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Flash: The Pros, The Cons, and The Solutions.
sidyadav




msg:1564156
 2:55 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

The Pros :)
  • It can look pretty to a human eye.
  • It can make presenting data much more effective.
  • It has the ability to include videos and moving images.
  • It can display text which looks much more effective than the ordinary HTML text rendered by browsers.
  • It can connect to databases, servers, and semantical formats.
  • It can perform actions and scripts.
  • It can be dynamically updated [google.com].
  • It can sometimes be much easier to navigate with (for a human).
  • It can compress MPEG's and AVI's if used as an alternative format.
  • It can be used to integrate sound to web advertisements; as opposed to GIFs.
  • It can be used to make games and/or other web entertainment resources.

    The Cons :(

  • It cannot be readable by search engines.
  • It can't be navigatable by search engines.
  • It can be unusable by some users, either because:
    1. The user does not prefer Flash
    2. The user does not know about Flash (and doesn't want to download it)
    3. The user is on a platform which does not support Flash (rare, but possible.)
  • It can be slow at loading on telephone-line connections.

    The Solutions ;)
    Cloaking
    As quoted from bakedjake [webmasterworld.com] on this thread [webmasterworld.com]:
    You should know, if you are new to the SEO space, that cloaking is frowned upon by the search engines. They say "don't do it".

    That said, it works well if you're intelligent about how to do it.

    Cloaking is a technique which is used commonly to make search engines read 'different' content than a normal user. It is strictly prohibited by many search engines as some use it as a way to fool them, but if you are brave enough to do it, then do it.

    Serving Alternative Content
    As quoted from stever [webmasterworld.com] on this thread [webmasterworld.com]:
    1. Serve index.htm as start page with full html
    2. Detect if Flash player installed
    3. If Flash player installed, redirect to Flash intro

    On a related note to stever's technique, it might be possible to have two versions of a website: HTML and Flash. By having two versions, the following technique (modified from that of stever's) can be used:
    1. Serve index.htm as start page with full html.
    2. Detect if Flash player installed.
    3. If Flash player installed, redirect to Flash version.
    4. If not, redirect to HTML version.

    Using Alternative Formats
    Flash is nice, it can really do things other formats can't, but my suggestion would be to avoid it whenever possible.

    Some alternatives you can use:

  • Image
    Alternatives: GIF/JPEG/PNG
    Reason: Speed
  • Plain Text (only)
    Alternatives: HTML
    Reason: Search Engine Optimization; Usability
  • Web Animation (without sound)
    Alternatives: GIF
    Reason: Speed; Size
  • Website Navigation Bar
    Alternatives: HTML; Images (with href links)
    Reason: Search Engine Navigation; Speed
    NOTE: If you are really required to use Flash for this, put the links to your secondary web pages from the bottom of the web page so it is navigatable by search engines.


    Resources:
    [webmasterworld.com...]
    [webmasterworld.com...]

    Many other old threads, most are linked from:
    [webmasterworld.com...]

    Sid

    [edit]fixed a little grammar[/edit]

    [edited by: sidyadav at 3:40 pm (utc) on July 17, 2004]

  •  

    grelmar




    msg:1564157
     3:37 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

    You missed what is, IMHO, one of the biggest potential advatages to Flash:

    Screen Size Scaling.

    If you don't contain the flash object within a box, it automatically scales to fit the browser window.

    Think about it. A page that automatically scales to fill the browser window means that whether the user is viewing using a 640x480 screen or a 1280x1024, the page will automatically fill the same amount of real-estate on a user's screen.

    This is a powerful design tool. No more scroll bars on the screen. Your text stays the same size no matter the screen resolution. Same for GFX.

    Every user sees the same page.

    So long as they have flash. If they don't, then they get bupkuss.

    pmkpmk




    msg:1564158
     3:45 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I would never use a Flash animation on level 1 or level 2 pages. People are sensitive for loading speeds and security risks nowadays and I notice they are reluctant to plugins.

