Before we begin, let’s start with the Flash apologists. Whenever I say “Flash sucks” somebody points out that it doesn’t, but that some Flash developers truly suck and don’t know how to use it properly.

It is a fair point, however agencies / developers that build websites for their clients must understand the limitations of Flash, and build primarily for the needs of their client’s visitors, and business needs, rather than for their own egos.

But what happens when these agencies build Flash websites for themselves? Badness happens, that’s what. At least in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll hear otherwise, but from my perspective I can rarely see the point of using Flash as the basis for a website. And while I’m all for rich media, and immersive user experiences, I think agencies should know better…

By my reckoning Flash should be limited to widgets and modules – where it can be remarkably effective – rather than used as the platform on which the website stands. Unfortunately some designers and developers didn’t get the memo. Far too many websites still rely on Flash in order to work. It is madness. I mean, I like cake, but cakes aren’t the answer to all of my dietary needs.

To sum up, here are 10 reasons why Flash tends to suck:

  1. You need a plug in. No plug in, no access.
  2. Loading screens… 16%… 27%… 39%… aaargh.
  3. Constant browser crashes. Arguably a browser problem, but still…
  4. World of weird interfaces. Did the designer drop an acid before going to work? Like crazy, man.
  5. Splash pages. And you’re making me wait because…?
  6. Gives web standards the bird. Then kicks the ‘back’ button in the ass.
  7. More animations than the Disney Channel.
  8. Mobile devices and Flash do not send one another Christmas cards.
  9. Accessibility, what accessibility?
  10. Search engines hate Flash. No really, they still do.

Now let’s take a look at some of these agencies that have, in their wisdom, deemed Flash to be the perfect platform for their websites. You can judge for yourself…

McKinney

“Hello. It’s time for a new conversation. Come in, let’s talk.”

New? This is about as new as New Kids On The Block. McKinney is an award-winning agency with a truly appalling Flash website. Whirl, spin, repeat.

BBH

“When the world zigs, zag”

I love the strapline but just like McKinney, BBH has a godawful Flash website that may wow big budget clients, but does nothing for me. At least the back button works.

Leo Burnett

“Big ideas come out of big black pencils”

Yeah, and so do dodgy websites. 

Ogilvy

“Smart strategies for dealing with the downturn”

Huh, what’s that you say? If that is Ogilvy’s strapline (and I’m not convinced it is, but it’s the first thing I read on the Ogilvy website), then why isn’t it ranking at the top of Google for an exact match on that phrase? Is preventing Google from properly accessing your website a smart strategy? I reckon this post will rank higher than the Ogilvy site this time tomorrow.

AgencyNet

“If the internet were a machine, what would it sound like?”

Hmmm. Maybe a fax machine, or some other highly annoying noise. I know AgencyNet will be proud of this website, and in all honesty it is marginally less offensive than some of the other one’s I’ve been looking at. But is Flash really necessary? Again, the SEO police come into play. Take a random exact phrase from one of it’s news stories / press releases. Do you see the website on the first page of Google? No, me neither. Why hide your light under a bushel?

Freedom + Partners

Turn the sound up for this bad boy. F+P chose Flash – “the best storytelling platform” – because it positions the firm “in the best way possible”. Or to put it another way: “Why would you hang a hand written sign in your window when you could have neon lights illuminating your wares?”. Reader, I’ll let you decide, if you can be bothered to wait for the goddamned thing to load, tolerate the sports rock that plays automatically, and figure out the 3D navigation (which can be flipped into 2D mode. Amazing.).

THIRD STREET

This is a great example of a website that doesn’t require Flash to work in the way it works. In this context, Flash is totally redundant, pointless, and it is puzzling me as to why it has been used. And a marketing agency should surely be able to figure out how to rank on the first page of Google for its own brand name. Not a great sign.

McCann-Erickson

When searching for these websites in Google I can always tell a Flash site by reading the description alongside the search listing. In McCann-Erickson’s case the company is perfectly described as follows: “You need to upgrade your Flash Player. ©McCann Worldgroup 2009 | Supplier Directory.” Gotcha.

GDS&M

A full service ad agency with a website that really doesn’t need to be built in Flash. Idea City, or shitty idea?

Tribal DDB

The splash page contains lots of self-loving, with a bunch of links are to the various awards the agency has won (links to PDF files, no less). The only other link says: ‘Enter site.’ Click it and a pop-up window appears. Nothing much happens. Oh hold on… is this going to kill my browser? Is it… YES! Result! NO, actually NO! It simply froze up for about a minute. Proceed with caution! 

What do you think? Is this flash, or is it simply flashturbation?

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