5 Reasons Not To Develop An All Flash Website

In Flash, Web Development on October 29, 2010 at 4:27 am

By: Andrew Ruditser

Despite the many documented problems over the years, businesses and web development firms are continuing to use an all flash base in web site design, without regard of the challenges an all flash site poses for search engine rankings and SEO (not to mention usability). I see this all the time and often have to consult with new clients on how to migrate their all-flash-website to HTML with some high-impact flash elements.

When done correctly, hybrids of flash and text work the best, with the mutual understanding that flash is embedded within a site and not the site itself. Building an all flash-powered website, storing your content in flash movies and implementing site navigation in flash is wrong. Then why are there so many Flash sites? They look pretty with all those neat vector graphics, gradients, animations and cool sound effects. Flash is the favorite toy of big designer studios and numerous amateur graphic artists alike. Flash is visually attractive, and in general attractive websites are more successful than the ugly ones (notable exceptions: and But this is not the case of Flash websites. All the benefits of the nice outlook are overridden by the disadvantages in terms of SEO and usability.

5 Reasons Not To Develop An All Flash Website

1) Flash Requires a lot of Bandwidth and Updated Hardware

Despite the availability of high speed Internet access almost everywhere, there are still lots of people surfing the Internet over dialup or other limited bandwidth connection. Flash files, especially those using sound effects, embedded movies or bitmap images, can take a while to load and discourage many users.

2) Disabled Back Button

Some Flash designers use meta refreshes or other tricks to disable browser’s Back button. As the famous usability expert Jacob Nielsen says, ‘Back button is the second most important navigation element after hyperlinks’. People not able to use Back button will click the third most important navigation element – that X (close) 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.

3) Maintenance Nightmare and Problems with Third Party Developers

One characteristic better performing websites share in common is fresh content – they are continually updated to reflect the latest company news and industry trends. Pure Flash and Flash navigation sites constantly need to use a Flash designer every time new content needs to be integrated into the existing site. If this skill-set doesn’t exit in-house, site maintenance becomes needlessly complicated and extremely expensive.

4) Does not Work on Mobile Devices

More than 60 percent of the U.S. population own an Internet-enabled mobile device, according to a recent report conducted by market research firm Media-Screen. With the increasing popularity of the iPhone, Blackberry and Google’s Android people are using these devices heavily to surf the Web.

Mobile devices are not capable of displaying Flash based content so organizations need to think deeply about how they build their web sites

5) Search Engines do not Like Flash

Perhaps the most important reason:Flash is not SEO friendly… Search engines are not able to crawl and index the content of Flash movies. Search engines just wouldn’t be able to direct visitors to the proper page within that file. Most Internet users will begin their session with a search engine. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are the gatekeepers to the Internet, it is imperative that companies maximize their natural visibility in search engines.

Search engines work by scanning information on the web, processing it, and retrieving the best match for each user query. Search engines are fine-tuned to process text, semantically wrapped in tags. The markup in hypertext markup language is our specification of a document title, headings, paragraphs and links – structural meaning which helps search engines place appropriate importance on each text element.

Information hidden in graphics formats, such as Flash, is difficult, if not impossible, to find and process. While search engines such as Google try their best to extract links and textual content buried in Flash objects, the process is far from perfect. Sites constructed completely in Flash often offer very little textual information – consequently what information a search engine does find ranks poorly. Even sites partially constructed using Flash often “hide” their internal site links using Flash based site navigation.

Flash is used best when embedded strategically in websites built with HTML and CSS. Many web design companies can help convert an all flash based website to an HTML site.

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