Home > Archive > Flash Web Design: Pros and Cons
February 14, 2004
Web Design: Pros and Cons
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Flash is a powerful web technology that achieves a high level of visual impact
from the graphical point of view. Unfortunately, it is widely misused in web design. There
are still many problems with Flash, especially related to usability and search engine
behaviour; we need to thoroughly understand what those problems are before we decide to
use Flash for our site.
As with any business decision, it all boils down to understanding what our
target audience wants.
If you want to make a big impression from a graphical point of view, Flash is
definitely a good approach. However, concrete evidence still points to the fact that most
web users utilize the web to find information, and what they regard most important is:
a) quality of content
b) ease of navigation, and
Users also consider the web a highly interactive medium: they are unlikely to watch a
computer screen for long periods of time without giving some sort of input.
Flash technology presents several problems that go against the way most people use the
web. For example:
- Bandwidth and Load Time Constrains: Sites designed with Flash take a
long time to download and consume vast amounts of bandwidth. Not all users have a
broadband connection. Flash forces users with dial-up connections to spend valuable time
watching the load bar, instead of getting to the information they want, fast.
- Usability Constrains: When you navigate a Flash site designed with a
older version, the back button does not work: instead of taking you to the previous
screen, it will get you out of the Flash site. Also, the standard colors for visited and
unvisited links will not work, and users have no control over the text size they want to
- Furthermore, many times Flash sites go against the interactive nature of the web.
Since Flash technology favors a "presentation style" approach that resembles
television, users are many times reduced to mere observers that get bored after a while,
no matter how good the graphics look.
- Search Engine Constrains: Although large search engines like Google now
have some Flash indexing capabilities, these are still very limited. You will definetely
have a hard time achieving high rankings with a
Flash site. One option around this problem is to design a second, search-engine-friendly
HTML version of your site. This, though, usually represents an unnecessary expense in both
time and money, since in most cases the HTML version alone will get the job done.
Although few, there are some instances when Flash technology can actually be helpful:
a) When you need to show a presentation, for example a demo of your
b) To develop interactive games, like those found on sites for kids
like Sesame Street, Nickelodeum, or Yahoo! Games.
c) When you want to dress up a minimalist site. In this case, a small Flash animation
or banner embedded in an HTML document will not consume excessive bandwidth, will load
fast, and will enhance the appearance of a bare-bones site.
Although Macromedia (the company that developed Flash) is actively working to improve
Flash's usability problems (they even formed a partnership with usability guru Jakob
Nielsen in 2002), issues like slow downloads and search engine un-friendliness still
remain a problem. Until these issues are addressed and solved, you will be better-off by
only using Flash in those rare instances when it actually enhances the value of your
You can freely reprint this article provided that you include the following resource
Mario Sanchez is a Miami based freelance writer who focuses on Internet marketing and web
design topics. He publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net ), a growing
collection of web design and Internet marketing articles, tips and resources. You
can freely reprint his weekly articles in your website, ezine, or ebook.
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