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After being on this board and in the SEO game for a few years I insisted that we treat Flash much like we were currently treating images. It's a decoration for a page, not the entire page. If you are looking for a post that says that 100% flash is the way to go, you won't find it here.
As you would expect, using flash this way didn't impact our SERPs because we simply swaped jpgs for swfs and using PHP we replace the jpgs for those without the correct flash plugin. No real big news there.
What I never expected was the number of visitors that were able to see the flash movies (we're sticking with flash 8) and what it would do to the length of their visits and the amount of repeat visits we get. Our avarage visit last year was between 10 and 15 minutes. Our average visit now lasts 30 minutes to an hour!
About 50% of our viewers have the flash 8 plugin and are able to see the movies. (Of those that don't have the plugin, about 20% of those will go download the plugin and return to our site.) They typically browse deeper into the site and stay longer. We have even had clients come in to see us and spend 15 to 20 minutes talking to us about our web site and how impressive it is.
To give you an idea of the changes that we made to our site to get these results, the old site design had a dark blue bar across the top with our logo and a grey background for the rest of the site with white text and assorted images.
The new design changed two things, we went to an all white site with black text (the layout of every page stayed virtually identical) and we swaped the homepage image with a flash movie and we added a few more flash movies to internal pages with more in the works. That's it.
For anyone who is thinking about adding flash to their sites, I hope this information was helpful.
I also agree that building a site entirely in flash, unless you have a very strong brand already, is a bad idea. My reasoning for this that none of the text inside the flash movie can be indexed by search engines, so if you don't advertise heavily or don't have many backlinks, nobody will find your site.
Simply use a loadVars or loadXML to incorporate text in the flash file and call in the same text or xml files with a PHPinclude() into a <div> set to display:none on the frontpage of your site. Viola all text will be indexed.
Why do people keep preaching that flash sites can not be indexed? Its not rocket science to do what we do!
If you are such a big fan of 'entirely flash sites' then answer me this one.
A friend of mine who owns a major nightclub in London, paid a web design company a substantial sum to make him a very nice looking web site. They promised to manage the content of his website, ie, change the content every week for them as and when was required, then they vanished. So my freind contacted me, knowing what I did for a living, asking me to make some regular changes to their site, but the entire site was designed in flash, and I could not get hold of the original copy of the .fla file. Now how am I supposed to update their website without starting from scratch? I cannot even attempt this like I could if the site was built in HTML. It's impossible.
This is one of a few great reasons why I think flash should be not used to design a site 'entirely'.
Am I right or wrong?
If its not so large keep the content seperate from the core flash files and use loadMovie() or loadXML() for pictures and LoadVars() or loadXML() for text.
Its the same principle as using XHTML and CSS you seperate content from presentation.
The problem is not that flash is bad (even for full sites) its like every powerful tool it has unlimited posibilities to be used badly. Blame the designers not the tool used. The site should simply have been planned better initially.
As for allowing flash to export the text into the XHTML this is fine but its static, using the PHPinclude() method any changes to the content files are automatically reflected in the XHTML without having to keep republishing and uploading swfs and HTML files.
Spend as much time planning the site as playing with graphics and animation and it will save so much aggravation for all (including yourself) later.
Just make sure it is used correctly.
I still think that it should only be used 'entirely' for certain things, image portfolios, marketing campaigns etc.
But that is just my way of thinking, I may be right, I may be wrong, I'm certainly not a millionaire yet, so it's fair to say that not all of my decisions have been on the button.
But I cannot, off the top of my head, think of any hugely succesful commercial sites built entirely in flash. Any that were not strong brands already.
As always its the right tool for the job be it Flash, XHTML or whatever.
I know there are ways to include your text from the movie dynamically, but I prefer to use what I'm comfortable with.
The problem I have with flash is that I want to learn flash as a dynamic interface to my backend. The thing that makes this dificult is that there are not many resources to help you learn flash starting with Actionscript. (I'm not really concerned with the timeline or anything else.) And Actionscript, so far, is the hardest language for me to learn so far.
But after seeing the results of adding some flash, I am inspired to learn more. I probably won't go entirely flash, but I will definately include more.
I think the OP has the right idea - the purpose of flash is to enhance the site, not BE the site. I have seen far too many websites that were nothing but flash - and some poorly done. Just today I looked at one for some "up and coming" singer that had a 600k flash file just to get to the "enter" button. That is a bad thing.
We have used very little "deocorative" flash on our sites, but we find that one thing it is good for is instructional and/or informative techy type things, like "this is how you run the big wires into that tiny hole that the stupid manufacturer made" stuff.
We will probably be using a lot more in the future, but right now we are in the process of getting our entire site XHTML compliant, so will be a while (some pages had not been updated since 1998 :( ).
But, as Richard_N also said, when looking at technologies for a site you need to use the one most fitting to your site.
Personally one of the newest uses of Flash, as a movie player is a fantastic addition. I don't need to worry about which player it is and do I need to switch monitors to use it, will it play or will it cause my browser to crash. Flash buffers and streams and plays. Great!
I didn't even think of flash until I started to learn about making it fully dynamic. For example, I've created a single flash movie that loads an image dynamically, then using PHP I can load any image into it and obfuscate my code so it's extremely difucilt for someone to steal my images. It works great for copyright protected images, and somehow flash seems to load the images faster than if they were loaded on their own.
