Flash is no doubt an extremely powerful internet technology with a high level of brand-visual impact. However its impact is only visual, as Google crawlers do not index these flash elements. Today most Flash components are widely misused in web-design. Flash still carries many unresolved problems viz. website usability and poor SEO results. And it is these flaws that greatly reduce the ROI of flash based websites.
Flash components on websites look cool, are fun, and are pretty attractive too. Flash based menus can do different types of animation; its objects can do animated movements e.g. do some back-flips, and even fly through hoops for the web visitor. But then ask yourself: “do these gimmicks add value to my business?”
Flash maybe a powerful tool, but like different tools in a Web developer’s toolbox, it is not the answer to key marketing challenges. While a few issues could be solved by Flash, many others need a different business marketing approach.
Flash is actually a unique type of vector animation software that was originally designed to leverage animations for web page displays. These vector graphics are ideal for the web-displays as they are very lightweight. In essence it’s a programming type of scripting-language which is used to create cool graphics and attractive animations. You can easily add awesome sounds/music, and in general build very visually attractive website content with flash software.
Problems with Flash
- The Flash player. Website visitors need to download Flash player in advance to view their Flash files. Hence by using Flash your visitor range decreases considerably because not everyone is keen to download the Flash plug-ins just to see your website. You will also need to put in more work in redirecting website visitors to the Flash software download page if he / she does not has the required flash player pre-installed. Even if users do have flash players installed there could be some usability issues i.e. issues that hamper its ease of use. Then there are multiple versions of flash where newer versions may not run in older versions of the flash player. So users may have to continually upgrade their flash downloads – a big headache for the average web-user.
- SEO flaws- Flash handles text pretty poorly. Success in web marketing is all about using persuasive text. If you present your content in Flash, almost all popular search engines will not index your web-content. This makes it difficult to achieve higher SEO ranks leading to a significant decline in its visitation numbers. While Googlerecently announced key changes in its Flash indexing tactics, these new changes only relate to some auxiliary files that make the flash components run. This means that in total Google still cannot index your website’s Flash files.
- Longer development time- Flash is a tedious and complex technology and takes far more time for programmers to code it than simpler HTML files of regular website. The Flash Development IDE from its parent company Adobe is also pretty expensive. As Flash is a niche creative skill its professionals do charge more money than regular developers / designers for their unique professional skills. This longer development time and more expensive experts always increases the launch time and costs of most websites.
- Increased Loading time. For a reader to be able to read the flash based websites he has to wait for longer periods for the content to be visible. This is because it can be viewed only after the entire Flash website has been completely downloaded. Thus big websites and large flash files can be a heavy strain on users’ Bandwidth and take loads of time to open. Users generally find this irritating as they are not too keen to wait longer for the Flash-file content to open as compared to regular HTML based websites. Besides in many developing nations general users do not have access to good internet speeds (broadband) – it is thus tough for them to view flash based websites with their usual dial up internet where speeds are pretty slow.
- Painful User Interactivity. Flash sites often go against the basic tenets of today’s interactive nature of internet. As Flash technology favors its own unique ‘presentation-style’ approach similar to the television, web visitors are reduced to being only observers as they can only view the content instead of being able to interact (fill forms, flip page content etc.) Without interactivity ability users could easily get get bored after sometime and leave the webpage. This will surely increase the site’s bounce rate which further hurts its SEO ranking.
We need to think of Flash as just another helpful tool in today’s web developers’ toolbox. You need to refrain from overusing it and remember to use it for certain specific tasks like:
- Promotional banner advertisements to create a visual introduction/ presence on a webpage.
- Showcasing a visually appealing promotional presentation e.g. product demo video.
- Brand promoting interactive and visually appealing games.
- When you are looking to spice up the visual appeal of a minimalist web-page. Here a small Flash animated banner embedded in the HTML document will not block massive bandwidth, will also load fast while enhancing the overall appearance of your ‘bare-bones’ website