Working on a portfolio site for an interior designer, I checked out the client’s competitors – how they approach design, layout, fonts and search engine positioning. In their quest to present a sleek, elegant, and sophisticated image, many interior designers commissioned an all-Flash site, with utmost disregard for accessibility and search engine positioning. What a bad call by clueless website designers/developers!
“Despite the documented problems over the years, businesses and web development firms are continuing to use a flash base in site design, without regard of the challenges an all flash site poses for search engine rankings and SEO (not to mention usability),” agrees Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal.
“Sure, some hybrids of flash and text work well, with the mutual understanding that flash is embedded within a site… and not the site itself. But as a whole, this concept seems to be falling on deaf ears.”
Baker goes on to reference a recent post by Oleg Ishenko, outlining several of the disadvantages of designing purely with Flash:
- Flash Requires Bandwidth: “Despite DSL Internet access being available almost everywhere, there are still lots of people surfing the Internet via dialup or other limited bandwidth connections. Flash files, especially those using sound effects, embedded movies or bitmap images, can take a while to load.”
- 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, ‘The Back button is the second most important navigation element after hyperlinks’. People unable to use the 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 buttons.”
- 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. Or another example: the sound effects – they can be especially inappropriate and harmful when you are browsing the Net from a cubicle in a quiet office or from home in the late hours.”
- Problems with Third-party Flash Developers: “Unless you do Flash yourself, you might face some serious trouble with developers. Some of them code their project to prevent a client from editing them, thus making clients hire them over and over again (… for) even the smallest modifications. Aaron Wall describes in his SEOBook a case of a Flash developer who disabled the Back button and then asked $4000 from his client to re-enable it, although the problem was caused by his own incompetence.”
- Search Engines do not like Flash: “(…) Perhaps the most important (aspect is that) 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 particularly the case of websites fully implemented in Flash as a single file. Search engines just wouldn’t be able to direct visitors to the proper page within that file.”
- What is Flash Really Good For?: “Banners and ads – it provides far more useful features then the traditional gif animation. Online games – remember the ‘Yeti Sports’? Flash technology – the Flash videos – for video blogs. But as a website engine – Flash is evil!”