    Flash is a great tool to make complex things - for example how a machine works - clear.

    But imho it's NOT a tool to bring a whole site content across.

    If you can't explain something WITHOUT Flash, then place a pure HTML page in front of the Flash page explaining WHY the following page is Flash and WHY it has to be Flash and nothing else.

    amznVibe




    msg:1564159
     5:42 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

    You missed under "Cons":

    -> a large and growing user base has turned off active-x because of all the trojans/viruses that use it so Flash will not run on IE

    -> a growing user base is purposely blocking Flash entirely because of its incredibly annoying use for high-motion (therefore distracting) ads - many personal firewalls include blocking Flash, as well as free optional add-ons like [noflash.bbshare.com...] for IE and [flashblock.mozdev.org...] for Mozilla products

    Animated gifs at least have the benefits of working in all environments and browsers (even email to an extent) and even if they are prevented from animating (with other tools available for IE or Mozilla) the first or last frame will be shown.

    Never thought I would see the day Brett wants a Flash section. Really surprised!

    tenerifejim




    msg:1564160
     10:22 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

    All very negative so far.

    Pro: When I first show new sites made in flash to my bosses they think I am a God. Same goes for high end corporate customers.

    Con: Six months later I have no natural SE traffic.

    I think flash is great, but none of my real "money" generation sites us them. It's like any tool, use it only where neccessary. You don't use a hammer to drill holes in a wall. Don't use a massive flash animation for the home page of a directory site.

    But don't knock it because it can't do this job.

    Chris_D




    msg:1564161
     11:51 pm on Jul 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Search engines don't do movie reviews.

    helleborine




    msg:1564162
     12:40 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Personally, I wait for the day that Flash animation goes the way of the 8-track.

    I wastes my time. When I click on a site from a SERP, and there's Flash going on, I hit the "back" button pronto. If I'm looking for widgets, I don't want to spend even 5 seconds watching widgets dance on my screen before I can access the catalogue.

    As someone else wrote, I do most of my browsing with Flash off. If I a site doesn't load on account of requiring Flash, it's the back button, and on to the next site.

    sidyadav




    msg:1564163
     1:40 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    > a large and growing user base has turned off active-x
    > a growing user base is purposely blocking Flash entirely

    I think I covered all that in:
    1. The user does not prefer Flash
    2. The user does not know about Flash (and doesn't want to download it)
    3. The user is on a platform which does not support Flash (rare, but possible.)

    Just didn't go into more specific details to keep with the pattern...

    > Search engines don't do movie reviews.

    ha! definitely agree with that. For those who want search engine rankings on a flash site: risk it, use cloaking.

    And it's funny because most of us (excluding me ;)) like browsing with flash turned off. It's explainable because we are webmasters and we are updated with the latest IE vulnerabilities, holes etc. and we also know (as amznVibe said) that many Trojan's and Viruses use ActiveX which is indeed used by Flash.

    But always remember -- your customers are mostly (generalizing) dumb/normal/non-webmasters. They have no idea/time to read on the latest IE vulnerability issues, nor do they have time to fix Trojans.

    Which is where I think flash comes in. What a user wants is to know his or her product before buying it, and that is achievable by Flash -- for sure. By giving your users that dancing widgets, some may get impressed (normal), some may not (us), so there is that risk factor in there too.

    But the thing to know is if you're planning to or already using flash, you've sure lost some potential webmaster traffic.

    Sid

    iamlost




    msg:1564164
     1:59 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I am not a Flash expert - when required have always subbed it out.

    One concern I have (indeed with all with all proprietary feature add-on programs) is accessability. I know that in the past screen readers (for example) had problems.

    If someone who is an expert could summarise the current status of Flash and accessability issues I would appreciate it.

    Harry




    msg:1564165
     2:59 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Flash is nothing but a tool. It is designers that should shoulder the blame. Good work and good Flash is constantly being integrated within sites without interrupting what people are doing. Don't blame the technology. Blame its users.

    feeder




    msg:1564166
     4:51 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Newspapers, magazines, books, brochures, reports, discussions and spreadsheets have never relied on animation to make their point.

