5 Reasons Not To Use Flash

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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).

Sure, some hybrids of flash and text work well, with the mutual understanding that flash is embedded within a site.. and not the site itself. But as a whole, this concept seems to be falling on deaf ears.

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.

Flash Is Evil. Five Big Reasons Not to Use Flash.

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.

Flash requires bandwidth

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.

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.

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.

Problems with third-party Flash developers

Unless you do Flash yourself, you might face some serious troubles with developers. Some of them code their project to prevent them from editing, thus making you to hire them over and over again as you need to do even the smallest modifications. Aaron Wall in his SEOBook (a highly recommended SEO reading) describes a case of a Flash developer who disabled the back button and then asked $4000 from his client to re-enable it, although the problem was caused by his own incompetence.

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.

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.

But as a website engine – Flash is evil!

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Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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