Why not flash?

Why not flash?

Flash has became very popular in web design and flash websites do look very sleek, but they hide a number of huge issues that could easily prevent your website from being successful. In this post, I will show you why I do not like to use flash for websites that I create.

Search Engines can not see flash content

The main issue with flash is that search engines do not use flash and as such, they can not view any of the content within flash websites. To the search engines, it seems as if the website simply contains very little (if any) content. Flash is not even included with web browsers or operating systems such as windows.

I have prepared a quick example below:

The image below is a flash website as viewed using a browser which has flash installed. Looks good doesn’t it?

The image below is the same flash website as viewed by a Search Engine. No, this is not a blank image, it is a screenshot of exactly what the search engine sees when it looks at the flash website. As you can see, the search engine can not see any content at all, not even a single word!

Now, here is an example of how one of our websites (PhilippineNewsFeed.com) looks when viewed by a search engine. PhilippineNewsFeed.com is a basic styled website that does not use flash. As you can see, the search engine can view all content, links and other information. This allows the search engine to accurately index the website and display it within relevant search results. Within days of PhilippineNewsFeed.com being launched, it was being displayed within the top 10 results of relevant search queries and was being viewed by over 150 unique users per day, all of whom came from search engines!

Flash is not standard

This creates who main issues, firstly you are forcing all visitors to install flash if they have not yet installed flash. This will push many users away from your site and they will simply go to another website. Also, many work places use small computers and do not install any extras such as flash as they are simply not needed for normal business operation. This means that if you are trying to attract businesses or have people trying to visit your site from their work computer, they will be unable to view your website and again they will simply go to another website. One of our other websites (DiscoverPh.com) has a majority of users visiting the website from work. Do you really want to force all of your prospective clients to install flash just so that they can see your website?

Bandwidth usage

Bandwidth is an issue from two angles. Firstly, if a website requires a lot of bandwith to show a single page, it will use the monthly bandwidth allowance of your hosting plan a lot quicker if you have a flash website than if you used other forms of websites. Secondly, it will also mean that visitors to your website will have to wait longer for the site to load than if you used other forms of websites.

Flash websites are usually a single file and when users visit the website, their browser needs to download the entire file before any content can be displayed. The flash website example used at the top of this post is fairly small with a size of just 754,070 bytes (736 kb), but flash sites can easily be more than 2,097,152 bytes (2048 kb). When you compare this to a website like PhilippineNewsFeed.com (which uses php and not flash), only the content that the user requests is downloaded, giving a much lower size of 6 kb to 36 kb depending on the content within the page. Websites that do not use flash can be cached so that they load quicker and are smaller in size, but flash websites can not be cached, or at least can not be cached as effectively as other types of websites.

Would you really force your visitors to download all of your content when they only need one page? With flash websites, visitors do not have an option, as soon as they visit a flash website, the flash beings to download immediately.

Easy to steal

To put it simply, show me a flash website and I will be able to download the entire website within seconds. If I was not a nice person, I could easily upload the flash website to any domain I owned and run the entire website myself, competing directly with the domain that I took the flash website from. It is so easy to steal a flash website as it is just a single file. However if I tried to do the same with a website such as PhilippineNewsFeed.com which uses php and not flash, it would take days, if not weeks, to download all the content and even then, it would not be sorted correctly and I would need to spend many hours moving the content around. It is simply not worth the effort to download content from a dynamic website, commonly called web 2.0.

Would you really want to spend so much money on a website that can be so easily stolen?

Easy to use

Flash is not easy to use if you are the owner of the website and do not know how to edit flash, and impossible if you do not have the master flash file. A flash website is created using a fla file. This is the master file that is used to edit the website. The fla file is then output to a swf file. The swf file is the one that is used to display your entire website. In effect, the swf file is your website. Web designers will rarely (if ever) give you access to the fla file. Even if you did have access to the fla file, you would need to learn how to use flash to create websites to be able to edit or alter any part of the site and flash is not an easy subject to learn, which is why flash web developers charge so much.

If you wanted to make a change to your website, add a page or any other information, you would need to ask your web designer to do it for you and they would naturally charge you for adding the content. In effect, the success of your website is limited as you need to pay every time you want to add any content at all. It is your website and we believe that you should be able to add posts, pages and any other content you like without having to pay someone to do it for you. We put you in full control of your website, allowing you to add content whenever you like, without having to pay anything at all!

Cost

Cost is a very large factor when it comes to success. If you wanted a website like PhilippineNewsFeed.com created as a flash website, it would be extremely expensive with an initial cost of at least ?150,000, plus the hourly cost of daily updates that would need to be done to add the new content. PhilippineNewsFeed.com has new content added every 3 hours! However, PhilippineNewsFeed.com uses php and is updated automatically without anyone spending any time at all on the website as all content is pulled from online newspapers. We can add content to PhilippineNewsFeed.com any time we like and it is published and sent to search engines as soon as the content is added. Yet PhilippineNewsFeed.com would only cost you just ?6,000 – ?8,000 depending on your requirements!

Flash Pros

  • Looks very nice and sleek

Flash Cons

  • Can not be viewed by search engines and as such will likely never attract users via search engines as it would not be displayed within relevant results.
  • Requires all visitors to have flash installed which will restrict users who are visiting using a device (such as phone or office computer) which does not have flash installed. Some users who are using an office computer may not be able to install flash and as such will never be able to view your flash website.
  • Higher bandwidth usage and longer loading times for users.
  • Flash is easy to steal.
  • Flash is not easy to use and requires a lot of training to be able to create flash websites or even edit an existing flash website.
  • You can not easily add content to a flash website.
  • It is very expensive to have a flash website created and maintained.

While I do not like flash websites at all, flash does provide sleek designs that can be used elsewhere within a website. For example, you can have a flash header with the rest of your website using php. The flash header will give your website a lovely sleek look while maintaining search engine readable information within the rest of your website.

That’s all for this post. I hope you found it informative and helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply below.

This post is part of a series called “Secrets of your success” written by David, watwebdev.com Managing Director

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