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Should I Use Flash on my Website?

Adobe Flash has been with us a long while now. In terms of quality animations and presentation of video, most people's first reaction is that it offers something of high quality.

The Alternatives

Until recently, the alternative solutions have been poor. JavaScript is limited in what it can offer (although still very flexible), embedded Java applets are notoriously slow and unreliable and as for animated GIFs, they only look good for very simple animations or when they have an unwieldy file size.

So if you want great looking animations to give your site a really modern feel, then Flash must be the only way to go. But let us look at this first.

Use of Flash will limit your ability to optimise your website for the search engines. Yes, there are work-arounds but the truth of the matter is that most search engines love the good old fashioned HTML webpage.

Not all users have Flash installed (including the growing numbers of iPad and iPhone users) so you need to design your site twice. Once for those users with Flash installed and once for those without.

Also, I would question whether you need over-the-top animations in the first place. If it slows down download times then it can irritate your customers. If you have a Flash introduction with a sequence that must be seen before your website even opens, then 30% of visitors will go elsewhere in a "Flash".

Visitors to your website want to be impressed with a great looking website but they want the website to be quick-loading and easy to use. True, you will always have some ardent fans who love the way your website works in a stylish unusual and quirky manner but for every fan, there are at least 3 potential customers who will never visit your website again.

The Future Looks Bright

Also, there is a new technology waiting in the wings. It is called HTML5. It is a standard that is very new and not yet supported by Internet Explorer. However, Microsoft have promised that version 9 of their browser will fully support HTML5.

It is a leap forward in terms of flexibility for web designers and once it is generally accepted, many websites will have the ability to incorporate all these great ideas for animation but for the first time, be truly universal (with the exception of the users who stay faithful to old versions of web browsers).

Whilst Flash is still great for embedding audio and video, my advice is to avoid it for now. There are plenty of other things you can do that are much more subtle and are not likely to put off your users. The fancy bits can come soon once HTML5 is widely supported.

I know there are those of you who will disagree with my opinion (especially Adobe Incorporated!!) but I strongly feel that we need to start designing websites with the user in mind and not yourself.

Mon 28 March 2011 16:55:18

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