Flash is (usually) Bad

flash-badFlash is a flexible program that allows people to do so much ‘more’ than in scripted sites. Although it has these capabilities, the drawbacks can be pretty damaging to the success of a site. In terms of usability, accessibility, adding APIs, and updating, Flash can be a nuisance to work around those difficulties.

But no, Flash isn’t always a bad thing. If used properly, it can do wonders of added interactivity to your site that your scripting languages can’t do. Let’s take a closer look at it.

  1. Splash Pages
    As one of the more agreed-upon reasons that flash is detrimental, splash pages kill so much potential for websites. They build shields around all the goodies that the search spiders are hungry for, and they’ll rarely come back because there’s no sitemap if the site is completely flash. There are two types of users coming to your site: people who are looking for specific information, and people who are browsing away. As lazy as it sounds, most people don’t feel like having to click a “skip intro” button.
  2. Flash Components
    Flash is for people that know how to use it. It originated to add components to websites that simple scripting can’t do, enhancing the user experience and the visual output. Having flash components but not using an entire site in flash, can increase accessibility, especially if it degrades if the person doesn’t have the “latest version of Flash”. There is a plugin that detects if flash player is detected with Javascript; however it is inline Javascript, not valid XHTML, and aren’t good if you want that content indexed effectively.
  3. API’s
    I’m no guru in actionscript, but API’s look ridiculously more difficult to add to flash than the ease of doing it with javascript/AJAX.
    Translation: Putting Twitter on your site will be intense! And we don’t want that do we? Fortunately, it is doable since Twitter developed an API for Flash.
  4. Ease of updating
    CMS platforms like WordPress still offer the easiest way to add content to your site, whereas Flash (correct me if I’m wrong) doesn’t offer the versatility of templates, pages, posts, etc…without spending a very long time on developing it.
  5. Accessibility
    Since many still use version 8, 7, 6 or even lower versions of flash player, not all the capabilities are available to those with a version under you. It’s like cross browser testing, you have to make it degrade properly, and you have to keep an eye on flash components displaying as you want them to in older browsers, making more trouble.

Conclusion: Flash is usually bad. But what is Flash good for?
Flash is nice for adding material that you ‘just can’t do’ with standard markup that will significantly add to the site. Art projects that are using flash as their art medium are also useful because it’s delivering a different message than web copy. James Paterson demonstrates a healthy use of flash in his project site, Presstube.com. Notice how many of the projects are flash based, but an embedded video with a marked up header. He only uses flash when needed on the site to show his animated work and interactive projects.

What’s your opinion on using flash in websites?

Related posts:

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Robin Bastien
Howdy! I'd the head of Ocular Harmony. I spend most of my time designing, reading beatnick literature, and pounding sound waves of experimental pulsation into my brain's frontal lobes. Contact me if you have any questions!


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One Comment

  1. stu says:


    August 4, 2009

    I think I have authority say this as I am a Professional Flash Developer.

    Flash is like any web technology in that it works well if used in the right place and the correct audience.

    For example, if your a designer who wants a portfolio which will be aimed at specific individuals (ie url passed onto others rather than realying on google) then a 100% Flash site might work in your favour. giving that wow factor.

    If you have a e-commerce site that relies on google to catch visitors then a flash heavy site is a waste.

    With the development of Ajax etc Flash is loosing it place on the web and for 95% of projects isn’t needed.

    However, there are still areas where Flash is the only sensible option. eg Flash video is difficult to fault and with the use of AS3 and Air there are things you can do with Flash that are just not possible with any other web technology (except maybe Java – to be fair).

    At the end of the day Flash isn’t bad its just used badly

    PS – if anyone out there is still buiding Slashes for web site they need to find a new job and stop living in the 90’s ;-)