Flash… it’s not all that bad

Everyone hates Flash, right? It takes too long to load, it makes the site difficult to navigate, it can’t be indexed by search engines, and it causes usability issues. And it’s annoying. Web developers should avoid using Flash at all costs.

Well, hang on. I’m the first person to scramble for the back button when I arrive at a site with a ‘loading’ animation: I will nearly always leave a Flash-based site on principle, before it has a chance to really annoy me. But what we’ve got to be careful of here is that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because there are some problems with building sites exclusively in Flash, we shouldn’t let that blind us to the fact that used properly, flash is a great tool.

The backlash against predominantly flash driven sites is so great that it’s reached the marketing departments of a lot of companies and it even penetrates through to design briefs when it’s time for a corporate website redesign. “No Flash” the cry goes up.

But there’s a difference between a Flash site, and a site which makes (good) use of Flash. If you use it right, Flash can really add value to a website. Used intelligently, sparingly and sympathetically, it’s a great multimedia tool. For animations, usage scenarios and presentations which work in support of the website content rather than replacing it, it’s actually difficult to find fault with it. Flash opens up a whole realm of illustrative possibilities not available in static art because it is dynamic and interactive.

And not only that, but these days it can be read by search engines. Around the middle of 2008 Google launched a change to its algorithm, supported by Flash reader technology supplied by Adobe, which means that Google can now crawl and index Flash files – so it’s no longer wasted space in terms of SEO.

We frequently use Flash in the sites we build for our clients. It allows us to convey information that text and images would be unable to, and because it is interactive, it forms part of the user’s journey through the site. In some cases it is providing additional information, in other cases, a call to action – more often it does both.

The web is becoming more of a multimedia environment every day. Let’s not abandon a great multimedia tool because of the backlash.

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