So you’re ready to create a new website or update your current site and you want it to have a special “wow factor” to get a leg up on your competition. Sadly, many people insist on using a Flash-only website to achieve this by animating anything and everything. This is a huge mistake!
For a website to capture the viewer’s interest from the moment it loads in the web browser, a good design is the most important ingredient. By spending the time and money on a good web design you will not only capture your audience from the get-go, but you also do yourself a big favour by creating a professional and more authoritative presence. By doing so, you instill a sense of confidence in your audience and reinforce the notion that choosing your product or service is the right decision. Many will argue that a less organized, rougher, or grassroots approach will win over more viewers and relate to the audience in a more personal way. This may be true in some cases, but you should determine what is more important to your business before attempting a website design (or any design for that matter): quantity of viewers, or quality of viewers?
You can then consider the functionality and user-experience you want to create for your website. I cannot dispute the fact that Flash can do some fun and interesting things, however, by making use of one or several code-based solutions you can achieve similar and sometimes better results and avoid making the mistake of a developing a Flash-only website.
So why is a Flash-only website such a big mistake?
Website Content is Virtually Invisible to Search Engines
If you’re not already familiar with the methods that search engines like Google or Yahoo use to rank and later query your website, I’ll fill you in:
Each search engine sends out little programs called “bots” that crawl the web looking for new content to scan, classify and rank. When one of these bots comes across your website, it crawls each and every page (unless you tell it not to, which is a story for another day) looking for content that uses keywords and key phrases that will later be used to rank your page against other similar pages and ultimately tell the search engine when to present your website in web searches. Code-based websites that use languages like HTML and Java Script, etc., present all of your content in a format that is easy for these bots to read and archive. Websites that are Flash-only encapsulate your content inside a single (or multiple) files that do not allow these bots to enter and do their job. This leaves your website virtually invisible to the search engine and will result in a very poor ranking.
Distorted Analytics Data
One of the key ways in which we can monitor a website’s performance is by making use of a service like Google Analytics. In a code-based environment, Google Analytics can track and report traffic on your website with great accuracy. Things like bounce rate (how many people visit your site, and leave before visiting any other pages), entry pages, top content (what information on your site people are most interested in), time spent on content pages, how people are finding your site and what keywords or search terms they are using to find your website are all logged and reported back to you. By making use of this data to refine your website you can increase your website’s performance and often generate a higher conversion rate (how many people visit your site, read content and then contact you).
What happens with a Flash-only website is that Google Analytics can only track the initial visit to the website and not the activity that happens within the site as the viewer clicks through your content pages. Basically, the only real useful information that is available in this scenario is bounce rate and total number of visits to your site.
Mobile web browsing exploded in 2010 and will continue to grow as smartphones and tablets become more mainstream. Many of these devices do not support Flash, and those that do take considerable time to render and run the Flash animation. Visitors using mobile devices do not want to wait for your site to load, nor will they appreciate your website eating up a large portion of their data plan.
That said, Flash does have a place in the modern web. Using Flash for individual elements in your website can often enhance graphics and create visual interest within a website. Flash is also a fantastic tool for presentations, guided tours and online games or applications. Be sure to consider your user before designing and developing your next website!