Using Flash On Your Website

Flash is a technology used to animate web pages and can be very successful to some websites while annoying to other websites, and could negatively impact a search engine rankings on your site. It’s important to identify what it is that you are trying to communicate to your audience before choosing to use Flash on your website. Such websites as movies, musical bands, car dealership, and websites that provide online tutorials, such as website use, or software, are ideal websites for Flash. Websites that could hinder from the use of Flash would be sites such as selling specific products or services, or to communicate information.

Does Flash help or hinder my website?

There are some things that Flash can do that you just can’t do using HTML or any other more dynamic web programming languages. A lot of the graphics on your page are positioned so that they interact with your end-user, and are related to how your GUI (general user interface) is displayed. You can also do a lot of pretty radical visual effects with Flash, but you can also overdo it. Many times I have surfed a web page and find that I cannot figure out where I’m supposed to find relevant information or what I’m supposed to be doing because there are too many animated GIF’s bouncing around everywhere, and the complicated GUI is so detailed and involved that I can’t figure out where to even click? How many of us have run into that issue? It’s a mistake that many don’t even realize they’re making until it’s already done. If the effects that you use it for look stunning but make it impossible to navigate or find the information that you’re trying to present, Flash is doing nothing for your webpage.

Flash for mobile Devices

Most mobile devices do not support Flash, Java Applets, frames or pop ups. You should avoid these technologies when considering a website for mobile devices. In November 2011, Adobe announced on their company blog that they have ceased the development of Flash for mobile devices.

“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chip-set, browser, OS version, etc.)”

Go to Adobe’s company blog for more information.

Should I use Flash or not for an Interactive Web design?

With flash quickly becoming a standard for an interactive web design, and the assumption is that if you are going to create an interactive website, then you need flash or it’s just plain ‘cool’. Sometimes we can put a a lot of extra time and effort making a flash website, however, most times its not necessary and it can even be detrimental to keeping your site user-friendly. It can be a very useful tool, but it’s only effective if it’s used correctly. So before you decide to design a website in Flash, ask your self the following questions first:

What do I want to accomplish by using Flash?

If you cannot answer the above question readily and easily, then maybe a Flash website is not your first choice of a website. Most website design purposes is to convey information and interact visually with an end-user. You really have to consider whether or not a Flash website is really going to help you do that. Good reasons to use flash would be the purpose of creating a multimedia interactive experience to your users that maybe impossible otherwise.

Will my viewers even be able to view Flash?

Not everyone who views your web page has the viewer plug-in. Will your viewer be willing to install it when prompted? It maybe possible the viewer doesn’t even have the latest version or their version is not supported by the version of Flash that your animation is displayed on. Although Flash is becoming more popular on newer computers and sometimes it is per-installed as part as the browser package, it does not mean that everyone who views your page can. You also need to consider your demographic target as chances are they will not have the player.

Is there any other way I can have an interactive website without using Flash?

Does your website need complicated graphical interfaces with positioned links? Do you need nested tables and layers, a Sideshow image gallery or Image rollovers? These all can be done with JavaScript. Does your site need Glowing text? This can be accomplished by DHTML, for example.

Most things can be done more simply through programming languages instead of turning to Flash. Unfortunately, not all Web Designers know these programming languages, but for the most part, programming languages can ensure that your website will be more readily viewable without any plug ins/software, as your average browser can parse and display most code without any additional plugins.

File size and download rates?

With so many using broadband connections now, it shouldn’t be an issue; but even on broadband Flash website’s with large amounts of content can take an extra minute to load and then display. Don’t bog down your broadband users just to make things look flashy or pretty. Dial-up users wait times can be a nightmare, and most likely these users will loss patience and interest and move onto other sites. This will leave your site out in the cold.

Does it look as “cool” or good as I think it does?

You’ll have to take an objective look at your web page, and ask yourself if it really looks all that great after you’ve added your interactive Flash components, colour effects and flashy animations.  If you don’t think you can do it objectively, ask a friend or two to give their unbiased opinions.

It may look like I’m aggressively advising you not to use Flash in your web pages, but that is not the case, in fact, I support flash, but only if it’s used wisely and responsibly.  Your website will definitely benefit from it if it’s used appropriately.