Los Angeles Times Altered Oceans Flash Usability

It doesn’t happen very often, but I thought I might like to write about a good Flash experience lest I be labeled a Luddite. Derrick Mayoleth’s blog listed this LA Times Article.

This flash piece despite the fact that it does pretty much take over the whole content area is visually impressive enough to make it worth your while. But it isn’t just aesthetics or subject matter that makes it appealing.

Altered Ocean Screen Shot


The size of the element is big enough that it causes a scroll on the screen. No big deal the fold as we know is dead anyway. But this element still works because of the way it is embedded. The page is already scrolling due to the large amount of navigation and the content on the page. The Altered Oceans element also has no hard borders and breaks on the edges to hide . The element also h

Prevalence and Balance

This flash piece also has prevalence, meaning everything has weight and balance. The large image of the sewer pipe draws your eye and the header element to its right clearly explains what you are looking at and why. The overall header while somewhat muted in black is styled differently but appropriately to let you know the overall title of the piece. The white text to the right explains exactly how many pieces are in the expose and who wrote and photographed it. The call to action area with the message board is present, but not loud.

The sections are laid out in a logical fashion and have good imagery and clear readable text. The highlighted section, “part one” is faded out to indicate which section you are currently looking at.


The navigation is very straightforward. There are no hidden options or surprises. There is an absolute minimum on iconagraphy. What little symbols are used are accommodated by sensible text such as “Read Story“, or “view“.

Small Problems

The flashing numbers area is the only area where I might have done something different. The stats that flash across have a short delay, and every time I looked it seemed like they were fading out to the next stat. Slightly aggravating. It would also have been a good idea to tie these into an article and make them clickable.

The video player not being integrated into the main element seemed to take a long time to load and then had a lot of flourish with little delivery. Also the video controls did not have standard elements such as a volume control. As a more advanced user, I can use my system volume but why make me do that? Put in a volume control on your flash player.

If it was me I would rethink how to incorporate the video player into the main element, rather than navigating to a second window. But the videos were well worth watching once I was in them. Also they had a really cool feature where you could use a slider bar to increase or decrease the size of the video on the fly. A+ for that, but the time would have been better spent on a volume control.

Good Execution on a Simple Design

Most of the time when I see Flash I see it used poorly for no effect. Here it actually made for a good user experience and made me want to read the articles and see the content, instead of inhibiting my ability to do so with non-standard controls, and poor performance.