Since I’ve said it so often before, let me say again in my blog, right here in writing: Flash is not always your friend.
Yes, it is really great.
As with all technology, just because it is really cool does not mean it is something that everyone should use every time.
1. Increased Load Time
There is an attitude among many designers and business owners and managers that “everyone has broadband”. No, they don’t. Unless your target demographic is tech folk, the answer is probably NO. Even so, many of them may be on dialup due to the economy and having to save money. And if everyone is not in the USA? Even less likely that all of your customers use cable or DSL. Is your audience more mature or even senior citizens? Then let Flash go. (Yes, I personally know many seniors on broadband, but many still do not because they “don’t think it is worth the money”.) Are your customers rural people in small towns? Less broadband there too.
Flash websites take longer to load. The only way you can speed up that load time is if you want to shell out a lot of cash for compression software. You think money is no object and that’s the only reason you don’t need a fully-Flash site? Then keep reading.
2. Not Search Engine Friendly
Search engines can not read the text we see in Flash. They just can’t. We see that text; they have no idea it is there. They may some day. But right now, the answer is no. I’m sure we can all point to sites that are 100% Flash and do well in search engine rankings. These are highly popular sites that have been around for a while. Unless you too are getting a bazillion site visitors a day too, that probably won’t be the same for you. Those sites are the exception, not the rule.
Author’s edit: Actually, Google now has the capability to index Flash. To my knowledge, other search engines still can not.
3. Not Accessible
What is accessibility? Well, it has to do with how easily everyone can access your website, regardless of ability or disability. Just like your business, your website must be easily accessed by all. Those who are blind use special software called screen readers to read web pages to them. Just like the search engine robots, the screen readers can not interpret Flash pages. Think this won’t impact you? Maybe not. Then again, Target lost a lawsuit to the National Federation for the Blind in 2008. A precedent has been set.
4. Not Friendly To Mobile Devices
Let’s face it: more people are going mobile. They have a phone or some other handheld that allows them to access the Internet. Most of those do not display Flash. Yet another thing that’s just “we can’t do much about that right now because that’s how the technology works (or doesn’t work)”.
5. Is More Expensive
So let’s say that you decide to:
- Make a fully Flash-enabled site
- Make another version that is not Flash
You have now just paid for TWO websites that do the exact same thing. Except one looks all shiney and makes sounds and stuff.
And the other displays the exact same info, but without the bells and whistles. Given the option to the average, impatient web surfer, which version do you think they’ll choose? And those Flash intros with the link that says “Skip Intro”? How often do you think anyone actually sits and waits for the intro? Yeah, only other Flash developers and managers/business owners considering a Flash site. Most surfers won’t wait for it. They have zero interest in the vanity intro.
Also, you can do all that work in Flash and there are a fair number of people that won’t see it. I’ve seen new computer users that are terrified to install anything on their computer, including Flash. There are others that refuse to install Flash because they don’t like it. There is even a Firefox plugin called FlashBlock.
This is not to say that Flash should never be used. There is a time and a place. It’s just not a good idea all the time. Use it sparingly. And for heaven’s sake, keep it out of your site navigation (because after all, if a screen reader can’t read the navigation of your site, where do you think that visitor will go?).
When in doubt? Do some research and/or talk to your web designer. They should be able to help you know when and when not to use Flash for your website.