All entries for Saturday 20 August 2005

August 20, 2005

Flash Earth

Writing about web page

There's a continuing debate amongst web developers about whether Flash or Ajax is a better platform for interactive web applications. Google make some cool apps using Ajax – Google Maps, GMail and so on. Now, one guy has experimented to see whether the Google Maps satellite imagery interface could be done as well or better using Flash. The results are impressive: the redraw is better than Google's original, as is the panning and zooming, and he's added rotation, which is easy in Flash, but hard in HTML.

His interface feels nicer partly because he's gone to some trouble to polish the behaviour of the application; when you click the "zoom in" button, or the "pan north" button, the zoom (or pan) starts and slows to a stop smoothly. Handling both rotating and panning using the compass is a nice UI touch, too. And letting the user switch seamlessly between Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth to compare and contrast the two is clever and elegant. It's details like that which make the difference, and at the very least, this shows that Flash can do as good a job as Ajax for certain types of application – and, of course, this application works in every browser that can handle the Flash plugin, and there only needs to be one version of the code for all browsers – no conditional hacks to hide things from browser X. Worth a look.

Burger King: Have it your way?

It's not a good time to be a fast food giant. The days when customers just couldn't get enough of super-sizing and jumbo-sizing, and all-you-can-eat specials are largely gone. And worse still, the public's affection for burgers and chips seems to be on the wane, and fast food joints are having to work a little harder to have at least some healthy options on their menus.

The obvious response to this shift in the market, of course, is to do more marketing. Nothing stems a tide of disaffection like a vigourous round of commercials and catchphrases. Burger King's new catchphrase is Have it your way. Here's an extract from the blurb:-

What does it really mean to have it your way? It means a symphony of umm-ing and ahh-ing as you stand, eyes peeled to the menu. It means congratulating you on your originality, celebrating your individuality, because on the menu of life, you are "Today's Special".

Now, I am not a Marketing Weasel™ but this puzzles me. I'd always thought that eating in a fast food place was basically an admission of defeat as far as originality goes. Of all the food-related things you could choose to do – try a new restaurant, follow a new recipe, invent a new meal of your own – going to a fast food place whose USP is that no matter where you are, no matter which country in the world you're in, the food here will be exactly the same as it is in all the other branches, exactly the same as when you came last time, is essentially the least possible original choice you could make.

So doesn't that make building a marketing campaign around originality something of a misguided effort? It's as if Prada decided to play the value-for-money card, or Tesco started boasting about its exclusivity. It's just not playing to their strengths. Strange.

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