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Yet Another Way Flash Hurts Your Site’s Visibility

Since the middle of November Google has offered searchers a sneak peak of web pages in search results. This allows amped-up surfers a quick way to see if your site looks interesting enough for them to click on the link and visit you.

Obviously, having a page that looks good in preview will help you get visitors. Good news for Search Engine Optimizers like me, though. Suddenly, there is a whole new worry for web masters looking for traffic: how to tune your site for previews. (My original post on preview.)

Today while considering the effect of previews in attracting visitors to a site, I stumbled across another feature (bug?) of Google preview: it does not display previews of pages that use Flash. Instead Google preview shows a boring gray square:

Google Preview of Flash Page

Google Preview of Flash Page for Hotel at Casino Royale

When you’re looking for things to do in Las Vegas and you see pictures of happy people, pools, and shows on most listings and see the black and gray squares for this site, where do you think you’re most likely to click for more information?

Google acknowledges what it’s doing to Flash pages and other animated pages. It says that Google preview:

… currently does not support Flash, Silverlight, or Java applets. Flash-based content may be shown as a “puzzle piece” in the preview image. Font-replacement techniques that use Flash are currently not supported.

Terrific!

So, here’s another reason to avoid Flash on your pages: they’ll look like little puzzles when potential visitors see the previews in Google’s search results.

Fortunately, none of my client sites use Flash in a significant way.  But, if your site does use Flash, run to your web designer and tell them that you want to be seen on Google Preview.

By |2010-12-07T12:44:12+00:00December 7th, 2010|Web Design|0 Comments

Another Hit Against Flash

I am in the process of switching to my first new computer in five years, a Dell which runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7.  Surprisingly, I have had few troubles transferring programs and setting myself up.  I see noticeable speed improvements, especially when I use 64-bit applications that are designed to work with the expanded addressing of the new system.

One problem:

I cannot use the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer 8 to surf unfettered through the Internet.  There is no 64-bit version of Adobe’s Flash player, so no Flash content can be displayed on this latest, fastest version of Microsoft’s browser.  Here’s what I see when I go to YouTube — which displays its movies using Flash — and click to see a video:

YouTube Flash error message

YouTube's Flash Videos are Inaccessible on 64-bit IE8

I am told that I “need to upgrade your Adobe Flash Player”.  A quick surf around the Internet shows that I cannot upgrade my Flash player because Adobe does not support 64-bit browsers.  Adobe itself says, “The underlying reason for this problem is compatibility. To use Flash Player to view Flash content on a 64-bit operating system, you need a 32-bit browser.” from Adobe.com

I was stunned. Adobe itself recently released a 64-bit version of its Creative Suite programs (CS5), but it didn’t/hasn’t yet bothered to support 64-bit versions of web browsers so that web visitors can see the handiwork of Adobe’s own Flash developer clients? Seriously?

No doubt I am way behind the early adapters in pointing out this lapse in Adobe product development and support. But, as a web developer, Adobe’s late-to-the-party inability to run Flash Player with a 64-bit browser reconfirms my belief that Flash should be avoided in most web pages.

Any business looking to make their site visible to the most number of people should hesitate before using Flash!

By |2010-06-05T13:46:51+00:00June 7th, 2010|Web Design|0 Comments

What's Flash Great For?

I often tell business owners why they shouldn’t use Flash. (See this post for an example warning!) I might even tell them too loudly and forcefully, because I feel like I am shouting into the wind when I try to explain that just because Flash is bright and shiny, that doesn’t mean that Flash belongs on your web site.

I’ll admit it. Sometimes, Flash does belong on a web site. It’s an extremely effective tool when used correctly.

Here’s when I suggest using Flash:

  • When a visual walk-through of your store/home/product functionality will help visitors understand what you’re offering. These uses include:
    • Virtual home tours by real estate agents.
    • Property tours by innkeepers.
    • Room tours by designers.
    • Assembly instructions for your products.
    • Video of your product in action.
  • Introductory testimonials or video blogs. These clips let your clients and prospects know more about you, and the warmth of your voice and face can carry the day.
  • Examples of your work if you’re an animator, videographer, or graphic designer. Showing how snappy and cool you are can help you get new jobs and can even show off your Flash skills for non-web projects such as business presentations.

Still, my recommendation is that these bits of Flash be embedded in a basic, non-Flash web page. And, whatever you do, don’t make your home page require Flash.

I have used Flash in sites, but my Flash objects have been movie-like things for the visitor to watch. I don’t use Flash for site navigation or to trigger any actions.

My first incorporation of Flash was in 2004 for a site redesign of a bed-and-breakfast. I moved the Flash introduction from the home page to a page about the property’s facilities. People looking for a place to stay no longer had to wait 30 seconds or more for the movie to download (remember, most people in 2004 were using dial-up). But, when they clicked on an inside page to see pictures of the guest rooms, the old Flash introduction was a great virtual tour.

There’s an ego problem with Flash, I think. A good Flash movie takes a lot of work and it can look stunning. So, the designers who have just created this Flash masterpiece wants to show off their handiwork. They make the Flash work of art the centerpiece of the web site.

Wrong!

The web site is not about the graphic talent of the web designer (unless the site is the designer’s own). The site should be all about solving a problem for the visitor, your potential client.

And, that’s when Flash can be great. When it’s used as a tool — just like other components of a web page — to show the visitor how you can solve their problem. Whether you’re keeping them from sleeping on the streets or you’re relieving their anxiety about your qualifications, Flash can be a great tool for your site.

By |2010-04-25T06:47:03+00:00April 25th, 2010|Web Design|0 Comments

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!

By |2010-11-22T08:29:55+00:00April 20th, 2010|Web Design|1 Comment