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The First Rule of Website Design: Avoid Flash!

A quick internet search will show you that Flash is very popular for website design. In some ways, Flash is like a toy: It has a lot of aesthetic appeal, it attracts the eye, and is packed full of fancy graphics, animations, and sounds. The Flash technique is used by big companies and small independent designers alike.

But a little experience will show that the disadvantages of Flash are far greater than the perks of its visual appeal in many cases.

For one thing, people often use the slick exterior offered by Flash to hide a website that is of very poor quality or content. This is not necessary and is not likely to fool any of your potential viewers. Think about Craigslist; this site has no fancy interface. It is a bare, stark listing, yet it has proved useful and profitable to millions of people all over the planet. Fancy animations are just not needed in most cases.

A big downside to Flash is that a fast connection and good bandwidth are needed to view the graphics and animations. The guy or girl doing the Flash design likely has access to a fast DSL connection, but this is sadly not the case for all the site visitors. Viewers using a slow connection will not want to wait for Flash animations to load. Instead, they’ll visit another site or skip all the advertising and promotional material that they can.

Considering this, it is really not surprising that some Flash designers have gone as far as to disable the use of the web browser’s “back” button. That way, visitors to a site will HAVE to sit through the pointless and boring Flash introduction; they have no escape. But this does not give you a captive audience for very long. They may close the browser entirely and are unlikely to ever visit your site again.

Flash is often not a user-friendly product.

It is not made to be easy to use by the designer or to be useful and convenient for the viewer. Website visitors will not like being forced to sit through what are essentially advertisements just to check the hours of a store they wished to visit on the way home from work. Those fancy sounds that are associated with many Flash animations can be especially annoying and distracting and there are other ways of doing this.

Flash developers know they have a niche market because of their knowledge of this cryptic code. Sometimes they prefer to have exclusive access to their code. They do this by providing code that cannot be understood by another programmer, thus ensuring themselves job security. Once they have delivered a product to you, you will have little choice but to hire them again for any changes or improvements you wish to make, even if the changes are small or were initially there because of negligence. This is another reason to avoid from Flash from the very beginning; once you have sold your soul it will be difficult to part your website from the Flash grip.

As a website owner, you know that search engines need to be your friends. But Flash is not very friendly to search engines much of the time. The content of Flash movies often cannot be searched. So if all the content of your website is contained in a few Flash animations and movies, your website could be essentially invisible to a search engine.

Flash does have a few reasons to exist.

It is an impressive way to create and store animations, and is a big step forward for online games and blogs. However, please do not make Flash the driving force behind your website! The slick exterior is just not worth the headaches and mishaps you will find yourself with if you choose to work with Flash and require search engine optimization to be at its best.