Is flash hurting your website?

flash web design

Flash is pretty common now-a-days, I’m sure you’ve all been to a website that’s had a great flash introduction or menu that you’ve been really impressed with. You’ve also however probably used an office / friends / other computer to visit the same webpage and been greeted by a decidedly less impressive blank box.

Flash can have a great visual impact, but does carry its share of restrictions, this articles explains a few things to consider and hopefully help you decide if your website design should incorporate flash.

Will your visitors have the flash plugin?

I read that around 80% of users have the flash plug-in, it also comes installed by default with any modern browsers, this still leaves 20% of users without the flash plug-in. Are these people your target audience?

Chances are if someone doesn’t have flash by now, they aren’t going to get it. This may include anyone using older computer equipment, someone who is not very internet-savvy or anyone using there workplace internet. Many company’s have security in place to stop users downloading anything to avoid potential problems. If any of these sound like your potential customers flash may not be the best for your website.

Is flash the right tool for the job?

Flash is exactly that, flashy. If for example, your website is promoting a technology based product, flash might be a good idea. Your target audience is likely to have the necessary plug-in and be attuned to the high impact visuals flash is capable of.

If your site is perhaps promoting something more conservative or textile perhaps, an exotic flash site may be overwhelming. Flash can defiantly be used to create subtle animations to great effect, however if your thinking of something minimal the same result is probably achievable with standard html, CSS and/or a little java script, which requires no additional plug-ins. Your target audience should play a great part in your decision of whether to use flash or not.

How will flash effect search engines?

This is possibly the most important concerns with flash. Anything done is flash is invisible to search engines. An introductory animation or something similar is going to be of little impact, however doing an entire site in flash robs you of essential all your visibility. This is obviously no good if discovery of your site via search engines is important to you.

(Coming back to the previous point, it should also be noted that search engines aren’t great at crawling javascript either. At the time of writing, the crawlability of javascript is improving, but there is no such progress for flash.)

So while flash can be great, its not always the best solution, hopefully these few points will allow you to choose what’s best for your future site.

3 thoughts on “Is flash hurting your website?”

  1. You said it great, it’s all about target audience. Although I would like to add that search engines DO crawl SWF files and extract values in text fields, I’ve witnessed it.

    One shouldn’t let this keep them from ever using Flash. Flash is a very powerful tool in exchanging data, especially video and streams. Had any of the popular video sharing sites said, “Well, we can’t use Flash since a few don’t have it,” then there would be no YouTube or Vimeo or Imeem (defunct).

    For a geriatrics site, yeah Flash would not be a wise choice. For a hip, new teen music artist.. Flashy is better. I’ve always liked the Flash and Non-Flash options on sites.

  2. Omar,
    Where are you getting your information regarding crawling the SWF content itself? This is from the Google webmaster forum as of the date of your comment.

    “…and is accessible (so do NOT have just Flash/JavaScript content).”

    Still a big no-no from what I can find…

  3. Good points. Most of my clients look for a minimal website but their fascination with flash is overwhelming at times. It requires lot of patience and ability to convince the client that the effects that they are looking for can be achieved without using Flash, like you said with JavaScript or html/CSS.

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