    The biggest con of flash is that it is an invention waiting for necessity to mother it.

    Powdork




    msg:1564167
     8:33 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    flash rules!

    I should point where you said
    It cannot be readable by search engines.
    you should perhaps have said
    It currently is not entirely readable by search engines in it's native form

    In many cases I would rather have a great site and pay for the traffic than an okay site with lots of free traffic. I have directories and restaurants and guides and etceteras that rely on engines and do well using html (or the like) with flash logos etcetera. I also have my web design site that uses flash exclusively because I know SE's are not how people find web designers. I also have clients that are not willing to pay for what it takes for proper legitimate SEO, so why not make the site the best it can possibly be for the users and then pay for the traffic. It's just a different model.
    6X8=48
    3X16=48
    4X12=48
    They're just different models, different ways of getting to the same end.

    tenerifejim




    msg:1564168
     11:22 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Newspapers, magazines, books, brochures, reports, discussions and spreadsheets have never relied on animation to make their point.

    Please explain the relevance of identitfying media which is not capable of offering animation. Particularly as you failed to mention TV, Cinema, DVD, Powerpoint presentations and computer games.

    The biggest con of flash is that it is an invention waiting for necessity to mother it.

    I used flash as a distributed application at British Airways because it runs faster and is easier to program graphically than Java Applets.

    I use it for corporate intranet sites to provide graphical demonstrations on machines that are too small or don't have licenses for Powerpoint.

    I work in Sales, a wow factor is a wow factor. Flash is flashy.

    Look,

    Flash is an animation tool, if you don't like animations don't watch Shrek 2.

    Here are many other cons with Flash:

    It doesn't make my coffee
    It can't drive me to the aiport
    It is rubbish at swimming
    It isn't very good at fitting in at cocktail parties

    killroy




    msg:1564169
     11:40 am on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    One comment:

    Automatic scaling of flash sucks, because it means about 99.999% of the time that the flash animation will be to small te be seen. If text renders in a way that there are not enough pixels to render a single character well, it is TOO SMALL. Most flash designers try to force a fixed size window and certain resolution exactly because they are unable to appreciate viewer control. Who says I run all my browser windows full screen all the time? I happen to have to do some work as well!

    One obeservation:

    All flash designers and flash advocates I know do NOT make their living directly off the sites they produce. They make their living off selling those sites to others (who want to make their living of them), such as webdesigners. In fact, they ONLY people I've ever met who strongly advocate flash, have NO interest in th true effectiveness of the site. They have a great interest in the flashiness of the site to impress their clients, but usually once in place the site misserably fails to deliver.

    Except for very special case scenarious of specific, complex oinline applications, I cannot envision a single scenario, where a flash site is more effective then a well made html site in fullfilling the sites purpose, UNLESS the sites purpose is to flash/dazzle the viewer and nothing else... (i.e. a webmasters portfolio, a webmasters sales pitch, ...)

    SN

    tedster




    msg:1564170
     12:01 pm on Jul 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    PRO

    1. You can use Flash to create exceptional instructional modules - demonstrating the use of software with an animation - or many other products as well.

    2. Some web users are not as interested in interactivity as others - they would prefer a more passive "presentation" be pushed at them, like an infomercial/advertorial. As long as these are opt-in (so the more interactive types aren't forced into dealing with it) this ca be a potent form of marketing.

    3. Embedding audio/video into Flash can avoid concern about which player gets used, or even whether the end user HAS a player for the format you've chosen.

    CONS
    The big deal for me is that many uses of Flash avoid "the metaphor of the web" (to borrow a phrase from Jakob Nielsen.)

    1. Bookmarkability (URLs that go directly to specific content.)

    2. That overly slick, designer show-off approach mentioned earlier. The web works best, IMO, when there are clearly people involved with each other.

