Remember in 2000, when Flash intros were all the rage? The original idea was to dress up the preloader, the part of the app that the user saw while the meat of the website was loading. Designers got all excited at the opportunity for gratuitous animation. But they went the way of the dodo because, cool as they were, they kept the user waiting, and what with broadband becoming more common, they were no longer really necessary. Now, with Flex apps, preloaders are rearing their ugly heads again. An empty Flex app with default settings weighs in at 250k, and comes with a progress bar showing how long is left to load. So now I’m seeing a proliferation of the same Flex preloader bar all over the more technologically advanced websites. The truth is though, that users should never have to see a progress bar, or if they do, it should be fast and unobtrusive enough for them not to notice it.
Adobe itself does a pretty good job of this. Most of their sample apps are modular, so that when you use them, you only load what is strictly necessary. Each time you navigate to a new part of the app for the first time, there is a short loading period while the required functionality loads, and everything is quite smooth. It’s not immediate, but they have quiet little animations indicating that things are loading, and everything is fast. For an example, take a look at their demo flaunting their new text rendering engine. So why botch this effort by lumping beginner Flex developers with such a bloated project to start with? It’s sloppy, and it gives developers the idea that preloaders are somehow ok even when broadband is everywhere. Furthermore it gives RIAs a bad press, when really it should be possible to do without.

The worst is, there seems to be a few new sites for preloader nostalgia, that are only waiting for preloader customization to be a hot skill. All over again…