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Flash Based Websites | The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I know, how can I use the word ugly when referring to flash? Well flash is not ugly – it is truly awesome. My goal is to help with business web basics. I want businesses to carefully choose when to use flash and understand why it might not be the best choice.

Flash-based sites have truly improved over the years, and as Macromedia continues to rock out with super cool and trendy features, there will be more attraction to use flash sites for businesses.

Google Analytics can even track a Flash based site. There was a time when no one even considered that! However, Flash based sites have been disputed in regards to Search Engine Optimization. So, here it is as I see it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Ann goes over Flash at Business Web Basics
Ann goes over Flash at Business Web Basics

The Good:

Interactivity

Flash’s Action script has almost unlimited possibilities! Games, cool movie trailers, video advertisements, banner ads are showing up when we do a daily search and are creating followings. I loved the “Elf Yourself” from Staples. Everyone sent me that e-mail! Programmers are using Flash to create these interactive, addictive internet phenomenons. There are Flash based items like cool inquiry forms to user friendly Flash-based games. From a link building standpoint or an interactive internet visit, Flash is better than good it is GREAT!

If you have a Flash website, it will work with any browser. This is a great benefit because a CSS site, or template site, or other types of sites, have to be cross checked in various browser platforms. Once a Flash website is finished it will look the same on every computer…that is IF the user has a Flash Player installed.

If you want to brand a message in an effective manner – like using animation, or video with text, Flash is a great option because it is vector based which means the file size is smaller unlike a movie file, which is HUGE! Smaller files make quicker downloads.

Ok – enough about the good. Here is the BAD.

Getting a Flash Player:

Do not kid yourself by thinking everyone has one because they do not. So if they land at your awesome Flash website but can’t see it until they download a Flash player, YOU risk losing that customer!

I think that is pretty bad – but it gets worse…

You have to put an outgoing link on your business website directing the user where to go get a Flash player. So the visitor has landed at your site and you ask them to leave, go get a Flash player, THEN they have to download the player – let’s hope it works – BUT WAIT what else do they have to do? They have to INSTALL the player. Pretty Bad right!

By this time you have lost some of your traffic – I promise you not all people want to see your site so bad they will go through all these steps!

Now the Ugly:

It is VERY HARD to rank a website that was built with Flash. Your website is all graphics so there is not any “text” on the page. Search Engines will not be able to index your content. So you have an AWESOME website but the “keywords” you want to rank for you can’t. Now I think this is ugly. Really ugly.

I want to say this – if you choose to have a Flash site for fun, or as a community playground, or as a viral interactive application – go for it! BUT… if you want to give your business the best opportunity to have keywords rank in a search engine. Go another route! If you have a DEVOTED Flash programmer, that has come up with creative options to have text be in the html great, try it out but why when you can start right from the beginning!

Can it get any uglier? Well yes it can. If you go with a business Flash website your visitors will face they ultimate killer with websites…
LOAD TIME…

If I have to wait – I hit the back button. Most users do not like to wait. So even if they already have a Flash player, how long will it take to download your site? Trust me even if you have your website hosted at the fastest server in the world – it does not matter.

It depends on the users ability to get it. I know you are thinking “doesn’t everyone have cable or DSL?” No, they don’t. Even if they do you are thinking all is right in their world to download your whole website.

Look at one of the largest sites in the world – Google. They distribute Flash ads but they do not have a Flash website. Yahoo – same thing.

So – I think I gave tons of Good, Bad and the Ugly.

You choose – I say only use Flash if you do not care about driving traffic. Like an art gallery for example. They can have a great html website then have their gallery pictures available in a flash movie as an OPTION for the user to see. Or a health spa can have a CSS and html website that loads very, very fast with tons of navigation and one option is a Flash movie of their treatment rooms.

This gives the VISITOR information AND allows them to CHOOSE to see the Flash content.

Learning web strategies – Is your website Naughty or Nice

Simply where does your website fall?

When it comes to your website, extra attention should be paid to every detail to make sure it performs optimally and serves its purpose. Here are seven important items to observe to make sure your website performs well.

1) Naughty – Do not use splash pages…

Splash pages normally have a very beautiful image with words like “welcome” or “click here to enter”. In fact, they are just that — pretty pages with no real purpose, or content. Do not let your visitors have a reason to click on the “back” button! Give them the value of your site up front without the splash page.  Say what you want on the page they land on!

2) Naughty – Do not use excessive banner advertisements

Even the least net savvy people have trained themselves to ignore banner advertisements so you could waste valuable website real estate. Instead, provide valuable content and weave relevant links into your content, and let your visitors feel that they want to buy instead of being pushed to buy. Use banner placements that accentuate your products in a tasteful way.

3) Nice – Have a simple and clear navigation

Provide a simple and very straightforward navigation menu so that even a young child will know how to use it. Stay away from complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors don’t know how to navigate, they will leave your site.

4) Nice – Have a clear indication of where the user is

When visitors are deeply engrossed in browsing your site, make sure they know which part of the site they are in at that moment. That way, they will be able to browse relevant information or navigate to any section of the site easily. Don’t confuse your visitors because confusion means “abandon ship”! Many visitors like to simply “go back”; unfortunately some websites do not allow this.

5) Naughty and Nice – Using audio on your site

If your visitor is going to stay a long time at your site, reading your content, you will want to make sure they’re not annoyed by some audio playing on and on and on and on… you get it I am sure! If you add audio, make sure the user has control over it. Ideally the user will be able to click a “play” button if they want to hear the audio, and they will be able to adjust the volume.