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Flash On Websites: Good and Bad Flash Implementation

Article Index
Flash On Websites: Good and Bad Flash Implementation
Flash Splash Pages And Flash Intro Pages
NEVER, And I Mean EVER, Create An Entire Website Using Flash
So, When Should Flash Be Used?
Final Summary About Flash
All Pages

flashWhen a client first comes to Just In Time Design, one of the first things they are always looking for is a way to give their website 'The WOW Factor".  Most of these clients have heard from friends or other small business owners (that are not in the web design field), that flash is the way to go if you want to wow your visitors.  To some extent, flash can enhance a users experience on a website.  Unfortunately, more often than not, the way flash is implemented on a website is what we refer to as "do dats".  The first time a customer sees your flash website, they say "that's cool, how did they do dat?".  The problem is after using the website for a few minutes or after repeat visits, the customer is now thinking "that's really distracting" or "that's really annoying".  The question they have on their mind has now changed to "why did they do da dat?".  This article will cover the basics of flash implementation for situations when you should or should not use flash on your website.  What you'll see is that more often than not, you should use HTML and not flash.  But there are times, although not often, when flash should be used.

In the past is was very common to use splash pages, now more commonly used these days are flash intros.  Fortunately, almost all website professionals have removed this usability and functionality nightmare.  Why are these highly animted, really cool pages a nightmare?  The answer is really simple: They delay the user from getting the information they came to your website for.  After all, why did you build your website? If your answer is 'to look cool', then by all means create a flash splash page or into page.  Heck, create multiple splash or intro pages.  But if your answer is to generate leads, make sales or simply get information out, do yourself a favor and eliminate a splah page from your website.

You may be wondering "what if my flash splash page has navigation?".  The answer to this, again, is simple. More likely than not, your splash page either has animation with some music or sounds before coming to the navigation; or you have buttons that the user needs to hover over in order to see where the buttons will take them.  Even worse, you could have it setup where buttons are not always located in the same place.  Why is all of this bad?  Simply because you have less than 15 seconds to grab your visitors attention.  Within that time, if they have lost interest in a splash page intro or can't find their way around quickly, they will move on to their next site.  Which will, more often than not, be one of your competitors!

Bottom line, if you have a website and you want to generate leads, make sales, or get information out, DO NOT USE a  flash splash page or flash intro page.

The most powerful thing about the internet is that it allows people the ability to control their own destiny (at least online).  Users choose where they want to go and when they want to go there.  This is what fundamentally makes the web so useful.  Unfortunately, a majority of 'flash website designers' decrease user control and instead implement presentation or tv-style web pages. These sites are better used on a DVD or TV than on the internet because they force users to sit through sequences of animation or 'flashy' navigation to get to where they want to be.  Remember the 15 seconds that you had your website visitor for?  You've just wasted 10 seconds of that on roll over menus and animated page loads.  Thats 10 seconds could have been used allowing people to find what they want and possibly getting them to contact you.  Instead, they are gone because your website has become boring and time consuming to use.

Search Engines Hate Flash Websites

In recent months, I've read that Google, YaHoo and Bing are working on being able to index flash.  In a couple articles, written by flash designers, I've even seen it noted that Flash can already be indexed by Google.  However, in 13 years of developing websites, I have found 1, only a single website built entirely in flash, that has ever done well in search engines.  I briefly spoke to the owner of the website, and what he told me did not surprise me.  He spent a great deal of money having the website developed and was very happy with the look and feel because his site was "really cool".  Then when he asked his flash designer to help him get the website ranked for several keywords in the search engines and not just for  keywords in his domain name, his designer told him it couldn't be done.  What he did was spend a great deal of money with another company to build a sub site in html that pointed it to his flash pages. The cost of his website ended up being 3 times as much as he had budgeted.  But, his website did look really cool. And that's what matters right?  The sad ending to this story is 2 years later, I checked his website again because I wanted to show it to a client.  He has since paid for an entire new website, with absolutely no flash on it.  Needless to say, I was not surprised.

Flash Websites Take Time To Update.  Time = Money

Unless you have one of the very few Flash Content Management Systems out there, then your website is going to take a great deal of time to update.  The very nature of how flash is built, makes it time consuming to update. Whether you are the one updating it or you are paying someone, somewhere along the line, that time is costing you money.  What's worse, more often than not, the updates you are doing, are not being found in search engines. Those same updates are not only costing you money, but they are also not doing  you or your business very much good.

If you're still reading, you're probably thinking that I am 100% anti-flash.  This is simply not true.  There are instances when flash works really well.  So, when should flash be used?

Use flash if it is going to help you communicate with your website audience to increase sales or generate a lead.

When deciding if you need flash, you should take into consideration if it is going to increase sales or generate a lead.  If the answer is no, then don't use it.  This is a fundamental reason that Banner Ads primarily use flash.  They help get your attention to generate leads.  The bottom line is that you need to always keep your website visitors needs and perspective in mind at all times.  If you are using flash, and the only thing you get out of the flash element is "wow, that's cool", then don't use it.  Because something that looks cool but doesn't do anything to generate a lead or a sale simply distracts the visitor from the main purpose of your website.

Am I trying to do something that I cannot do in an HTML website?

If you have content that absolutely needs to 'come to life' and what you are trying to accomplish cannot be done in HTML, then use flash. However, note that there are a lot of technologies out there that allow you to use JavaScript to make your HTML POP!.  Take a look at the Just In Time Design homepage. The slide show on our homepage looks like flash, but is simple HTML with some JavaScript and CSS for display.  This is a much better, easy and quick to update way of bringing 'the wow factor' to your website.  What's even better? The Frontpage Slideshow is EXTREMELY search engine friendly.  We have clients that have told us that once they updated their slide shows, they have noticed that the keywords they used in the slide shows were what was being picked up by Google.  The payoff is much better for using this type of code than using flash based slide shows.

Will my site will be able to be found in search engines?

As mentioned previously, sites that use a lot of flash do not do well in search engines.  So, if you cannot be found in search engines, you need to be spending a great deal of money in online AND offline advertising.  If you're not spending a great deal of money in advertising, then search engines need to be an important consideration.

Flash can be used in many instances to create powerful website features that really draw a person into your site and get them to buy a product or to fill out a form to generate a lead for you.  However, there have been serveral instanced noted in this article when you should not use flash.  With the internet going the way it is, Flash is being used more and more for videos, banners and presentation and a great deal less for website design.  If you're using flash correctly, then your site is found in search engines (for keywords that are not in your domain name) and you're generating leads from your website.  If you're website is not generating leads or generating sales, it may be hurting your business more than it's helping it. If this is the case, consider spending the money to have your website redeveloped without using flash incorrectly.