Should Your Website Be Flashy?

One of the common topics in a discussion about reviewing a new website usually is – “can we get this to be animated, move, slide, be more flashy?”

A common method for web designers to achieve this has been to use Adobe Flash to create animated pieces or whole websites. There are many problems, however, to going this route with your website. The internet is a constantly changing beast, and the current trend is pushing Adobe Flash out and replacing it with new design methods such as Javascript, CSS3 and HTML5.

Before I get into details of why I don’t believe Flash on a website is a good thing, I will first point out that there are still uses for Flash and I am not entirely opposed to it.

Why flash still stands a chance.

There are still mainly 2 reasons why Flash is still useful on a modern website.

  1. Video – There is no replacement for Flash when it comes to showing video content. This may change in the next couple years, but as long as YouTube still uses it, Flash for video content is king. I have tested using the new HTML5 video players, and they do not quite make the cut yet. This also goes for audio on a website as well, although having music play on your site is generally taboo unless you are a musician, as it can and most likely will turn off at least a few visitors to your site if music starts playing.
  2. Advertising – The primary method for online advertising is using what are called banner ads – these are the graphic ads that you see everywhere on some sites, most often with heavy animation and movement to try and catch your eye. This is both a good and bad thing for Flash: good in that it allows for ads to have movement to bring attention, but bad in that they often slow down the speed of websites and create huge distractions from the content that is being viewed.
  • Another use of flash that is still common is to create photo galleries with extravagant transitions and other effects. The reason I do not count this as a primary reason for Flash is that a lot of beautiful effects can be made without using Flash.

Why Your Website Should Not Be Entirely Based on Flash

  • Development Cost – any website that has content that ever needs to be updated or added will quickly become expensive using Flash as the primary design tool. Flash does not play well with other standard internet languages such as Javascript, CSS, PHP, etc, so any attempt to tie in a flash element with other parts of your site will be difficult and costly.
  • Difficult to Add / Change Content – The way flash works is that it is like a movie playing with a few interactive elements – the movie will pause and wait for you to press a button, causing it to start playing in a different section. This makes it so any new content added will have to be spliced in to the movie, and the entire movie exported and uploaded to the ┬áserver where your website is hosted. There are many Flash plugins that allow for dynamic content (meaning that it is changed based on outside factors such as a database or text file) but any custom integration will require an Action-Script programmer to develop.

  • Mobile Devices Don’t Do Flash - a flash based website will look like this on one of the over 200 million apple ipads, iphones or ipod touches sold, or numerous Android devices that don’t do flash or do it very poorly. You can find out why these devices won’t and possibly never will support flash by reading Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash.
  • Current Design Trends – The current trend in web design is a clean, minimalist look, bringing the text content of the site front and center and making it attractive. If any animation is implemented, it usually is subtle fades or slides rather than big chinese firework displays of the old internet. Some sites don’t even allow flash or animated advertising, such as Facebook, with the exception of a few very high paying advertisers.
  • Search Engine Optimization – SEO is always a very tricky part of designing or managing a website and marketing yourself online. Google and other search engines are constantly changing their rules and methods, making it difficult to have and keep a good rank on the first page of search results. They base a lot of their ranks on the content that is present on your website, and the problem that arises with Flash is that search engines don’t see a hierarchy of content that good HTML presents, such as headers and images with text tags added.

In Conclusion – If you aren’t concerned about your website working on mobile devices, have money to spend on development, and want a lot of animation, Flash will work for your site. There are alternatives, however, and choosing a design that is based on HTML that is compliant with current web standards will have far more benefits. Stay tuned for more on SEO and web design tips.

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