Flash isn't flashy

Published 2007-02-12. Read 3,163 times. 0 Comments. Tagged: flash webdev

A fairly common complaint from some webdesigners is clients want too much Flash and this is fairly easy to understand.

Clients want flashy websites! That’s why they’ve come to see you in the first place. They want something that oozes class and makes people think they’re the best. Flash is pretty. It looks (or can, at least) look like it cost a million dollars, but more often than not, unnecessary Flash usage looks just that: unnecessary.

If you’re like me, you will realise Flash isn’t the mark of a great site — but conveying this feeling to the client isn’t always easy. When you’re working for somebody, it isn’t really viable for you to grab their tie, pull them across the table and scream in their face. That won’t help anybody.

You need to educate them. It won’t work with all clients but most should realise you know what you’re doing otherwise they wouldn’t have hired you for the job. Here are a few arguments against using Flash for everything on a website:

  • Flash only works on computers that it’s installed on.
    Adobe will have you believe they have 99.9999999% market saturation, but that their figures have to be based on something surrounding downloads. Considering the number of downloads of the Flash Player I do alone, it’s easy to see how these statistics might be a fair way off. If users can’t see the Flash they can’t see the site.

  • Flash isn’t accessible.
    Similarly, if the user cannot use the Flash UI due to a disability, they’re not going to be able to use the site. This can be the difference between buying something and not buying something.

  • Search engines cannot use Flash.
    Like before, search engines’ spiders are computers that cannot use flash. If your pages don’t get indexed, people won’t be able to organically find your site. Again, this can mean not getting sales.

  • Mobile browsing.
    Mobile browsing is on the increase. More and more people and service providers are realising this, buying 3G phones with nippy internet connections but very few of them support Flash.

  • Flash is slower.
    There are strong statistics showing people won’t bother with a website if there’s not something for them to do within the first 4 seconds. Because Flash needs to load itself, download all the media before it can do anything more than display a progress bar, this could mean a lot of users just browse away. HTML is much less bandwidth intensive and therefore can display a lot faster.

You should explain if they want certain aspects of Flash, like video, they can do that without the entire site being Flash-based. If they want something that looks like AJAX, suggest AJAX!

Some clients may infer they want you to work on two versions of the site — one that supports flash and one that does not. Where this might look like it’s going to net you twice the cash, you should explain that making two versions is making two sites. Making two sites is making it twice as hard to update and maintain.

Ultimately all of this requires good reasoning from you. You should suggest what is best for each scenario and it’s likely that some parts will require Flash. Don’t try and beat Flash down because you hate it — rather, because there is something better.

About Oli: I’m a Django and Python programmer, occasional designer, Ubuntu member, Ask Ubuntu moderator and technical blogger. I occasionally like to rant about subjects I should probably learn more about but I usually mean well.

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