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Why you should not use Flash in your website


Thu 31 Dec 2009

For a long time websites budgets have blown out at the expense of Flash. The ability to bring home pages to life, add motion, sound or even just an photo slide show has sucked in the marketing bucks big time. It seems that that the "Flash in the pan" web design companies are all too good at wowing exec's with presentations that look great projected on the wall in a darkened room... At the lower end of the scale some web designers funk-up their client sites with Flash navigation and buttons to make a site seem cool - typically the outcomes are somewhat the opposite.

In all my years of designing websites I have used a small flash animation in a home page just once. Why would this be? The short answer is that my sites are out there to do business with out expensive frills.... Not much of a story in that, so let's look at the history and the most recent twist.

Slow to load
Traditionally the anti Flash troops cited slow time to load. In the early days, you would some times wait minutes for a Flash site to load on your dialup Internet connection. The worst example I saw of this was a taxi company. Pioneers in online cab bookings, you had to endure a 30+ second Flash load and play of their logo going down a road. What stupidity! If someone is on your website to buy your product, sell it to them without delay!

Search engines don't like it
The plot thickens at a more technical level. Some people already know it, but search engines can not index a website that is done entirely in Flash or do there buttons / navigation with Flash. The likes of Google and others read through HTML, PDFs and some other internet formats but have no way of looking inside Flash code to see the links, words and other stuff in there... There are exceptions, but for the most part don't expect to find your Flash website ranking well in search results...  

There goes the online business plan... No SEO (search engine optimisation) means no visitors. There are plenty of examples of this mistake, some pretty close to home.

There goes the neighbourhood
Now the really bad news for Flash. During 2009 we saw the surging, near saturation take up of apple iTouch and iPhones. I am even writing this report on my trusty hip pocket i device.
Out of the box, these devices are a great way to surf the net. The Safari browser in conjunction with the local McDonalds hotspot can get you up to date on the run. There are so many of these iPhones and iTouches out there, optimising for iPhone will soon be mandatory but more about that next time.

Now back to the story. Grab your iPhone or have your friend pull up a site that includes Flash. What the! That's right, flash simply ain't supported and there goes the neighbourhood. Even those cute image Flash slide shows in the home page are now just a blank space, lifeless perhaps except for a message about needing Flash AND turning off users by making your website UGLY. So much for using Flash to make your site smarter and more attractive. Your web site visitor has just pressed the "Back" button!!

How about some examples. If you are reading this on your computer, then you will be wow'd by theses sites... but pull them up on your iPhone and get ready for the put down:

Q1 Gold Coast: The Gold Coast's tallest residential complex. Its toppled by Flash in a single click.
EyeonQ: Tourism Queensland's flagship multimedia web site. Don't expect  Queensland to look quite as good on your iPhone.
Alinghi Americas Cup defense: Interested in the 33rd America's cup and Alinghi's state of the art catamaran. No sign of start of art technology here!

Who is John Nayler
John Nayler is a career it and Internet professional. He is the proprietor of eCentral Internet Consultants and a founder of ChannelWhitsunday.com. Combining marketing and business savvy with extreme technology skills, his clients enjoy continuing business results with their non flash sites. He loves his iPhone and wishes that it's browser DID support Flash.

What is Flash anyhow?
Flash, now owned by software power house Abobe came from Macromedia as an evolution of their investment in animation technologies, like "Director", but specifically for Internet use. The ability to animate web sites cleverly, include video, photos and sound in active ways has resulted in it being used by the "in" crowd to look cool. For years it has provided the appearance edge. Flash is a plug in for browsers and DOES enjoy a 90% odd take up by computer users.... but you would have to think that Apple have specifically excluded it from their "i" devices to force more businesses and developers to do their clever stuff on iPhones by developing something for the "App Store". Its seems a bit of a naughty power play by Apple, but hey, that's business.



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