by: William Gennuine on
Everyone loves a pretty picture. The same is true with websites. Everyone loves a web that moves and rotates and does interesting things when the mouse hovers over something on the site. Sites in this category typically are built with a technology called Flash. Flash sites are especially popular with creative types like bands and photographers where image is everything. And while they are very pretty, we never recommend a total Flash site for any serious business application of a website. Here's why...
Flash is essentially a picture, not text. Why should you care? The reasons are many but the primary ones are these: indexing or the ability of search engines to find your site, the need to have Flash player installed on the computer that is viewing the site, troubles rendering the site where the viewer has slow bandwidth and the technical expertise required to update a Flash site. Let’s take each one in turn.
Building a site is one thing. Having your site found and viewed is another matter entirely. Other than someone knowing your exact website URL, most people who are looking for something on the web will Google a name or keyword to find what they are looking for. What this means is that if you are ever to be found by a keyword search, you must have – get ready for it – WORDS on your site. Flash, you’ll recall, is not words but a picture and while there are ways to add captions and tags to a picture, you are creating a barrier to viewers who are trying to find you by creating a picture-based website.
Also, if you’ve ever been to a site and been greeted with a blank page but for a message such as “download Flash plugin” or something similar, what you are seeing is evidence that Flash requires that something be installed on the viewer’s computer. While most up-to-date PCs will have it already installed, that is not always the case. Downloading the plugin is easy and free but in our opinion, why create one more barrier between you and your clients and prospects?
Another rub with Flash is the inherent issue of pictures requiring more internet bandwidth and computing horsepower to view than text. Again, many current configurations of internet and PCs blow right through this to allow nearly any size image to be viewed, but this is not always the case. Also, if the viewer is in a business setting, the company may prohibit images from coming through their firewalls or create other barriers to the images being rendered.
The final trick of Flash is that in order for you to update a Flash-based site, you must own and know how to use Adobe Flash – not the freeware reader but the actual fully-licensed program. Not that it’s impossible to learn, but just to let you know that we have college-trained professionals using Flash and they spend a good deal of time keeping up with the changes and evolution of the product. Again, one more layer of complexity that really does not have to exist.
Are we saying don’t build a Flash-based site? Absolutely not. What we are saying is consider deeply the purpose of creating your website. For most of us, our websites are places where we encourage interaction with our markets. They are places where information is ideally updated frequently. The more barriers and risks we build into our sites, the less likely it is that they will yield good things for our companies.
So before you expose yourself to flashing your customers, consider all that is involved.