Stop Flashing

Posted on July 8, 2011

Before I begin let me say that this isn’t intended to be an anti flash post nor am I insinuating that flash is the root of all evil on the web as seems to be the case in some circles. Especially the Apple flavoured ones. What I want to do is show that you don’t need to really heavy on flash if you want to have an interesting website and by opting for a site built on HTML, CSS and Javascript you are going do be doing yourself a big SEO favour.

Flash does undoubtedly have its problems and hasn’t always been used with that much care, especially evident when you think of those irritating flashing ad banners. But it’s also bought widespread video and audio to the web as well as an easily programmable platform for things more demanding than rollover effects.

But now it’s 2011 and the web has evolved a bit. Unless you’re still using Internet Explorer 6, in which case go and sit in the corner and think about what you’re doing. People have toiled away with HTML, CSS and Javascript to give designers and developers a bewildering array of tools to bring really rich content to websites without the need for flash and deliver it across a wide rage of devices in a reliable and consistent fashion. But why not use flash if it’s there?

The big problem with Flash especially from an SEO perspective is that search engines find it difficult to crawl and gather the information they need from it. If your entire site is built in flash getting control of really important SEO factors like URLs, pages tiles and easily readable text is going to be an uphill battle. The engines are getting better all the time, but why make it hard for yourself when there are really good alternatives available? This is especially true if you’re using a flash animation for your menu. There really is no need for it. If you are using flash for your menu the first thing you should do is swap it for an HTML/CSS version. If a search engine can’t make sense of your website it’s going to severely hamper your chance of doing well in the results. There are also usability issues with a site entirely built in Flash. Handling the right click, opening new tabs or windows is tricky and not there by default, the back button and history wont work in the same way as a standard HTML site. All these little things can really add up to irritate your visitors and affect the success of your site. Both in terms of your conversion rates and indirectly your search rankings as your users are less likely to share and promote your content. Last and not least iOS based devices (iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches) don’t support flash at all so your flash site is going to be a big square of nothingness on those pretty screens.

I’m feeling all negative now lets move on. What can you do in practice to steer away from flash. You generally see flash sites used when the site requires a layout or navigation system that’s a bit out of the ordinary but as you can see from and , , you can deliver a really polished and interesting site with just the built in tools of any modern browser. Okay it requires javascript to be enabled, but the vast majority of browsers have it on and you can design in a way that it falls back to more primitive methods if the need arises. The beauty of designing without flash in this instance is all the site content can easily be picked over by the search and engines and they can send visitors directly to the page they are looking for and it’s far easier for you to target specific pages at key terms you are interested in. All this isn’t to say that you should never use flash. If your site is entirely built in flash I’d seriously recommend looking at rebuilding it. If you are just using it in certain areas consider if they are providing unique content and if that content can’t be found anywhere else you may want to look at some alternatives. Games are still an area where Flash dominates and for the immediate future that’s not going to change. HTML5 certainly has the potential to disrupt that but until more people move up to the new browsers replying on HTML5 isn’t going to get you a guaranteed audience.

Contact us if you want to discuss changes to your website or if you don’t know if your site is harming your positions in search engine

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