Flash: Amazing Presenter, Horrible Advertiser

November 19, 2013
Flash websites are a bad choice for marketers

Taking a side between HTML(5)/Javascript/CSS and Flash for creating dynamic content is akin to taking a side between devoting one’s self to using only a fork or a spoon during meal time.

Sure it is possible to choose, but you would be losing out on the benefits of both light-weight mobile-friendly framework and the raw power and support of a full-fledged multimedia presentation foundation. In the presentation layer, it is hard to recommend the use of one over the other. You could conceivably use both to make an amazing website.

When it comes to websites, though, you should stick with HTML/Javascript with its text-focused content suited to web crawlers. Flash-only websites have numerous problems that have to be carefully considered when evaluating if such a website is worth building.

Advertizing woes

A typical website built mostly with HTML will have text and other assorted data that a web-crawler could easily parse through for search engine rankings. Embedded Flash apps or multimedia in HTML pages can still be tracked down by surrounding it with a text description of what it contains (search engines have gotten better about extracting text and files that Flash interacts with, but it is still not perfect nor crawler-friendly).

However, a website built entirely on Flash does not have that same luxury. Try being informative about your site in a few words without being banned for spamming key words without any “content” that the crawler can’t see. Have fun!

Flash and mobile

Additionally, Flash isn’t supported on the vast majority of mobile devices. Why is this a problem? It means that people on the move who have heard about your website through word of mouth or read it in an advertisement can’t look it up on the spot.

Nearly two-thirds of cell phone owners use their phone to go online. For those that do look you up right when they hear about you, they are presented with a blank screen and possibly a black box. For those that make it past that, they see a slow, unresponsive site viewed through an underpowered device that can crash from all the work it has to do. To those people, the first thing they see is what appears to be a broken site.

First impressions matter. You want to wow them into viewing more of your site, not scare them away with a negative impression that the site is flawed (which may not be the case at all on a desktop!). HTML websites degrade well enough, even those not optimized for a smaller screen, at worst it is still (somewhat) readable. Flash websites degrade to an unimpressive blank screen.

Flash isn’t bad

That is not to say that Flash is bad. Flash just has more trouble advertizing itself without your intervention. If HTML is flexible and adaptive to anything thrown at it, think of Flash as a focused philosophy one can take on web design. Extreme control, desktop-based, presenting great interactive experiences and amazing visuals that can impress even the most cynical audience.

Just know that one has to work much, much, much harder to ensure traffic on a site that loses the assistance of search engines and the benefits of being available through mobile devices.

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