Why Flashy ISN’T What You Want Your Website to Be

For the purposes of this entry, what I mean by flash is Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash), not “an ostentatious display.“

You want your website to be pretty.  Of course you do.  Nobody wants an ugly website.  To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t want to create an ugly one. Actually, I would probably do it– let’s face it, in this economy we all need whatever money can come our way–  but I would never claim it, and would not link back to myself as the designer.

There is, however, a difference between Aesthetically Pleasing while Predominantly Functional, and All Flash And Very Little Substance (for both meanings of flash!).

What is flash?  Flash is basically streaming animation for websites.  Flash is what’s used on youtube for you to be able to stream the videos and giggle at cats doing silly things and the babies that laugh at them.  Flash is what makes Marc Ecko’s site have a page that moves when you move your mouse, what makes it load in front of you like a slideshow.  Flash is, essentially, a movie file.

While that is pretty to look at, there are several problems inherent in flash.  The most common one is the simple fact that not everyone has flash.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this article then– while you may not be as computer obsessed as I am– you’re at least nominally computer savvy.  Those of us that are computer savvy are interested in going to a website and getting that Flash plug in that’s required to view Flash-oriented elements in websites.  We will take the time to go to Adobe.com and download Flash, or download the update if we’re out of date, and install it.  And sometimes, re-install it, because Flash tends to crash some out-dated or older computers or browsers.

But what about those that aren’t computer obsessed or savvy?  What about your grandmother or your next door neighbor that can’t figure out this new fangled thing called “text messaging”?  Just because someone doesn’t know how to program their DVD player doesn’t mean you don’t want them to be able to see your website or view your product and/or service.  That eliminates them as a client for you.  This is not what you want your website to do.

Another problem is loading time.   As technology progresses so does a computer’s ability to read what’s online.  What is considered slow now was considered fast five years ago.  Nowadays if my Dad sits at a computer screen for more than five seconds without it doing what he told it to, he’s aggravated.   Five years ago it wasn’t uncommon to wait a whole minute for a website to load.  Keep in mind that not everyone has the same DSL/Cable package that you do, not everyone has lightening fast broadband.  Some people are still on dial up.  What might take ten seconds for a flash website to load on my top of the line DSL will take someone on dial up possibly ten minutes.  Do you really think they’re going to wait that long?  They’re going to come to your site, see a link that tells them that they need to download the flash player to view this website properly, and then they are probably going to leave.

On top of these things, there is the fact that Flash is not search engine friendly.  Search engines like Google and Yahoo use the behind-the-scenes coding that goes into building your website to return search results.  If you’re using flash, it’s not as compliant with search engines as regular old-fashioned html is.  You want those search engines to find you.  That’s why you have a website, right?  To be found?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having flash on your website is an all out no-no.  I’m saying having ALL flash is a bad idea.  Like with everything in life, the key is moderation.  Maybe have a Flash banner or a Flash element of sliding pictures.  Maybe have one page on a website of ten pages that is predominantly Flash.  What my suggestion is, though, is that you don’t build your website with Flash and only Flash.  If Flash is only part of your website, visitors with no Flash plug-in or a slow internet connection will still be able to view the majority of what you have to offer, and they will most likely stick around long enough to do so.

Make your site beautiful.  Make it interesting.  Make it pop.  Make it stand out.  Use things other than flash to do it, like colors, and pictures, and interesting fonts.  If you’re going to use flash, throw in a little on top just for the dessert.  You want your website to be a whole meal, not a cream puff.  If you do it right, people will walk away feeling satisfied and curious, not baffled and unhappy.


*  Marc Ecko’s site is not my design, I am simply pointing to it as a Flash-heavy website.

*  The topic of this article was suggested by Tyler D on our Facebook page.  If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like me to cover or a question please feel free at any time to comment here or on Facebook, or if you prefer, email me at Kelly@kHoWebdesign.com.