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Why a Flash Website Might Not be Impressing Everyone

Mar 8, 2008
Ever visited a website with animated elements, perhaps music and sound effects? Chances are, the website was probably a "Flash" website. "Flash" websites are created using a special program such as Macromedia Flash 8: which allows for the creation of websites with video, graphics, sound, music and more. The majority of websites you've seen will NOT have been animated, and probably didn't feature music or sound effects. You may also have seen regular websites that have some animated elements on them.

So, websites can be either composed entirely of "Flash", or they can merely include some "Flash" elements such as animated headers. Some websites of course don't have any "Flash" elements at all.

Let's take a look at what the benefits and drawbacks of "Flash" content is. Flash content can look great: a good designer can create a stunning, slick website in Flash - I recently visited a website for an interior design firm. After being treated to fancy logo sequence, I found myself "in" a house, with unobtrusive background music playing. I clicked on a doorway ahead of me, and after a brief loading sequence, I was treated to a 3d panoramic video clip of the room, with narration about what interior design choices had been made for this paticular room. It was an assault on the senses! This website appealed to me through both the visual and audio senses, and it had a high degree of interactivity. It was also slick and this impression rubbed off on the company who owned the website: slick website, slick company, right?

If you're thinking: "that sounds like my kind of website", then I won't blame you - this paticular website was most effective! However, "Flash" isn't perfect, and here's why. Search engines don't really like "Flash" websites as much as they like plain old fashioned "text and pictures" ones. How is Google to know that this website is about interior design? It doesn't. Mighty Google is very skilled at reading text. If it were to visit a website of TEXT about Interior Design, it would scan the website, and soon figure out what the website was about. Consequently, it would be able to serve up this website in it's results when people searched for "interior design". A human being might prefer the "Flash" version of this website, but the Flash site leaves Google perplexed. Google can't really watch Flash videos or listen to narration. How is it supposed to figure out what the site is about?

There are also other drawbacks of Flash websites. They can be cumbersome and slow, subjecting a viewer to video sequences or fancy animations they might not want to see. Not all computers can display "Flash" elements. Where does an entirely "Flash" website leave potential clients with out of date computers? Think about it.

To conclude, think carefully about the purpose of your website before choosing an entirely Flash design over some old fashioned text and pictures. My advice is for people to use Flash sparingly for the majority of web design projects, if at all. Flash content is not ideal for search engine placement, and if people aren't finding you in search engines, you might not be getting business. An entirely Flash website might be appropriate if it is to back up a real world campaign such as leaflets or posters. In this case, people will not be finding your website through a search engine. Remember: text is always King of the internet.
About the Author
Drew Cameron is a website designer for A Website for 123 Pounds and has 5 years of design experience.
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