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Top 10 reasons NOT to use Flash

Portions of this article were contributed by Loren Baker, an editor with Search Engine Journal; and Oleg Ishenko, of SEOResearcher.com...

Despite the documented problems over the years, businesses and web development firms are continuing to use a flash base in site design, without regard of the challenges an all flash site poses for search engine rankings and SEO (not to mention usability).

Oleg Ishenko, of SEOResearcher.com, recently sent in his tips on why to avoid flash, which I believe is a nice basic and timeless piece for any business looking to design a site, and listening to pitches from designers whom prefer Flash over a basic HTML base.

Building Flash-powered websites is wrong. Storing your content in Flash movies is wrong. Implementing site navigation in Flash is wrong.

Then why are there so many Flash sites? They look pretty with all those neat vector graphics, gradients, animations and cool sound effects. Flash is the favorite toy of big designer studios and numerous amateur graphic artists alike. Flash is visually attractive, and in general attractive websites are more successful than the ugly ones (notable exceptions: craigslist.org and plentyoffish.com). But this is not the case of Flash websites. All the benefits of the nice outlook are overridden by the disadvantages in terms of SEO and usability.

Top 10 reasons NOT to use Flash:

Load Time
This always strikes a chord with web usability enthusiasts. The longer it takes for your site to load, the more likely your visitor is discouraged from revisiting your website. Despite of the DSL Internet access being available almost everywhere, there are still lots of people surfing the Net via dialup or other limited bandwidth connection. Flash files, especially those using sound effects, embedded movies or bitmap images, can take a while to load.

Eats Up a User’s Time
Intricate animations or Flash intros eat up a user’s time. When users visit websites they usually have a goal: to find information. Having Adobe Flash animations that animate content, navigation, etc. is likely to bother the user who already has a goal in mind.

Time Consuming and Expensive to Develop
Flash pieces aren’t simple pictures that are cut and paste with animation filters being applied. It’s based on a timeline and is very time consuming. This places a restriction on organizations with limited budgets.

CPU Heavy
Although you may be running a computer made in the last 3 years, this isn’t the case for everyone. Flash can get CPU heavy and run like molasses on older computers. Again, this discourages users from digging deeper into your site and revisiting your website.

Frivolous
Flash is a very eccentric word, just saying it gets me excited. But having Flash for the sake of having Flash just isn’t a good idea. If what you’re looking for is Flash, you should be able to justify all the points mentioned in this article.

Different Usability
Replicating usability circumstances or interfaces in Flash is a pain. Buttons, scrollbars, textboxes can all look different and confuse users. This can overwhelm older or inexperienced users that aren’t used to “minesweeping” websites for surprise content.

Browser Compatability
Flash (or the ability to see flash) is not yet a included in any internet browser by default. It must be downloaded and installed as an add-on. Many older browsers won't even support Flash. Even modern technologies such as smart phones are not able to view websites or elements made in Flash.

Flash ignores users needs
Whereas the ground rules of marketing emphasize the concentration on the users’ needs, Flash websites ignore them. Take the infamous site intros and splash screens that are as much annoying as the 45 minutes of advertising and previews in cinemas. Or another example: the sound effects - they are can be especially inappropriate and harmful when you are browsing the Net from a cubicle in a quiet office or from home in the late hours.

Disabled back button
Some Flash designers use meta refreshes or other tricks to disable browser’s Back button. As the famous usability expert Jacob Nielsen says, ‘Back button is the second most important navigation element after hyperlinks’. People not able to use Back button will click the third most important navigation element - that X button in the top right. Besides, if you are going to promote a Flash site via PPC, you should know that Google AdWords doesn’t approve pages with disabled back button.

Search engines do not like Flash
And perhaps the most important: not every search engine is able to crawl and index the content of Flash movies. Even those that can often do it with errors. This is in particular the case of a website fully implemented in Flash as a single file. Search engines just wouldn’t be able to direct visitors to the proper page within that file.

So what is Flash really good for? Banners and ads - it provides far more useful features then the traditional gif animation. Online games - remember the ‘Yeti Sports’? Flash technology - the Flash videos - for video blogs.



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