    I should remark that the "overly slick" problem infects straight HTML websites as well. They can be so slick that your eye slides right off the page and you miss the communication - or perhaps the company was so focused on slick that they forgaot to HAVE a communication.

    feeder




    msg:1564171
     1:58 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Please explain the relevance of identitfying media which is not capable of offering animation.

    Spinning, blinking things make reading difficult. If I want to watch a movie, I'll go to the movies. If I want to read a book, I don't go to the movies. The minute the internet becomes mostly about watching cartoons, and a lot less like reading a book, I'll eat my words.

    I'm being a bit facetious, but IMHO Flash is very seldom necessary on the web. It is almost always used for spurious reasons.

    There are exceptions. Not many. Some.

    Powdork




    msg:1564172
     4:06 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    but IMHO Flash is very seldom necessary on the web.
    IMO the web is very seldom necessary in life, but it is very useful. Many people use the web for things they consider important. Just as many use it for entertainment. Many use it to display art. Many use it as art. Many use flash poorly and many put it to great use, nary a spinning blinking thing in site. There's plenty of room for all of us.
    sidyadav




    msg:1564173
     4:52 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Just thought of something, even if Google starts indexing flash
    *, we won't be able to shove <h1>, <h2> tags in em will we? ;)

    * Google actually indexes Flash text at the moment, but it's not fully accurate and only works for some files.

    Sid

    feeder




    msg:1564174
     5:29 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    There's plenty of room for all of us.

    Sure. In fact, I would encourage everyone else to use as much Flash as possible.

    Makes it a lot easier for me to make money...

    digitalv




    msg:1564175
     5:33 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I really hate flash. I don't mean to be all negative and stuff, but this topic has come up so many times and well, flash just really sucks.

    Why? Because I read faster than you. I can locate information on a page faster than you. I am to Oracle as you are to MS Access.

    When you use Flash on your site, I have to read at your pace instead of mine. I can't bookmark the "portion" of a flash document that I want to return to later. And sometimes you REALLY waste my time by making me watch stupid intros, movies, etc. I don't have time for that - But I do have time to hit my back button and find another site to get what I want. I have deliberately purchased the same product from a more expensive source because the less expensive source was a flash site. I also e-mailed the owner and told them - and now they don't have a flash site anymore. Maybe that makes me a jerk, and maybe I'm in the minority, but right now I'm just one guy sharing one opinion :)

    I don't have Flash installed on my system anymore, so now if a site is running flash I see broken images and annoying "Do you want to install Flash?" popups. I click no, then the back button. I've said it before, but surfing the web is not an "experience" for me, it's a business tool. Give me the information I'm looking for, or get out of my way :P

    RonPK




    msg:1564176
     7:46 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Let's try to distinguish between different uses of Flash:

    1. websites made entirely out of Flash: not the way to go. All sorts of usability probs show up: loading, saving, bookmarking, copying, printing, resizing. Some can be circumvened, others are inherent to Flash.

    2. intro: well, if the client insists... But PLEASE put a skip intro in the HTML.

    3. navigation: you can create fancy menues with Flash, not much heavier than the well known JavaScript mouse-over stuff. There should be an alternative for those of us that don't have Flash installed, like search engines.

    4. informational animation, embedded in the HTML: yeah, Flash is the way to go. The plugin is easy to install and available for almost every platform (except Linux on a PPC, but who uses that anyway ;) ).

    As for accessibility: screenreaders can't handle Flash. If there is information inside the movie, always provide a text version of the content (this is a WCAG guideline).

    Powdork




    msg:1564177
     8:59 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Makes it a lot easier for me to make money...
    It's not all about the money. But hey, if Flash is not something you can put on your resume, that just leaves more money for me.;)

    Digitalv, You're probably getting a lot more broken images than you deserve. What I mean is, you probably enjoyed a LOT of sites using flash before you disabled it, without even knowing they were using flash. Flash can provide better images faster. No, they don't have to blink. Flash can look like html while accessing databases. Flash can act like frames, only better. Flash can prevent the average scraper from viewing source, or downloading your site for his/her own use. Flash can do so many things besides blink, and blinking can be done in so many ways besides flash.

    sidyadav




    msg:1564178
     9:53 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I think what somebody said early is true: don't blame the technology, blame the designer.

