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Will using Flash affect your website negatively?

Posted On: 11.25.2009   |   Posted By: Joel Taylor   |   Posted In: Web Design

Recently a client told me that they visited their older site on their new iPhone … “and it didn’t look right”. After a quick look myself, I realized that the homepage feature was a flash object (a simple animation of before and after results). However, because the iPhone still hasn’t added Flash support to their mobile browser, there was just a blank area on his website. More on the iPhone/Flash saga here.

It was a quick fix to create an image that would display in place of the Flash element if the Flash could not be loaded. However, it got me thinking about the wider implications of using Flash and the questions we often get from clients about whether or not to use Flash on their sites.

I’m not a Flash hater at all. In fact, I built my first website in Flash before I even knew any HTML! I recently created a simple animation of our logo using Flash. So, I’m not here to throw Flash in the rubbish bin. I do, however, want to take an objective look at the positives and negatives when thinking about what method to use when wanting to add animation to websites.

Pros:

  1. xbox menuYou can create appealing animations. With Flash you pretty much have a blank canvas and only the imagination is the limit. You can simply DO things in Flash that you can’t with any other technologies, especially normal HTML.
  2. It will display as designed on all browsers. Cross browser design is difficult to achieve. Displaying Flash is almost the same as displaying an image – the Flash file is complete in itself.  The design doesn’t rely on how the browser reads or displays, a true designer’s dream.
  3. Creative Freedom. Have you seen the Xbox or PlayStation menu system? Flash enables creation of these types of artistic user interactions, which look and work both beautifully and smoothly.

Cons:

  1. Content is not ideal for Search Engines to crawl. Google (or any search engine) finds it difficult to read text inside of Flash. It used to be impossible, but Google has improved their crawling of Flash. However, a site may still miss out on the value of using more text-based and crawlable website structure. It’s possible to create a whole website in a single flash file, which has numerous negative effects for SEO. There’s definitely ways to help overcome this ‘con’, but options are still limited.
  2. HTML5 will replace a TON of what Flash currently offers. Perhaps one of the biggest, most anticipated features of upcoming HTML5 is the “canvas” element. Here’s a cool example of what the canvas tag can do (You’ll need a modern browser to view. Don’t try it in Internet Explorer. Hey, you shouldn’t be using IE anyway!)
  3. It’s easy to create simple animations with JavaScript. With a lot of popular JS Libraries (including my favourite: jQuery) it’s possible to create simple (and advanced) animations or user interfaces. jQuery is my absolute favourite tool, and our CMS takes full advantage of it’s abilities. If you use it right, your content can still get the full benefits of SEO and animation.

Saving Grace! I still think that Flash can be used; it just has to be used in the right context. Flash used in a tasteful way can add a wealth of interest or interactive features and also overcome some current limitations of current browser technologies.

Here’s a funny video that Adobe did to say that Flash is currently being used to develop iPhone Apps.

If you have any questions or would like us to investigate adding flash or interactive elements to your site, just get in touch. Contact Windfarm by Email, Phone, Smoke Signals, Pigeons, Tweets or In Person.


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