Why Is Your Proprietary Website So Hard to Use?

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Some History of the Proprietary Website

Bear with me here, because you’re going to need some history. Recently, Microsoft released Windows 10, featuring the Microsoft Edge browser. Edge doesn’t support Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) — this includes items like Java and Flash. Simultaneously, Google Chrome removed Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) support. This also made using Java and Flash nearly impossible.

These changes led to an entire weekend struggling to just browse the Web.

It’s time to take pity on end users and ditch the proprietary website extensions.

The Proprietary Website Is Hard to Use

During the weekend struggles, the following events occurred:

I went to a website for a fast-food company that, for reasons inconceivable to me, utilizes Microsoft's Silverlight product to power its menu. If you try to access it from Chrome, you get an error message telling you to switch to another browser.

One key problem, in September, 66 percent of Web browser traffic was from some form of Google’s Chrome Web browser. Essentially, this company has a menu inaccessible to 66 percent of its visitors.

Later that evening, I checked my online bank account balance and realized I needed to purchase checks. The applet that simply displays your check face requires a Java plug-in. This means that at least 66 percent of the Web can’t order checks online from a very large bank. I spent over two hours trying to find a workaround before giving up.

This Is an Unseen Cost to InfoSec

Google and Microsoft (and Firefox with Flash) didn’t kick these extensions out of their product to be cruel or to make your life harder. These are closed source products with horrible security track records.

The reality is that having to do this resulted in massive frustration, lost e-commerce revenue, and dissatisfaction from end users. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless online — and today, most Web users feel helpless. They flock to the perceived safety of walled gardens and don’t even use the Web anymore. If we want to avoid an Internet that’s nothing more than a delivery mechanism for Google, Facebook, and Netflix, we need to be smarter about how we design our websites.

How Do You Fix the Proprietary Web?

No marketing department wants to hear that their poor choices in proprietary websites have alienated two-thirds of the browser market. This will never happen to anyone who supports open source and open standards when designing their website.

Web developers need to be more suspicious of proprietary Web extensions. HTML5 is now somewhat capable when it comes to creating dynamic content that once required Flash.

This needs to be a strong call to action for everyone’s Web team. It’s time to ditch Java, Silverlight, and Flash on your website and move to HTML5. If HTML5 can’t do what you need, it’s likely that you just aren’t trying hard enough. Or maybe you’re just trying too hard?


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