    Flash is a widely developing format IMHO, and people can make very diligent things with it. However, it really depends on the designer.

    What members here are doing is they are generalizing flash from their previous experiences, maybe with just one single movie.

    Just so you know, we're talking about Flash in general here, the format, the technology - not just that file that you may have seen and hated.

    That said, I have many clients who request me to make their site fully in Flash, and ask if it is possible to achieve a 'top ranking' also.

    What I usually do is just explain to them the basics of cloaking, and let them decide. If they want me to cloak their web pages, that's fine with me, or if they can't be risking it - that's fine also, takes some work off my back :)

    Sid

    feeder




    msg:1564179
     11:39 am on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    It's not all about the money.

    Spoken like a true Flash advocate ;)

    bunltd




    msg:1564180
     7:35 pm on Jul 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

    In addition to what everyone else has said regarding the cons: one of my pet peeves is that while you can make Flash display data that looks like html, you can't use that data the same as you would an html page - no right click, open in new tab/window. It annoys me, slows me down and forces me to change the way I work. The purveyor of Flash has a good example of this on parts of their site - I can't stand to go there, but sometimes I need things found only in that manner. <grrr>

    LisaB

    boomer




    msg:1564181
     1:02 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I think Flash is just that; any tool in someones arsenal of inspector gadgets. I've learned to only use flash as "accents" to design's vs trying to cram it all into flash or vise versa. I get a wider audience this way. And even though SEO's are starting to pry open .swf's finally. I think alltheweb.com was the first to start doing this. Seems Google and Yahoo are picking up on it.

    digitalv




    msg:1564182
     1:07 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Digitalv, You're probably getting a lot more broken images than you deserve. What I mean is, you probably enjoyed a LOT of sites using flash before you disabled it, without even knowing they were using flash

    True, I have noticed this but I don't mind it. Having an occasional broken image is a small price to pay for not having to put up with all of the other junk that Flash makes possible. On a similar note, I've also noticed a lot of things not working the way they're supposed to since I stopped using Internet Explorer, but likewise it's a small price to pay for not having to put up with the junk that IE makes possible :)

    Jorb




    msg:1564183
     7:29 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Where I work we make a lot of custom products. On our website we have pages (using flash) that allow our clients to design the exact look and feel that they want. They can use sliders to adjust to just the right color. They can click on and alter different components. It helps our design team a lot when working with our clients. We used to use various scripts and every time a client made a change they had to click an "update" button. Our clients like the flash better, our employees like the flash better, it gives us an advantage over our competition and it makes us money.

    There is an extremely popular website, [homestarrunner.com ], that is almost 100% flash. You can read more about its success here: [wired.com ]

    Flash is a tool. It can be used effectively.

    The point of e-commerce is to make money. If you can use flash to make you more money, use it. That's the bottom line isn't it?

    Powdork




    msg:1564184
     8:26 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Cool site, back button works and all. I enjoy going over to the flashkit board and checking out the sites listed in their 'cool sites' section. It's great for ideas and just plain entertainment.

    Leosghost




    msg:1564185
     10:31 am on Jul 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    While we are her ..go look at swishmax ( cheaper than flash for those who don't have the money ..still very very good ..even easier to use than flash and makes .swf files )...and for those who do like flash..

    Check out the sample files uploaded by the "community" particularly some of the gamers and tribal and music uses ...flash as art ....

    just want text ..read a book with paper pages ...

    ( and yes Digitalv I do read very very fast so I know what you mean about putting brakes on my eyes ..and I prefer radio to tv ...but if you just want to read use lynx ..nothin safer ..nothin more boring )

    This 57 message thread spans 2 pages: 57 ( [1] 2 > >
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