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Use Flash or not to use Flash? That is the question!

We have been pitching for a website tender recently and we have come up against the age old argument of where to use Flash. The client want to use flash for the whole site (everything built using Flash including the navigation and content) which we disagree with. As it is fresh in my mind, here are the arguments for and against the use of Flash for web design:

The arguments for using Flash

  • According to Adobe the Flash plugin can be found on around 97% of computers worldwide meaning that you can expect it to work on most computers
  • Although a very broad approximation, you can pretty much guarantee how it will look and work on all computers, unlike a web page built in CSS, HTML and Javascript which can be difficult to get exactly the same in all browsers
  • Flash sites are far more visually engaging and attention grabbing than HTML sites
  • Broadband use is on the increase every day so there is more demand for rich media use on websites
  • Without a doubt, Flash adverts are more affective than HTML/image adverts and have a much higher click through rate
  • If done well, Flash looks great. It is visually engaging, virtually endless in the number of things you can do with it and there are simply some things that can only be done in Flash

The arguments against using Flash

  • Despite what Macromedia say, it is a plugin so that ultimately means not everyone will be able to use it
  • In many corporate environments the flash plugin has been blocked so if your site targets companies, using Flash is a big no
  • It breaks the back button. If the site is built entirely in Flash then clicking the back button in your browser won’t take you bake a page, but back a whole site! There are ways around this but why break the browser?
  • Currently search engines find it very hard or even can’t read the contents of a flash file. So if using Flash then don’t expect to see your site working well in search engines
  • It’s accessibility is very poor. For example screen readers can’t read the text and unless built in to your flash it is not possible to resize text
  • Regardless of the speed of your connection, it is still bandwidth intensive and takes a while to download. Impatient users will be gone before they get a chance to see what you have done
  • Flash encourages poor practices such as splash pages (which we all hate don’t we?). Why is it that although you hate it when you come across a stupid Flash splash page, you really want to have one on your own site?
  • It doesn’t print well
  • Internet Explorer has a problem with Flash whereby you have to click in order to enable the plugin which is very annoying
  • You can’t bookmark specific pages within a Flash site

I’m sure I could go on….

The time and the place to use Flash

Although we would never discourage the use of Flash, it is important to understand it’s strengths and weaknesses. Used in the correct way, Flash can be extremely effective and nothing else would do a better job. Here is our advice for where and how to use Flash:

  • Do not use Flash for critical areas of the site such as navigation and content
  • Flash can make an excellent banner at the top of the site to "animate" your key messages, provide some interactivity with your users or simply add a bit of movement to a page by cycling slowly through images
  • Avoid creating a site entirely in Flash at all costs
  • It’s incredible at communicating complex ideas through audio, video or animation but even in these situations it can be used badly
  • Where possible, try to provide an accessible text alternative

In summary Flash is an excellent tool if used in the right places. However it encourages poor practices and although you may think it looks really nice, ask yourself how many other people think the same and how much are you willing to sacrifice just to have a ‘funky’ site? Your comments are more than welcome.

Rob Leverton

Rob has worked as an IT technician and project manager with Connexion for 14 years before moving into his current role as head of the technical services team.

Although Rob comes from a technical background he’s very much a people person and he is exceptionally good at building excellent working relationships with our customers and his technical team to deliver service excellence to our clients.

Rob Leverton

James Stratton

James is passionate about technology and how it can transform business.  Having worked with hundreds of businesses in many different sectors over the last 25 years he has a huge amount of business IT knowledge that he enjoys imparting to Connexions customers.

James is responsible for Connexions strategic development and also still enjoys a role in consulting and sales and marketing