Flash Web Design – Is It Right for You?
Will it bring in more visitors or chase them away?

Flash really shook up the Internet when it made its big splash a few years ago. Those were the days when the blink tag made things exciting. These days, a web designer has an arsenal of web design tools, and Flash is just one of them.

The problem with Flash websites is not Flash itself, but the designers. The Internet has made design accessible to the masses. Previously, one had to go to college and intern with a design house – you know, learn about design. But today, anyone with a few hundred dollars can buy some software, and presto! theyre calling themselves web designers.

On the one hand, its great that the Internet has made learning accessible to people who might otherwise get a college education. On the other hand, its cluttered the marketplace.

And human beings are like raccoons: we like shiny things that move. So, were naturally attracted to and impressed by a Flash website. And if its our company name and logo thats bouncing and exploding across the computer screen, that ups the ante.

But once weve waited for a few dozen of these sites to download, clicked skip intro buttons that dont, and searched high and low for a sites navigation device, we begin to realize that perhaps these Flash websites are more hype than substance.

Usability Issues

As a community, the Internet has moved past Flash. Were not so easily impressed. And, when I arrive at a Flash site, more often than not, Im looking for a "skip intro" button. In fact, when surfing, most people just want three things:

  • They want information,
  • They want it now and fast,
  • They dont want to have to jump through hoops to get it.

How many times have you left a website because you were faced with one of those long, animated introductions, useless special effects, or confusing navigation?

Flash could be the death of your online venture.

Accessibility Issues

A website designed completely in Flash causes problems with accessibility. Any visitor needing text resizing or screen reading equipment or software will be out of luck.

So, you could be annoying a huge part of your audience – senior citizens, the disabled, or people who simply like to have a bit more control over their browsing experience.

Issues with Speed

Flash sites can get pretty large, and not everyone surfs the Net with a DSL or cable modem – a lot of people are still wandering around with 56.6k modems. And they just wont wait for your website to load. Or, if they do, they might get irritated that they waited so long just to see your logo bounce across the screen.

And when they return to your site, do you think theyre going to be thrilled while they watch that opening Flash animation every time? Do you think theyll bother? Theyll probably go somewhere else.

Search Engine Placement

If you care at all about search engine placement, then you had better limit the amount of Flash that your web designer uses. Search engines like content – the written word. And while text in Flash begins as text, when converted for use on a webpage, it becomes a picture, and search engines cant read pictures.

Search engines become bored pretty easily, and if they have nothing to read, theyll move on. Your site will go unnoticed, unindexed, and lost amongst thousands of other sites.

Cost

And Flash can get expensive. Your website is really not much different than a car: the more options and features you load into it, the more its going to cost you.

Flash is a set of skills that a web designer brings to the table, and they ought to be compensated if they use them.

But theres a certain amount of hype as well. We call it the WOW Pricing Method: The cost of your website is directly proportionate to the number of WOWs you utter during the presentation.


There are definitely some really good uses for Flash web design: tutorial or learning sites, movie studios, animated jokes, greeting cards, and banner ads, to name a few. But by and large, most websites will thrive done the old fashioned way: by giving the customer a quick and easy way into your website so they can get the information they want and get on with their day.



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