Advantages and Disadvantages of Building a Flash Website

flash website

A great number of clients often inquire about building a Flash website because of some dynamic example they’ve seen online. Mesmerized by the motion that Flash brings, very few understand the headaches that come with a flash website. It is crucial to understand both the advantages and disadvantages of a Flash website so you can make the best decision about which type of website is best for your business needs.

The Advantages of a Flash Website

Everybody loves motion. A Flash website adds interactivity and motion graphics that can make any website lively. The more lively your website is, the more likely your visitors will come back for further exploration. This can be accomplished by adding games, movies, or feedback forms.

Another advantage of a Flash website is cross browser compatibility. This means that no matter what browser you use, your Flash elements will be exactly the same except for the ones that specify a requirement for the latest Flash Player version. You don’t have to worry about HTML, CSS, or slicing because the website is created in Flash then dumped in a very simple HTML file.

Flash is like an open canvas where you can place your website elements wherever you wish. Each page of the website is an actual frame in the Flash animation timeline. Once you place the elements on the timeline the movie displays these elements as a motion graphic. Flash websites also have a robust color palette to choose from so you’re not limited to web safe colors or hex code.

Although designing a Flash website can be relatively easy, it allows a more advanced developer free reign in design and interactivity. The combination of Flash’s text and drawing tools combined with it’s native language called ActionScript, affords the developer the ability to build animation sequences, fun content rich websites and everything else imaginable. This ActionScript allows the developer to use PHP and MySql along with Flash animation and still retain the capabilities of a CSS website. In addition to MySql, Flash can use ColdFusion, .Net, ASPX, ASP, and PHP to connect to Microsoft SQL and Access databases.

The Disadvantages of a Flash Website

With the good also comes the bad so here are some disadvantages of a Flash website. Although the glitz and glamour of Flash websites can be alluring I do not advocate building Flash websites even though my clients request them. This doesn’t mean that we won’t build them for our clients, but we advocate splashes of Flash in the website instead of a website that’s totally built with Flash.

First of all Flash websites make search engine optimization (SEO), a virtual nightmare. With out SEO your site will struggle to outperform your competitors and rise in search engine rankings. This is where a CSS website will beat a Flash website hands down. While there are tricks to optimize a Flash website, it won’t perform nearly as well as a CSS website.

In the world of SEO, your site is crawled by search engine spiders which index your site’s content and structure to determine it’s relevancy, and search engine positioning. Because Flash is a movie file or a package, the spiders simply can’t see the text or content. Flash websites don’t have heading or H1 tags that the spiders read to input in their algorithm to calculate your sites value and position. Given two websites, one with H1 tags and the other without, the one with the H1 tags will receive higher rankings every time.

With the importance of SEO in the web today, that alone should be enough to convict Flash websites but here are some other key disadvantages of Flash websites.

Have you ever visited a website with Flash and was asked to update your Flash Player? This can be so annoying and some of your users will avoid this popup like the plague and just skip over your website completely.

Another disadvantage of Flash websites is accessibility. Over 50% of the web is accessed via smartphones and other devices that can’t access Flash. So that means iPhones and Blackberrys can’t access Flash but not many people use those, right?

The last disadvantage we will discuss is cost. If your website was built in Flash, this means that any changes or updates to information will require a Flash developer and this can get expensive. Simple Flash websites are easy to build but the more interactivity and function you add, the steeper the invoice. Since not everyone develops the same way or with the same software version, you may have to start all over should you have to find a new Flash developer.

So What Am I Saying

I hope this information doesn’t totally discourage you from exploring the world of Flash, but you should keep in mind it’s advantages and disadvantages. The most colorful and interactive website with all the motion in the world is useless if it can’t be found or access on all devices.

Instead of building totally Flash websites we encourage splashes of Flash here and there or the use of jQuery, javascript, and mootools combined with HTML5 to achieve the same results of a Flash website without the headaches and huge invoices.


Reico is the owner and team member of The Applied VIsual, website design and development company. He is also available on Twitter @AppliedVisual

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