Monday, June 01, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Flash-based Web Sites (The Good, Bad and the Ugly)

Flash-based sites have been a craze for several years, and as Adobe compiles more and more great features into the Flash framework, we can only predict more and more flash-based sites throughout the Internet. However, Flash based sites are considered by some usability experts to be bloated and unnecessary. Where exactly do we draw the line?

Here's a simple breakdown.

The good:


Flash's Actionscript opens up a vast field of possibilities for dynamic user interaction. Programmers and designers alike have used Flash to create interactive features ranging from very lively feedback forms to attractive Flash-based games. The dynamism of this whole new level of interactivity will often leave visitors coming back for more.

A standardized site

With Flash, you do not have to worry about cross-browser compatibility. No more woes over how certain css code displays differently in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. When you position your site elements in Flash, they will always appear as they are as long as the user has the latest Flash Player installed.

Better expression through animation

In Flash, one can make use of its animating features to convey a message in an efficient and effective way. Flash is a lightweight option for animation because it is vector based (allowing smaller file sizes) as opposed to real "movie files" that are raster based and hence much larger in size.

The bad and the ugly:

The Flash player

People have to download the Flash player prior to viewing Flash movies, so by using Flash your visitor base will decrease a small but significant degree because not everyone will be willing to download the Flash player just to view your site. You'll also have to put in additional work in redirecting the user to the Flash download page if he or she doesn't have the player installed.

Site optimization

If your content is presented in Flash, most search engines will not be able to index your Flash-based content. Therefore your site may not rank well in key search engines leading to less traffic directed to your site.

Loading time

Users have to wait longer than usual to load Flash content compared to regular text and images, and some visitors might just lose their patience and click the Back button. The longer your Flash takes to load, the more you risk losing visitors.


It is generally recommended to use Flash only when you absolutely need the interactivity and motion that comes with it. Otherwise, use a mixture of Flash and HTML or use pure HTML if your site's primary purpose is to present simple textual and graphical information. Two clicks and good luck!

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