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10 Reasons Not to have a Flash Based Website

10 Reasons NOT to have a Flash Website

Reason #1: Bad for Search Engines (SEO)

If you want your website to appear in search engines, do not use Flash. Flash pages don’t get indexed properly by search engines due to the fact that search bots simply can’t read Flash content. As far as the search engines are concerned, you might as well have a website that consists of a title, some meta tags, and no other content. It doesn’t matter how pretty your website is or how fluid the animations are if no one will ever find it.

Nowadays, Flash can even hurt your search rankings. Many search engines have begun blacklisting websites that have meta data unrelated to the website’s actual content, because such websites are regarded as being deceptive in their attempts to gain web traffic. As far as the search engines are concerned, Flash websites have keywords, but no content, which commonly results in blacklisting due to the perceived discrepancy.

Reason #2: Limited Mobile Viewing

As the iPhone, Blackberry, and other smartphones have skyrocketed in popularity and usage, more and more websites are being accessed on the go from mobile web browsers. But guess what? Most mobile web browsers have no Flash support, so they can’t display Flash websites at all. Those that can (in theory) are still limited by the memory and processing power of the mobile device and will often choke on Flash websites because of their increased bandwidth and CPU demands.   ( More on bandwidth and CPU demands in Reason #10 below. )

Reason #3: No Linking or Bookmarking

Every page of a Flash website has the exact same web address, or URL. In other words, no matter which page you’re viewing on a Flash website, the URL is exactly the same. On normal websites, you can bookmark and link directly to specific pages using unique URLs. This makes it easy to find your way back or to share these pages with others. Without unique URLs, it’s impossible to bookmark pages, and you’d have to include click-by-click instructions to help someone else find their way to a specific page after sending them a link to your website.

Reason #4: No Back Button

Suppose someone is clicking their way through your website, finds themselves on a page they didn’t mean to click to, and decides they want to go back. This is where the back button comes in on a normal website. On a Flash website, the back button is either disabled altogether, or it will take them to the website they were viewing before yours! Eventually, they’ll have to figure out how to get back another way, such as by reloading the whole website and starting over. This is far from ideal and can seem quite inhospitable to your website visitors.

Reason #5: Poor Design Standards

The bells and whistles that come with Flash almost always result in gratuitous design abuse when it comes to websites. Successful webmasters understand that the Internet is a standards-based system. Navigation goes here, content goes there, a click does this, a drag does that, and so on. It’s a standard user experience that shouldn’t be re-invented on a whim. Most website visitors are annoyed by broken usability standards, and older or less experienced website visitors will often give up and leave.   (More on usability failures in Reason #9 below. )

This isn’t to say that pushing design boundaries is always a bad thing. In fact, it’s the only way innovation can come about. But the ratio of “revolutionizing” design change to “senseless and gratuitous” design change leans far to the latter, and too many webmasters who try to create something unique and edgy only make their websites unusable as a result. Nowhere is this phenomenon more prominent than with Flash websites.

Reason #6: Content Loading…

On a normal website, content is instantly viewable as each page or image downloads to the web browser. On a Flash website, however, the entire website has to download before any part of it is viewable. This is the reason 99% of Flash websites start with a loading screen. Compare this to the old days of web video when you had to wait for the entire video to download before it would start playing. Nowadays, streaming video is the standard, because it allows the video to play instantly while it downloads. Flash is incapable of streaming, however, so Flash websites will always behave like the old, non-streaming videos that no one misses.

Reason #7: Splash and Intro Pages

Splash pages are those annoying intro screens that you often see before clicking “skip intro” or “enter here” to access the real website. Splash pages nearly disappeared a decade ago for their inherent uselessness, but – in a step backwards for web design and usability – many Flash designers have developed a unique dependency on them. Most often, splash pages are used to give visitors a choice between viewing the Flash or non-Flash version of a website. Putting aside the utter pointlessness of having two versions of the same website, this creates an extra and unnecessary hoop for your website visitors to jump through in order to get to your content.

Reason #8: Basic Text Functions Broken

On Flash websites, it’s impossible to make use of basic text functions like copy-and-paste, finding text, or changing text size to improve readability. There’s no right-click menu to facilitate these tasks, and keyboard shortcuts don’t work with Flash. Also, since the text displayed by Flash websites is unreadable by web browsers, visitors who depend on screen readers due to vision impairments might as well be staring at a blank screen.

Reason #9: Poor Usability Standards

Internet users are used to the standard web functions.

  • Clicking on a link marks the link as visited and takes you immediately to the page
  • Scroll bars act like the standard scroll bar on every other application
  • Buttons look like buttons, forms look like forms, different cursers indicate different things (loading, text input, click able content)
  • Navigation is at the top or left
  • Et Cetera, there are many more standards

But more often than not, flash pages ignore these standards. Flash developers try to invent their own navigation methods, links are just areas you click on and don’t offer any clues that you have been there before, nor can you hover over a link to see where it will take you. Scroll bars invented over the weekend are made to replace the custom widget that has been in use for years and years. Web standards provide a better user experience than what most flash pages offer.

Reason #10: Bandwidth and CPU Demands

Flash websites can bring older computers to a crawl, and they can take much longer to load with sub-broadband Internet connections. While this may only affect a small portion of your intended audience, why alienate anyone by denying them a good experience while viewing your website? Remember that if it takes too long to load, or if it runs too slowly on their computers, visitors will often leave your website before they’ve even seen it.

Flash isn’t evil. It is a wonderful tool for designing widgets and games, and it is great for animations. The best video and audio players are flash. But it is not appropriate for websites.

I will leave you with one last idea. The company that makes and distributes flash, macromedia, does not have a flash based website. Wonder why that is?

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Guest Wednesday, 28 June 2017