So you’re working on a brand spankin’ new website design, and the client starts asking questions like: Hey this [insert Flash site] is really cool looking, can you make my site like that? -or- Hey my [son/daughter/relative/friend/etc.] was telling me we should put this Flash thing on our website, can you do that? I believe it is your job as a knowledgeable designer and as a resource to your client to explain to them the full story behind using Flash in a website.
Here’s a brief summary from Wikipedia on the problems with Flash:
“Criticism of Adobe Flash have included questions of its usability, the problems Flash-laden pages cause for those with disabilities, security issues, limited platform compatibility, performance and compatibility issues on certain platforms, the inability for search engines to index data contained in Flash binary data, its use as a means to restrict access to content and the implementation of DRM.”
Now for some clients that text looks like a bunch of mumbo jumbo but the basic idea behind that paragraph is that Flash was originally created as a multimedia component to be used on the web for videos, music, photos, and other rich content. Oh and did I mention that Flash doesn’t work on many mobile devices (PDAs, Itouch/Iphone, etc.), blocking potential users/customers from your site.
Here’s another example of the MTV.com website, where a Flash-based website was built, and eventually thrown out for an HTML site:
After a 9-month experiment with a Flash website and lots of complaints, MTV.com has redesigned its site in HTML. The site has also dropped the autoplaying video player embedded in the home page.
About nine months ago, we went all Flash with our Web site. It was a technical marvel and it was indeed flashy. But, it was also something of a headache for a lot of users, so we were told. Beyond the obvious new look, here are a few key things about the new site that we’re proud to deliver:
This new HTML version will allow you to get to the pages that you want more quickly.
We made the global menu easier to understand and we better organized the site, too.
No autoplaying video!
Gone is the persistent upper left corner video player that was a hallmark of the Flash site.
I’m not saying that you should abandon or avoid Flash in your website designs, but you need to use it sparingly. Use Flash to add additional graphics or media content to your site, including but not limited to: animations, advertisements, Rich Internet Applications, and other multimedia type presentations.
When you do use Flash in a website design you need to make sure that you are detecting the user’s Flash Version (if installed), NOT using embed tags (for W3C compatibiliy and accessibility), using an Object tag instead, and providing Alternate Content for users without Flash or search engines coming to your site.
So, what does all of this mean? It doesn’t mean you can’t use Flash, you just need to use Flash sparingly as a multimedia tool to enhance your website and web content. Flash should not be used to build an entire website, that is what HTML and CSS were designed for, and that is what search engines and users are expecting.