No Flash in the Pad

My web design approach is to create simple, good-looking pages that attract visitors to my client’s web sites and then to their businesses.

When I first started designing, I had to fight persuade clients that animated cartoon .gif files and unrequested music were not not good additions to their Internet home. Times changed, and the music died down and the animated files became fewer and fewer. But, then, Adobe unleashed a new technology: Flash!

Flash lets web designers put movement and sound into their pages. Done correctly the animation is professional video quality, and the sound can be multi-tracked and amazing. It is terrific tool for presentations and for some online functions such as videos and virtual tours.

But, I have consistently dissuaded clients from using Flash, especially for “welcoming” visitors to their home page. (Why do people feel the need to welcome web site visitors, anyway?? Visitors want to be informed, not welcomed!)

Flash blocked on an iPhone
Example of an iPhone blocking Flash. The tiny blue dot in the middle represents the blocked Flash -- the visitor never will see the key content on the center of this page.

My reasons have been:

  • Flash is more difficult to produce than simple text and photographic web pages. This means more work for me or another designer. More work means greater cost, and most of my clients are very cost conscious.
  • Search engines don’t understand Flash content very well, if at all. If you want to show up on Google search results, using Flash gives you a handicap to overcome.
  • Flash can be slow to download and start up. We’ve all seen the Flash screen countdowns, promising that they’re “loading… 55%”. A certain percentage of visitors (potential customers) will click away instead of waiting.

Now Steve Jobs and Apple’s latest gadget, the iPad, re-validates my recommendation to avoid Flash. Jobs has gotten into a slap fight with Adobe, Flash’s makers, about the application. Flash has always been blocked from working on iPhones because Jobs thinks it is buggy and has security flaws, and now he has expanded the ban to keep Flash from working on the hot Apple iPad.

Think about it: if you are a company trying to get business from Internet visitors, you want the hip visitors who can afford things like iPhones and iPads. But, if your site uses Flash, these best prospects won’t see what you’re offering!

Apple’s decision to continue to block Flash reinforces my decision to stay away from Flash as a web development tool. If you are a large corporation with a large budget, you can make Flash and non-Flash versions of your pages — or normal and mobile versions — to get around Apple’s Flash block. But, what a lot of work to use a tool that doesn’t truly benefit most sites.

My recommendation is to save the extra money you’d spend on Flash development and instead spend that on Google ads, updating your site’s content, or creating an email marketing campaign.

Flash doesn’t show up on iPhones or iPads. It’s relatively expensive to develop. Flash just doesn’t make sense for most sites. Sorry, Adobe!

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