NEW YORK While Flash technology is usually synonymous with brand Web sites and special effects, bare-bones HTML is thought more appropriate for transaction-focused sites like Amazon.com.
Nike's newly refreshed e-commerce site, NikeStore.com, fights this notion by exclusively using Adobe's Flash platform. By taking this approach, Nike's agency, Interpublic Group's R/GA, said it is not pursuing aesthetics and pure design sensibility. Instead, it sees Flash improving the user experience and easing the purchase process with features like a persistent shopping cart only possible through Flash.
"I think what's been overlooked over years [with Flash] is how it can be used in a more utilitarian, practical way to streamline an experience, particularly an e-commerce experience," said John Mayo-Smith, R/GA's chief technology officer.
NikeStore.com succeeds the seven-year-old NikeTown.com site, which was a much more conventional e-commerce platform, built in HTML. NikeStore.com carries the same 30,000 pieces of apparel and footwear items. Search engines will still be able to find those individual items, Mayo-Smith said.
The increased adoption of broadband and 97 percent consumer penetration rate of Flash make the technology more attractive to e-commerce destinations, said Peter Kim, an analyst with Forrester Research. "If you tried to do this back in 2000, you'd be dead in the water," he said.
Mayo-Smith said Flash allows an alternative so-called faceted navigation system, enabling users to filter a site's contents on the fly. Using a navigation menu on the left, visitors can narrow what they're looking for by product attributes, which then change the products shown on the screen.
"People are realizing that waiting around to have a lot of HTML pages refresh isn't that great of an experience," he said.
The site is not Nike's first application of Flash on an e-commerce site. The R/GA-built Nike iD site, which lets users design their own footwear, also uses Flash.