Reasons Not to Use Flash

Has anyone ever tried to sell you a Flash website? Here at TechStylish, we avoid Flash like we avoid failure, and here is why:

1. Flash limits your mobile audience

Did you know that globally mobile devices make up about 10% of the world’s internet traffic as of this writing? For internet traffic in the U.S. and Canada, that number jumps to 20%! Most of that traffic comes from smart phones but tablets are on the rise. Those data reflect my own experience working on major websites — once we built a mobile app, we increased usage and about 30% of the website usage came from mobile devices. Mobile apps have a way of expanding your audience because they are no longer limited by the platform or even location. A more expensive device (the computer desktop or laptop) is no longer required; instead, a cheaper device (a smartphone with a data plan or wi-fi) can be use to access websites. Apps create a more customized experience and leverages the smartphone features available, but even if you do not create a mobile app for your website, would you want to shut your website to 20% your potential customers? Probably not.

2. Loading time is longer when you use Flash.

Flash is slower to load than regular websites. In regular websites built in HTML, you will have to wait for the image to load but you can usually see the text pretty quickly. If you have a website built in Flash, you have to wait for the whole website to load before you can see anything other than the loading status bar, just like the old days before streaming video. Now you don’t have to wait for the whole video file to download before viewing it thanks to streaming technology but Flash doesn’t stream, so you have to wait. As anyone who is experienced on the web, the longer the load time, the more likely you will lose someone’s attention. Plenty of people will go away before the website fully loads. So even after you shut out 20% of your potential customers, you will shut out some more due to the wait time.

3. Dependency on 3rd party plugins adds more risk.

Here’s one of my biggest annoyances on the web: finding the content you want to read only to be told that you have to download a plugin to read it. Yes, most of the time you probably already have the necessary plugins, but sometimes plugins crash too. Sometimes plugins need to be updated, too. You have to jump through additional hoops to get to the content, and before you know it you might have to restart your browser just to get to whatever you thought you wanted to read. This kind of hard to get might be okay for the serious researcher who remembers URLs and bookmarks pages consistently but for the casual everyday browser of internet content, this is yet another reason for them to leave your Flash website and go somewhere else.

4. Poor Bookmarking and Linking Abilities

Did you know that every page in a Flash website has the same URL? Say I found a page on your website about a particular product and I want to forward that to a friend who is looking for a particular product, but because your website is built in Flash when I email a page it will be your domain that gets sent to the friend’s email inbox. The recipient of the email will not see the particular page I want them to see, not unless I type in instructions on how to get to that page. No one will be able to link to your product page either. A big part of how search engines rank popularity of a website is by the links that go to the website, and you are losing major opportunities here to make yourself more popular and relevant not only to potential audience but also the search engines!

5. Broken text function

In a Flash website, you cannot select, copy & paste, or search text. You also cannot make the text font size bigger and easier to read. People who use screenreaders for the visually impaired (estimated to be 0.8 to 3.4 percent of internet traffic) will not be able to read your website either.

6. Poor usability

Did you realize that the back button doesn’t work in a Flash website? Suppose someone comes to your website, maybe by accident, or by clicking on a link in their perusal around on the web. They read your website, click on a few links, then want to go back to the previous page. They click on the back button on their browser expecting to go back to the previous page of your site, but the back button, because your website is built in Flash, will take them to the previous website they visited before coming to your website. You are quite literally shoving them out your website and making them leave while they browse. Not a great experience, right?

7. Poor design Standards

Design and usability go hand in hand. On the web, certain behaviors and standards exists to make people’s browsing experience easier. However, these rules are often ignored by Flash websites. Don’t make people relearn how to browse webpages and websites for you.

8. Bandwidth issues

Flash websites are bandwidth hogs and can bring old computers to a crawl, especially if they do not have broadband. Not everyone has broadband, even in the United States. Again, since they have to load the whole website before they can see anything, you are more likely to lose users who are not on high speed broadband network and fast computers.

Steve Jobs famously wrote a long article in April 2010 explaining his thoughts on Flash. It is a very good read.

Think about the reasons why you are building a website… Is it so people can know more about you, your company, your products and services? Do you want to make it easier for them to learn more about you or make it harder? If your answer is the former, avoid Flash. If it is the latter, then maybe you should rethink whether you really want to have a website at all.

 

Further Reading:

Flash: 99% Bad (useit.com)
Don’t Build Your Website in Flash (bruceclay.com)
All-Flash: A Fast Track to Failure (sitepoint.com)

 

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