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Web developers and businesses continue to develop Flash based websites, despite the well-documented drawbacks in terms of SEO and usability.

When used well, Flash can be a great tool for the presentation of rich content, but pure flash websites, though they may look good, can annoy the hell out of visitors.

After the jump, some reasons why...

Oleg Ishenko of SEOResearcher.com believes Flash is evil, and has 5 good reasons to avoid it:

Flash requires bandwidth
“There are still lots of people surfing the Net via dialup or other limited bandwidth connection. Flash files, especially those using sound effects, embedded movies or bitmap images, can take a while to load.”

Disabled back button
“People not able to use Back button will click the third most important navigation element - that X button in the top right. Besides, if you are going to promote a Flash site via PPC, you should know that Google AdWords doesn’t approve pages with disabled back button.”

Flash ignores users needs
“Whereas the ground rules of marketing emphasize the concentration on the users’ needs, Flash websites ignore them. Take the infamous site intros and splash screens that are as much annoying as the 45 minutes of advertising and previews in cinemas.”

Problems with third-party Flash developers
“You might face some serious troubles with developers. Some of them code their project to prevent them from editing, thus making you to hire them over and over again as you need to do even the smallest modifications. “

Search engines do not like Flash
“..perhaps the most important: not every search engine is able to crawl and index the content of Flash movies. Even those that can often do it with errors. This is in particular the case of a website fully implemented in Flash as a single file.”

All useful, and fat for the anti-Flash fire.

Here are three further observations from Team E-consultancy...

Flash is inaccessible
While Macromedia has made some changes over the years to try to improve accessibility for Flash, it remains a no-go area for many users who browse the internet with screen readers, and suchlike. Being graphic-heavy, Flash doesn't work so well for text readers (ditto Googlebot). Other problem areas have included too much focus on the mouse, lack of ALT text functionality, screwy navigation, lack of captioning, inability for pages to be bookmarked. And so on.

Flash forces users to think
What did Steve Krug say? Whether this is about newer versions of Flash presenting instruction manuals to the disabled (as proposed by Jakob Nielsen), or some revolving icon-based navigation that takes you three minutes to figure out how to use it, Flash makes too many demands on the user. As Mike Baxter says, people are cognitively lazy. That's why 8 out of 10 people (or more) browse links, rather than type in keywords. People don't WANT to think.

Flash crashes browsers
In the past fortnight the lack of the most recent version of Flash has caused my browser to crash about a dozen times. It is, I think, linked to online Flash-based display ads. Do I a) upgrade Flash or b) lament the lack of backwards-compatibility in this upgrade, or c) stop visiting sites like Sky and NewsNow, which have hosted ads that caused this to happen? A pain in the head, whichever way you look at it.

 Do you have any other reasons for avoiding Flash? Or are we missing the point? Leave your comments below...

Graham Charlton

Published 30 October, 2006 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Jos Merideth

Jos Merideth, Marketing Manager at Econsultancy

As part of Team EC, I do agree with some of these points - namely accessibility and search difficulties.

But - much of the original article actually points to a problem with Flash designers (or a demanding client), not with the technology itself.

It's very possible to make lightweight, usable pages with Flash.

about 10 years ago

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FENIN acme, blah at acme

reasons to prove that your editor is drunk:
(1)Flash requires bandwidth:
Its not flash, its the content added into flash files that demands bandwidth. Content added depends on the client's purpose and targeted market.With 'steaming media', flash makes rich experience possible even for low bandwidth users.
(2)Disabled back button
If your developer is smart enough, he can easily bypass this issue. If developers are not doing that, its because they are lazy.This is NOT a flash problem .
(3)Flash ignores users needs
Lol!! are u crazy?? Its the developer and planning team that ignores user's need.

(4)Problems with third-party Flash developers.
Okay. java, php, python , asp,.net, ruby,Ajax, coders never do that. Lol!

(5)Search engines do not like Flash
Google not only index flash files, it parses the text contained in it.[check Google SERP, with a filetype search]

Now, three further observations...!
(1)Flash is inaccessible .
Again, its a problem with developers. Flash has accesability features. If developer is not making use of it, fire him.
(2)Flash forces users to think
Nice "observation " honey! pretty lame BTW.PLANNING PLANNING PLANNING is what you are talking about.
(3)Flash crashes browsers
Like any software, if swf files are released without proper testing, situations like this may happen. But unlike other formats, flash can detect inifinite looped operations that may slow down your computer. In such a case, you will be shown a dialog box ,which will allow you to stop the script. So this claim you made too doesnt make any sense. All flash files are backward compatible. Adobe has done a great job to make this happen.

