesn't do Flash).

While I was working out how to do screenshots on the iPad, I tried doing them on my laptop with Flash disabled - and I came across some agency sites which worked fine on the iPad (as they detected the browser and served up different content) but not when I had Flash disabled on Chrome (presumably a very rare occasion). So it is possible (we all knew that anyway).

over 6 years ago


Mr D

But how many people use iPads and iPhones? Android is outselling iPhone 2 to 1 and iPads will soon loose their market as well. Although HTML 5 is coming, in b2b scenario most people still use internet explorer which doesn't support it properly.

Apple's failure to support Flash (even temporarily) just drive more cost in developing sites. Now we need to support IE6, Flash, HTML5, CSS3 etc which just takes longer to develop / redevelop.

Sniffing for HTML5 is a good idea, and I am sure that in time (note.. in time) almost all sites will do this, but hold off giving businesses a bashing for not supporting a new device, that uses code that is new to market. Blimey.

about 6 years ago

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