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April 06, 2007

5 Reasons to NOT Use Flash in Your Website

It's time to rant on the overuse of Flash websites. It should be an easy concept to remember for all of us in modern design: Less is More. If true about design, that mantra is doubly true with websites and the use of Flash.

Let me explain.

"Flash" is a programming language that allows you to create "interactive movies." It is a terrific tool for adding audio, video and animation to a website. Unfortunately people rely on Flash for creating the ENTIRE website, creating one long movie. Yes, yes, I know, you can have buttons and "skip" to the part of the movie you want to go to -- just like a DVD. But truly, for those of us who use the web for the purpose of finding the information we want -- frankly, Flash is a pain.

5 Reasons Why Your Site Should Not Be Loaded with Flash

  1. Readers can't hit the back button. Readers get to a spot, and want to turn around by hitting the back button. With flash, you can't. You either have to start again, or leave. Trust me, unless people are being paid to get the information (ala a reporter), people will just leave.
  2. Link colors don't work. Manufacturers show a list of all products and designs on their sites, readers click on some random sequence of them -- but the links don't change color to let readers know they've already clicked on it. Truly obnoxious and violates web 101 on ease of use.
  3. It's not truly interactive. The web is about choosing one's own destiny -- go where I want to go (forward, back, etc). Downloading pictures of things we like. Flash limits your interaction.
  4. It's not modifiable. Did you know on conventional web pages you can change the size of the font? Or use the Find feature? Or have a page translated? Or make the page fit your browser? Flash is about controlling the user's experience -- jamming the font size down one's throat and in a specific language. Not a good match for us independent types.
  5. It is overused. Nothing is more obnoxious than getting to a site that makes me sit through its animated intro. You think it's clever -- I think: Home Movies. Obnoxious, disrespectful of readers time, and frankly, quite boring.

2 bonus reasons to use Flash sparingly

  1. Google can't index the page. So we 91% of web users who use search engines to find things we are interested in -- won't be able to find you. (Béné, that was the reason Charles Kaisin's site never came up when we were researching honeycombed furniture.)
  2. It's expensive and consumes more important resources. You should be investing in PHOTOS (you are designers and manufacturers, after all), updating your site and answering your emails. I know. I contact many of you regularly -- getting good photos is like asking for gold -- and that is the reaction from the companies who bother to answer their emails.

In my next post, I will tell you when you should use flash.


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Comment on This Article Here! 5 Reasons to NOT Use Flash in Your Website:

you might alternately look at a flash website through the analogy of a restaurant experience... on one hand someone (say, the html-fan) might go into a 5-star restaurant and ask the staff to put the dressing on the side, substitute this for that, not take the server's recommendation for a wine-pairing, etc... on the other hand, one (the flash fan) might trust the expertise of the chef and even though lamb might not be a favorite, is willing to give the chef the latitude to provide a specific, planned experience. this is of course keeping in mind that the same restaurant experience in itself is a "designed experience" meant -- by the artist (the chef) -- to be experienced in a certain way... and as a diner (or patron) i know what i'm signing up for when entering into that realm. of course, there are times in life for a buffet and times for a boutique restaurant (and there are folks -- like my stepfather -- who'd never go for california cuisine and feels most at home at hometown buffet), but to unilaterally dismiss flash as a tool would be like saying you're wasting your money at bacar and you'd get just as full eating at the taqueria down the street. i definitely agree that flash is used inappropriately on sites that should serve as "fast food" where the point is to get in, get out and get on with what you were doing before (ikea's website makes me mad sometimes because of the tendency to put a useless movie over the fold), but not all sites are the same. many of the web-2.0 crowd insist that the web is not an experience-driven venue, but an information resource. again, this would be like saying that a restaurant's only purpose is to feed your belly... and for foodies around the world, we know this is not the case. and for the web's art patrons, theremediproject is a delight.

Posted by: norcalmod | Jul 2, 2008 11:30:45 AM

This is actually hilarious! All of these things can be done in flash.. do you even know what your talking about?

Posted by: No comment | Jul 8, 2008 1:45:11 PM

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