Flash is a technology by Macromedia that creates animations, interactive websites and other fancy features that can be embedded into a web page.
The Flash file is called a movie file. Once the file has been downloaded it will “play”.
You probably have already encountered websites containing Flash movies. Some designers use Flash to create an introduction movie (also known as a splash page) or will create the whole website in Flash.
Pros and Cons of Using Flash on a Website
Using Flash on a website has it’s pros and cons.
The Cons of Using Flash on Websites
Visitors to the site will have to have special software installed on their machine to view Flash movies. People who are not comfortable with making changes to their computer will not install the Flash Player if requested to install it.
Visitors that use special software to read web pages will not be able to use your website.
Sites built totally in Flash are not search engine friendly. Some search engines cannot read any content in the site.
“As many of you already know, Flash is inherently a visual medium, and Googlebot doesn’t have eyes. Googlebot can typically read Flash files and extract the text and links in them, but the structure and context are missing. Moreover, textual contents are sometimes stored in Flash as graphics, and since Googlebot doesn’t currently have the algorithmic eyes needed to read these graphics, these important keywords can be missed entirely. All of this means that even if your Flash content is in our index, it might be missing some text, content, or links. Worse, while Googlebot can understand some Flash files, not all Internet spiders can.”
Source: Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Best uses of Flash
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Update June 30, 2008
“Google has been developing a new algorithm for indexing textual content in Flash files of all kinds, from Flash menus, buttons and banners, to self-contained Flash websites. Recently, we’ve improved the performance of this Flash indexing algorithm by integrating Adobe’s Flash Player technology….”
Also see, “What are the current technical limitations of Google’s ability to index Flash?” at Improved Flash indexing post at Google Webmaster Central Blog which answers some of the questions about this new indexing capability.
“…Content owners and developers do not have to do anything to the millions of deployed SWF files to make them more searchable. Existing SWF content is now searchable using Google search, and in the future Yahoo! Search, dramatically improving the relevance of RIAs and rich media experiences that run in Adobe Flash Player. As with HTML content, best practices will emerge over time for creating SWF content that is more optimized for search engine rankings….”
SWF searchability FAQ at Adobe.
“…Our major issue with the recent Flash announcement was with designers who now feel it is okay to tell users that this Flash update is the answer to their ranking problems. These Flash designers simply either do not get it or they are out to scam end users….”
“…Flash content is fundamentally different from HTML on webpage URLs and being able to parse links in the Flash code and text snippets does not make Flash search-engine friendly. I think it’s great that Google’s digging deeper into Flash, but I don’t believe web developers should be any less wary than they’ve been in the past about Flash-based websites or Flash-embedded content….”
Read the entire article quoted above for reasons why Flash still won’t be search engine friendly.
“…With this latest innovation in crawling Flash, Google can more easily access the text in Flash, but they still can’t process it quite as well as it can HTML text because they aren’t extracting any meta data about that text. As I mentioned earlier, search engines are now storing all kinds of meta data based on the structure of the text in HTML, like if it’s in a title tag, or an H1 and so on. So Flash-based text has that disadvantage….”
Keep in mind, this update is for Google and Yahoo only, don’t forget about the other search engines and directories who find your website which are not fed information by either of these.
Designers who build sites in Flash have a tendency to do really fancy sites. Hence the file is very large and takes a long time to download to the visitor’s computer before playing. This could be a problem if the website visitor is using a dialup connection. Even on ADSL some Flash based sites take a long time to load.
Building something in Flash will take time. If you are going to do this yourself there is quite a learning curve to be able to use the program properly and be able to insert the programming features of the program. Hiring a professional could be expensive.
There are some good times to use Flash if you keep in mind the visitor has to have special software to view Flash files.
The Pros of Using Flash on Websites
If you are sure that the website visitors will have the latest greatest machine, software and internet connection then downloading a Flash movie wouldn’t be a problem to that audience.
Flash is good for creating a presentation movie. If you have a promotional presentation you wish to show on the website then provide a link to it. The visitor then can make the choice to view it or not.
Instructional videos could be done in Flash.
Animated graphics can be done in Flash.
Flash files are vector graphics which means when resized they do not loose their quality or clarity.
Flash files are browser independent. (the user still needs a plugin to view files though)
In this article we have shown the pros and cons to having a Flash based website and Flash graphics.
Now you will have to determine whether your target audience will appreciate the use of Flash movies on your site or find it an hindrance or deterrent.
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