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Why Flash Websites Are A Bad Idea

Feb 5, 2008
Flash websites... you know the type. They're the ones where pages blip and fly across the screen, music blares from your PC speakers and type is so small you would need to be bit-sized to read it. These days, designers are everywhere trying to convince clients and firms alike, that Flash gives them more options and allows them to express themselves more creatively.

Well, when did a designer's creativity take precedence over plain old effectiveness? Let's take a moment to pick apart Flash websites and three major accessibility problems associated with them.

The first of our Flash site perils: User accessibility.

Let's talk Atmosphere, since that is what the designers will try and sell you on first. Like a storefront or good restaurant, atmosphere is probably the most important factor of a website. How comfortable is your site? How intuitive is it on which to find information? How easy is the text to read?

One of the most beautiful things about properly built websites, is their accessibility to the public. Properly built HTML websites are marvels of modern technology: accessible on the web, by cell phone, with speech options for the blind, and even changeable text size for the poor of vision. There are too many ways in which professional website designers make sites accessible to the broadest range of the public to go into in this article, but they allow each visitor's experience to be uniquely tailored to their own viewing needs and preferences. The best websites provide quality content in an atmosphere that entices a visitor to stay as long as possible, and promise new content to keep them coming back.

Let me ask you, how many flash websites do you visit often, or even have bookmarked in your browser? Probably not too many. Having been a professional web designer and marketing consultant for years, I can tell you with great certainty that no one stays on a flash site very long. The format is cramped. The type is small. The beeping gets old quickly, and although you may have the most exceptional tastes in music, let us presume that not everyone will share in your interests. I personally, upon visiting a site that decides to play music, leave and never return.

While Flash is great at offering lot's of options to designers, it's exceptionally poor at offering proportionate options to site visitors. Flash powered sites are inaccessible by cell phone (to date no phone that I know of can run Flash, not even an iPhone, which has one of the most sophisticated web browsers of any phone on the market). But, that's not even the worst part, Flash is also inaccessible to anyone without ActiveX plugins installed on their computer. Now, you may think that everyone must have Flash / ActiveX on their computers by now... think again. Most of people that will be viewing your business' website, will be doing so from their cubicle at work, and companies are exerting tighter and tighter controls over what their employees can see or do over the web... and that includes your Flash website. So, if your small business has some great flashy website, kiss corporate America goodbye.

Here's the second thing that you can write off about your Flash site: Search Engine Accessibility (i.e. being found on Google and the like.)

No, I'm not kidding. With a Flash website, you can count yourself out for ever attaining page one, two, or even three of a Google search, and the reason is pretty simple: Google will have no idea what your site says or is about. Search engines base their ranking on two very important criteria: how many QUALITY pages link to your site (you may still be alright there, if you have been doing your SEO publishing) and how much relevant content there is on your site for the search term in question. Now, considering that Google and all of the other search engines will not be able to read the text on your Flash site, your chances of producing relevant content results are less than favorable.

Here's the last of our Flash site perils: Administrative Accessibility

Maybe you've already run into this problem. You have a great site, but you need some changes made and you are no longer using the designer that created the site for you. You call your current designer and ask for the changes, only to have them tell you that they just can't do it, because they don't have the master file. Flash sites are notorious for this. There is a public file that is accessed from the web, this is the file that viewers see when they go to your domain and it is also the file on your hosting account. This file is protected from import or change. However, there is also a master file in which the site was created and in which all changes must be made. Flash designers guard this file with their life! They almost never post it to the hosting account and never tell the client that this file exists and is needed. For the uninformed, this can lead to thousands of dollars as the previous designer is tracked down or the site is rebuilt.

Wow that's a lot of problems! And that's only counting accessibility issues. In part 2, we'll examine how these sites affect your potential customer base and your bottom line, but that's all for now!
About the Author
Good Work Marketing And Design is a New Orleans marketing and design studio that specializes in professional website design and development. To learn more about professional website development, please visit New Orleans web design
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