Why that ‘All Flash’ website could be holding you back online
Flash is a type of website animation that has been in use online for many years. I remember the very early days when Future Splash arrived on the scene in the 90’s and we all went ‘wow’. Future Splash was bought by Macromedia and later by Adobe – and it is now Adobe Flash.
Most websites are designed using HTML files, with each page being a separate HTML file with HTML code that imports text styles and images which are then displayed in your web browser. With an ‘All Flash’ website, there is just one HTML file which has a Flash file embedded into it. The Flash file contains all of the text and images for the website, as well as the navigation.
Flash can also just be used for small parts of an HTML website to deliver content like image galleries or slideshows. This way of using Flash is usually fine (though the flash may not show up in some mobile devices and tablets).
If you are after a very stylised look for your website and don’t care about how your website looks like in mobile devices like Ipads and Iphones, then an all-Flash website might be the way for you to go. Especially if your website needs something like animation and full screen images (such as a photographer’s portfolio website might need).
However, if being found online via search engines and being viewed online in mobile phones and tablets is important to you, and then you should seriously reconsider that All Flash website.
You may even be completely unaware that your existing website is designed using Flash. To find out, right click on your website and if a little box pops up and says something like ‘About Adobe Flash Player’, then you have an all Flash website.
There are quite a number of ‘build it yourself’ website services that create the websites all in Flash, and I suspect many of the people signing up for these free and sometimes premium website services are either not aware that the site will be built in Flash (what’s that they wonder?) or if they are aware, they have no idea that the website will potentially hold them back online.
Ok, so here are the reasons why a Flash website can be a disadvantage online.
It makes it a lot harder for your website to be found online
Flash websites are harder to optimise for the search engines as there is only one HTML file to optimise and that file only contains a Flash file (the animation) and the Flash file contains all of the text, images, navigation and forms on your website. Google can read and catalogue content in Flash websites – but not all other search engines can. Google’s official advice about Flash is as follows:
“… we recommend that you use rich-media technologies like Flash primarily for decorative purposes, and instead use HTML for content and navigation. This makes your site more crawler-friendly, and also makes it accessible to a larger audience including, for example, readers with visual impairments that require the use of screen readers, users of old or non-standard browsers, and users with limited or low-bandwidth connections such as a cellphone or mobile device. See http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=72746
What Google means by ‘decorative purpose’ is that you can use Flash for image galleries or slideshows without too many issues. Just don’t build the entire website using Flash. As for taking website advice from Google… well, I’ve discovered over the years that if you want a really successful website it really pays to listen to the advice the Google engineers give out for free.
Flash is a bit iffy on some mobile devices…and can’t be seen on others at all.
I use a smart phone called a Samsung Galaxy which runs the Android operating system (which was developed by Google). When I visit a Flash website I get a white screen and a tiny green arrow that indicates that something can be clicked on. I’m a web designer and I know that if I click on that arrow then a flash movie is going to be displayed – but does everyone else? No, they probably do not. To them the website looks blank, they will leave and that website owner has just missed a huge opportunity.
Apple does not support Flash on mobile phones or touch devices like the ipad, as they don not think Flash is the right technology for mobile devices (they think HTML5 is the way to go). This is what Steve Jobs thought about Flash on mobile devices (not very much). So your entirely Flash website could be rendered completely useless on an Ipad or Iphone.
So, Flash is not great on an Android phone and totally absent from any Apple product. And the future of the web is going to be mobile; we are going to be accessing websites more and more via our phones and Ipads. Accessing websites via tablets or mobile phones is going to be huge and it is going to be a massive competitive advantage if your business has a website that works well on a smart phone and a tablet like an Ipad or a Galaxy Tab.
What you want is a well designed search engine optimised HTML based website that has multiple HTML files that can optimised for different keyword searches, and an HTML based navigation system that can be read by the search engines so they can find all of the pages on your website. You also want this HTML website to look good on a mobile phone. This can be achieved by detecting the screen resolution of the phone or IPAD and giving the visitor a different looking website based on the device they are using to view your website. This can be done with a few lines of code.
At Web Matters we build all of our websites in HTML using WordPress. To learn more about these issues contact us for a free consultation.