Yes and no.

Adobe Flash is a “multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages.” – Wikipedia.

It’s been very useful to developers for many years. At Wood Street, we’ve used it to develop all sorts of things… animations, video, eCommerce apps, presentations, Interactive CD Roms, etc.

Flash was an effective tool and we used it a great deal. But, it did come with its own set of issues…

  1. It requires an additional skill set and therefore is more expensive to develop properly
  2. It can be a barrier to effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  3. It is much more expensive to update and maintain
  4. And more recently, it is not supported on Apple products like the iPhone or iPad

This last point has been fodder for a very public battle between Adobe and Apple. Apple has flat out refused to support Adobe Flash and Adobe has been anything but quiet about their disappointment in this. Don’t cry for Adobe though. They will be just fine. If you’ve ever purchased their Creative Suite, you know that they make money. And pretty much every web design and graphic design professional has a version of it.

Flash has served its purpose but I am to the point where I rarely see the need for it because of  emerging technologies like html5 and JavaScript like HTML5 or JavaScript. Don’t get me wrong, I think Flash can be very powerful. But you really need to convince me that Flash is going to do what these other platforms simply cannot before I am on board with it.

One strategy I will very rarely get behind is building an entire web site or any of the navigational elements in Flash. This is bad form and just plain unnecessary. You can do so much now with CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript, that there simply isn’t a reason to use Flash in the construction of any of the user driven elements of your site other than longer animation sequences.

So the next time someone in your organization starts leaning toward developing any part of your website in Flash, ask them these questions…

  1. Is it necessary? What purpose does Flash serve the user? If none, don’t use it.
  2. How will the use of Flash impact accessibility? If you are concerned about users with disabilities, Flash could be a hindrance. Readers for the blind cannot read Flash files for example.
  3. Can you accomplish the project goals with another technology? Can you use CSS, HTML5, JavaScript or something else to achieve the desired outcome? Even if you can do 75% of what you want with something else, strongly consider it.
  4. Is SEO important? It used to be that Flash was not indexable by Search Engines. Nowadays you can develop Flash so that keywords are visible but it takes time and therefore will be more expensive. Of course, if the developer does not know how to do this or simply does not do it, then your Flash piece will be invisible to search engines.
  5. Are your users going to be viewing your site on an iPhone or iPad? If even a portion of them are, consider something else. You can do some neat things with animation and HTML5 and it will be supported by these devices.

Flash still has its place. It is currently the most widely used plugin for service video. YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu are good examples of this.

Remember to consider the user and your desired outcome before you use Flash. You can have the most amazingly animated site with all kinds of swooshes and sound effects and video, but if no one sees it, no one sees it.

Unless you have millions to spend on promotion, you need your site to attract visitors on its own. Flash will hinder this way more than it helps.

Am I missing something? Is Flash more useful than I give it credit? Let me know in the comments below…

Jon-Mikel Bailey – Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

2 Responses to “Is Flash a Four Letter Word?
  • Howdy… opinions are inarguable, but search engines have automatically spidered text & links within SWF for about a decade, and accessibility is also counter to weblog word-of-mouth:
    http://www.adobe.com/accessibility/products/flash/

    jd/adobe

    • Thanks John. I appreciate you adding some more info on Flash. I also read recently that Flash has updated its plugins for use on iOS devices. I was very pleased to read this!

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