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Web Sites, Philadelphia, and the Ruminations of a Small Business Owner

The president of Brio Solutions comments on Web Design in Philadelphia, business, technology, and the world in general.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To Flash Or Not To Flash

Just a warning, this blog is a tiny bit technical.  If this stuff makes your ears bleed, then stop reading.  Otherwise, enjoy...

Whenever we are designing a website, the question about Flash ALWAYS comes up.  For those that don't know, Flash is an application currently owned by Adobe.  Flash makes it very easy to animate text and pictures on the web.  Normal browsers can't understand flash files so they need something called the "Flash Player" in order for you to view the animation.

This is the root of the controversy with Flash.  Since normal browsers can't understand flash files, it makes it very difficult for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to understand flash files.  This is a HUGE problem.  Being found on the internet is an absolute must in today's business world.  If I tell a potential client the name of my company and they can't find my web site, then the sale is lost.

User interface is just as important as search visiblity.  The user interface is the way you interact with a web site: How intuitive the site is, what colors are used, how the user's eye is guided to what is important.  By using flash for the user interface, you have a lot more freedom in designing an elegant and intuitive user interface.  This is why I usually recommend that my clients DO use flash, but use a very small amount of flash.  

Brio designed and built an all flash website a few years back.  The website is one of the coolest sites I have ever seen, which is why we still have the site up at www.briosolutions.net/flash.  I still use it in sales meetings as a great example of our creative and user interface capabilities.  The problem with this site is that it is virtually impossible to be found through search.  Even though the flash site had over 15 pages of content, Google could only see 2 lines.  At the time, Brio was relying on word of mouth business.  This worked for a while, but if you want to grow a business, you cant rely solely on word of mouth.  That's when we decided to re-build our web site and create a Search Engine Optimization strategy.

In our new site, we used standard web technologies(HTML, Javascript, and ASP.NET).  We also included a flash "movie" on the home page to spice things up a bit.  Now our site is pretty well ranked for a number of local searches involving Philadelphia Websites and Philadelphia Business software.

Another major drawback of building your whole site in Flash is updates.  It is much more difficult to update most flash sites than it is to update sites built using standard technologies.

So in conclusion, DO NOT let anyone build you an all flash site, unless you don't care AT ALL about being found via search engines.  But whatever you do, don't forget about your user interface, because getting users to find your site doesn't really matter if they can't figure out how to use it.

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