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To Flash Or Not To Flash - that is the question.

When a visitor lands on your website, are they able to view all the elements you so strategically placed on your homepage? Is the layout pleasing to the eye? Will all the elements load on your visitor’s screen? And if your visitors are seeing all your information, how much of that will show up in the be indexed by the search engines? These are important questions to ask when using different types of technologies, like Flash, on your website. So what exactly is Flash, and what are the benefits and downsides of using this software on your website?

Flash is a type of animation software from Adobe commonly used in web programming. It’s a lot like a video with fancy special effects. In fact, the main benefit of using flash on your website is visual appeal.

With flash you can create eye-catching web pages that have a “wow” effect, complete with moving pictures and changing words that can draw a visitor deeper into your website. A good looking website does matter, and Flash can help trigger an emotional response in your potential customer that can result in higher online bookings.
Adobe Flash Logo

However, there are a few potential pitfalls to using this software that may exclude certain visitors from viewing your website the way you had intended. To help you make an educated decision, here are a few downsides we think are important for you to know and understand before using Flash.

Presence in Search Engines

Flash is not crawled and indexed as easily by search engines. When a search engine crawls your website, it does so by looking at the text that appears on your site. With the stationary images on your website, a search engine is only able to see them by reading the alternative tags placed on each image. When a search engine gets to a Flash element, it can only crawl that element if your Flash is set up correctly. Otherwise the search engines will see a big empty spot where your Flash file is supposed to be. Therefore, if your website is entirely built in Flash, it is much harder to get your website indexed by search engines. Having a Flash navigation on your site can also be potentially harmful for your SEO.

If you rely heavily on search engine traffic for your website, understand that any Flash element you use could be excluded from the search engine index. However, if your website is already receiving plenty of visits and simply needs a bit of flair to catch your visitors’ interest, Flash may be just the thing you need.

In 2008, Google announced that they have improved their ability to index textual content in SWF (Flash) files of all kinds, but in my opinion if you are only using Flash, your rankings will not be as high as they could be. If you choose to use Flash on your site, make sure you have enough additional content that can be indexed by the search engines. If possible, try to have at least 150-200 words on all your pages and alternative tags on all of your photos. Just make sure you have enough content outside of flash and you will be fine.

Compatibility

A risk you take when using Flash is that users must have a plug-in with their internet browser in order to view the Flash element. If a visitor viewing your site doesn’t have this plug-in installed, they will not see your spectacular display, just a rather dull link to install Adobe Flash player. They may not have the patience to install the plug-in, and may choose to leave your website. It’s a bit ironic, but the same thing that draws some visitors deeper into your website may turn others away.

Among other things, the fancy animations of Flash files also take longer to load. Impatience abounds on the web, and slow loading may send your visitor to your competitor’s site if they have to wait too long.

Flash can also be difficult to update if changes need to be made.

Apple Products

Flash files will not be displayed on iPad and iPhones as well as certain mobile devices. To solve this problem, some website owners create a separate mobile website that incorporates technologies that are proven to work with handheld devices. This way a website owner can use Flash on their regular site and remain accessible to mobile devices via their mobile site.

The JavaScript Alternative

Newer technologies, such as JavaScript, allow websites to display moving graphics, such as a slideshow, without sacrificing search engine presence. This is because in a JavaScript slideshow, you are still able to put alternate tags on the images so the search engines can index those images. JavaScript also works on mobile and Apple devices, so although it’s not as showy as Flash, it is a better option in terms of

You Decide

Flash definitely has a place in the web industry, and we feel that if you are informed you can decide for yourself whether or not to use Flash. There are pros and cons when using Flash on your website. Do you give up some search engine presence for the “wow” factor, or do you maintain greater accessibility with alternatives like JavaScript? The solution is different for every business.
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