IN SHORT, you are talking about developer traits, NOT FLASH TRAITS.

about 10 years ago

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william quartz

Flash is always moving, allowing movie like technology for your website. This results in the Flash distracting web visitors from your site because they are focused on the flashiness of Flash.

over 9 years ago

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Mike Cornelison

Want 10 more reasons not to use flash?

Go check out www.mycokerewards.com - quite possibly the most God-awful website in existence right now.

This website is like the ultimate guide in why flash websites often suck and what not to do "just because you can".

almost 9 years ago

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Superstar

Another good reason: Doesn't work on the Iphone / Ipad. This really changed my view being that I own one. I was a flash junky at one time. Still love it but this opened my eyes to the reality of what my users might be missing. I try to keep that in mind when designing websites now.

over 6 years ago

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Bruce

I completely agree with "FENIN acme".

almost 6 years ago

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Dare

Stupid, ignorant article that is confusing the tool with the author.

If you are a lazy, crummy designer/developer, ANYTHING turns to crap in your hands. Be it Flash, HTML, JS, or what have you.

While I do agree that creating web content in Flash for no good reason (eg, all the normal brochure sites that could have been done in html with no loss in user experience) is bad practice, Flash still provides a rich experience that cannot be replicated in html (no, not even html5 can do everything Flash can) or most web scripts.

almost 6 years ago

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encoder

hi there.

i am a pro flash developer so here is my take on the issue.

html sites with a descent design and a little bit of js eyecandy can easily be much better then developing a flash website. flash sites (at least from my point of view) is more like a 5star restaurant and html sites is more like fast food (there are exceptions). or let's just say that's the way it should be.

let me tell you how to make full flash sites. it is clear that 80% out there in the wild are pure noob work.

bandwith - the flash site should not exceed more then 1 (one) swf. that swf should not exceed more then 2Mb. 2Mb is more then enough for code, some embedded vector graphics and fonts. anything else should load in a meaningful (or fully dynamic) order.

back button - there is the well known "#" char however most of people ignore it.

advertising and splash - from my opinion this is something like people are using a fully functional space shuttle as a treehouse. i could burn those people alive. i have nothing against advertising, but it can be done with way less offensiveness and resource usage. i mean there are adds that only slide some images and eat up 3 of my 4 cores (rot on chains!) and there are adds that are actually a functional game and eat less then the text next to it. i do love those. sometimes i just play them to give away a few clicks for the idea (here you made a mistake, people ignore peoples needs)

3rd party - they are actually beginners. i know, i was there :D. there are 1k ways to minimize the need of intervention.

inaccessible - search engines - screen readers of the disabled ...
every single flash site should have a textual/plain html backbone. this is actually very simple to do, but most developers are just plain ignorant on the fact that they must spend double time to make that damn site to score on all levels.

finally - most people do not realize that it's a full blown platform not tween animator, not vector graphics, not video player, not add content. it takes 5 hours to learn some basic stuff in flash and you can do a whole site with it (big BS but flash site, nonetheless). it takes 3 years or more to master it (somewhat) with a constant feed of experience and challenges.

it is about to become the most widespread platform out there but the developers still continue to suck for a few more years. what the hell i did search engines in flash (kinda like GoogleInstant only much faster with less data - 3-4k after 7 criteria), sandbox applications with not even a hint of an error. managed and displayed 3000 400x400 icons dynamically prioritized and worked impressively fine on an 1.6 P4.

but those are based on insomnia level mind stuffing for a year.

the big problem is i cannot give any guidelines for hiring a flash freelancer.  webdesign studios, with a big flash site portfolio are, after my opinion, the best choice. if you are planing to go flash be ready to pay some crazy amounts for a high quality work, on the long term it worth it.

crashes? screw firefox. it has become a lesser shadow of it's formal self. hail chrome!

almost 6 years ago

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James Paterson

And bring in the flash developers.... 

But seriously, you thought that this would not attract troller flash developers. Or maybe you did know - Confusing...

almost 6 years ago

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Website Designer Nyc

Hi Graham,

Thanks for this valuable update. Most of the people using flash for website design and they don't know it's negative points....

almost 5 years ago

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web design firm

Cab't wait the a new version of css will do the work as effective as flash

over 4 years ago

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Drew Gerhard

Yah, flash is dying. With browser support for CSS3 and HTML5 increasing, the graphical benefits of flash are seeming much less fantastic. Page transitions are about the only thing left for me to learn to implement to almost completely eclipse flash advantages. Flash is not the five star of websites, a good designer will use html5, javascript, flash, xml, and a server side language to build their sites. Only use flash in small doses to minimize load times and search engine drawbacks. No smartphones currently support flash. Probably the biggest drawback of flash which was not mentioned is substantially increased development time, which also means more cost.

almost 4 years ago

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