Now how am I supposed to update their website without starting from scratch? I cannot even attempt this like I could if the site was built in HTML. It's impossible.
There is a lot of software available to extract source from swf files .
actionscript , images , voice .... evrything .
frame by frame ...
so it's not impossible ... it is possible but it take some time .
More and more folks are wanting information provided to them in a simple fashion. I read an interesting article the other day that was stating the crappy designed sites with no nice graphics, etc. are the ones that folks really cling to because they get a feeling of local community instead of big corporate dollars that went into making nice, beautiful sites. Take MySpace.com as an example. Very ugly interface, yet extremely popular. Google.com is another example. Even ebay.com at its core is a very basic site.
I know if I ever visit a site with one of those "flash intro" pages I immediately search for the skip this button or just hit the back button and go to another site.
Just my two cents. I'm not againts Flash, but I would only use it if it was necessary. Like a demo movie, or a 3-D VRML-like showing of your products in the household, or something like that.
With folks browsing the web on phones, pda's and other non-computer devices more and more these days, Flash just won't work for them, and you find you have to either maintain two versions of your site, or not support these remote device users. I for one use my PDA to browse the web all day at work... so I know there are others like me... ;-)
They were pitching on a large job for a VERY large client. They said to the marketing director, go look at our website, she did and thus got a blank page as their company policy was I.E. with security settings on high. safe to say they didn't get the job.
Unless the client specifically asks for an entirely flash site i guide them down the HTML & flash route every time
Set the text to be called into flash externally, then load it into an invisible div so PDA users (among others) will not be disadvantaged, do the same with images, and provide links to them in the invisible text. Why oh why do we get the sam old mantras, its not flash's fault people if there are some bad designers using it.
The more power something has the more scope there is to abuse it. Lets moan about the state of what universities are spitting out in respect of what they laughingly call web designers who do not know their XML from their Actionscript or have even a fleeting knowledge of how to read and write (X)HTML
ChrisBolton - try googleing for 'flash decompilers' you don't need to redo the whole flash site.
Here's a different take: As broadband get more and more penetration...
you can expect to see flash get more and more important and have such an effect.
In korea (market I'm in) and "the internet" was pretty much born with heavily flashed sites owning much to the fact that Korea has the highest broadband penetration in the world.
At this point, if a site does NOT have flash (or is at least very "pretty" with lots of media rich elements)...people tend to disregard your site as unprofessional or inadequate.
ie: (dare I say) the standard of expectation for aesthetics in general (and as a result the presense of flash elements) is just a lot higher then most other markets.
SEO notwithstanding, I would bet that there is a direct and strong correlation with the amount of broadband penetration to flash in sites.
Take MySpace.com as an example. Very ugly interface, yet extremely popular. Google.com is another example. Even ebay.
case in point....
myspace and google are barely blips on the screen in Korea. when I say barely...I mean like...1-2% of the market. if that. Much more design and media (and flash rich) sites completely dominate. (yes, there are many other reasons for this other than design...but its a unquestionably a BIG factor).
For anyone who is thinking about adding flash to their sites, I hope this information was helpful.
Very helpful. Now, my question is this. Are you detecting and serving content based on the browser? What happens if a user of a Blackberry or other handheld device accesses your website?
I've just recently started adding "small" Flash movies to websites. They add a nice touch and I've made it clear to my Flash designer that I like to keep things very subtle. And, I'd prefer that looping was minimized. Constant movement on pages is not a good thing from a usability perspective. Also, it distracts the user for what they came for. You don't want them staring at graphics. You want them buying your products!
You don't want them staring at graphics. You want them buying your products!
So use Flash for your "Buy Now!", "Add to Cart" and "Check out" buttons. Leave the rest of the page in HTML. Then let me know if it increases your conversion. :)
Have you ever used SIFR? That is my favourite use for Flash, though I haven't done much of it on live sites. Making beautiful typography with SIFR is almost easier than using CSS.
The new design changed two things, we went to an all white site with black text
That might have done more to help stickiness than Flash did.
When did hiding text become acceptable,
a <div> set to display:none
Couldn't that be a sandbox time-bomb waiting to happen? If not, i'm going to start keyword stuffing my pages today.
This is a recipe for being banned, even automatically. I urge all users here to ensure that they do not ever use this technique, it is irresponsible that it has been even suggested here.
The text must be fully visible, you can have it below the movie, or you can have something in the movie to hide the text once the movie has been loaded... but never, ever, should the text be hidden!
Incidentally, you guys seem to have forgotten that an interactive flash movie has multiple screens within it - you only get one URL associated with these various screens - a major disadvantage so far as search rankings go.
Why do people keep preaching that Flash sites can not be indexed? Its not rocket science to do what we do!
No, it is not and, if you follow the guidelines for using the elements and attributes available for making Flash accessible, you'll be just fine. What's all this stuff about display:none?
<object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="/file.swf" width="200" height="50">
<param name="movie" value="/file.swf" />
This is where the accessible content goes, right here between the object elements.
BTW, the above is valid XHTML.
The more content you have in Flash, the less exposure you have from a traditional indexing standpoint. But, if you've used the various elements and attributes that are available for making that content accessible, you can compensate for part of the indexibility. In fact, you could compensate for all of the indexibility and "a little bit more" if done properly.