Flash is a powerful tool that adds a fillip to website design, if used judiciously.
But before you use it, consider the Whys and Why Nots of Flash web design.
- Interactive movies, animation and menus are possible
- Flash animation is easy to create and easy to view
- Flash is independent of browsers and operating systems. It can be viewed correctly by anyone who has the Flash plug-in.
- Animated banner advertisements in Flash have higher click-through rates than static gifs.
- Flash is good for web site intros and adds zing to a site
- Video works well in Flash applications. It doesn’t need a plug-in that’s dependent on a specific operating system like MediaPlayer or QuickTime.
- Search engines crawl text, not Flash intros and bannersIt's tough to get an all-Flash website to rank high in search engines. Search engines have problems indexing images, even text rendered as an image. HTML pages get indexed in search engines like Google while Flash pages do not. This is a major reason not to use Flash. To overcome this problem you may need to create another site in HTML for the search engine crawlers. Be sure to include a robots.txt file that bars the Flash pages, so that these pages are not seen as duplicate content. You will also have to face the added effort of creating and maintaining two sites.
- Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of using Flash? In general, Flash for the sake of using Flash serves no useful purpose. Visitors come to websites for information, not animation. Using a flashy introduction to grab a person’s interest won’t work unless your website provides well-written content that provides the information he’s looking for. Routine Flash website intros, with images fading in and out and text messages changing position, don’t capture the reader’s attention unless the messages are focused on his area of interest or stimulate him to visit the rest of the site.
- Flash intros make the homepage take too long to load.Flash increases the size of the homepage which takes too long to download.Readers are time-conscious and may flip to another website by the time your Flash intro loads. Give them a “Skip intro” option so that they don’t miss the content on your site.
- Audio files embedded in Flash increase download time.This can turn off visitors who might otherwise be interested in your site content.
- Music and sound can be annoying to some readers. They are forced to listen to the audio of your choice, not theirs. This can turn off visitors who may quickly exit from your site. Do include a Mute button so that visitors can turn down the sound if they want to.
“But I still want to use Flash. How can I do it effectively?”
If you must use Flash, you can embed it on an HTML page, say as a Flash Photo Album, or as a catalog organized into categories, or a slide show. You need to add text or captions below the Flash images. Remember, it’s the text that’s indexed in search engines, not Flash. Also ensure that the images used in Flash are optimized with the lowest compression for quicker loading time.
You could also consider using a Flash header for your web site. This allows you to write text that is indexed in search engines, and also use Flash in a smaller area of the web page so that it downloads faster. Once the Flash animation downloads, the visitor can page through the rest of the site without waiting for the Flash part to download each time.
Whether you decide to use Flash or not is up to you. The above pointers will help you make a considered decision that will benefit your business, your visitors and boost your site traffic in the long run.