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10 reasons why we hate flash on the web

Jonathon Horsman Sep 07 15 comments

Tags:
Web Design

Here at Arctic Kiwi we really hate Flash on the web. Possibly more than we hate IE6.

OK sorry that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s up there.

Adobe Flash allows web designers to create animations on web pages. These are sometimes effective and engaging and provide a level of interaction which cannot otherwise be achieved.

However the majority of the time Flash is used because the web designer is not aware of what can be achieved without using it.
Flash has been abused to the point where designers use flash for displaying a simple title or menu items which can be achieved simply with HTML and CSS.

Here’s our top 10 reasons for us being so opinionated:

1. Flash reduces usability and makes site “clunky”

Browsers are built and optimised to support basic HTML, stylesheets and Javascript.

Sites with Flash run slower, cause a spike in CPU usage and make the browser appear unresponsive or jumpy: the ultimate poor user experience.

2. Flash slows down page loads

Any Flash on a website requires an additional plugin to be loaded and executed which takes extra time.
Even a couple of seconds delay is noticeable and reduces the smoothness and responsiveness people have come to expect on the web.

3. Flash blockers and block flash links

Many people dislike flash to such an extent they browse with a flash blocker enabled, which means they see a grey box which they must manually click if they want to view the flash like this:

Flash blocked

Additionally some browsers (e.g. Firefox) show a small “block flash” link when hovering over a flash animation which disrupts the seamless design flow of a site and makes it look ugly when there are multiple flash items on a page.

4. Flash cannot be well optimised for search engines

Most content inside Flash is locked away and inaccessible to search engines which crawl the web. This means if a text link called “Books for sale” will benefit from SEO, but the same link inside a Flash animation is a mystery to the search engine crawlers and will probably be ignored (or at least devalued).

More details on how Google handles Flash here

5. Flash relies on Adobe for fixes and improvements

Any optimisation, innovation or bug fixes is reliant on one company to upgrade and release their closed source flash player plugin.

So whereas a bug found in a similar open-source plug-in may be fixed the same day, Adobe may take weeks to release an update through their standard release cycle.

Where Google, Apple and Mozilla are innovating and competing for performance gains of Javascript in the browser, there is no such impetus for Adobe to improve their product which limits what developers using the tool can achieve.

6. Flash encourages long, slow “Loading… Please wait” pages

Although strictly speaking this is not a fault of Flash per se, there are numerous web sites on the internet which have long introductory animation movies which take ages to load. Who watches these things to the end rather than clicking the “Skip” button? I’d wager only the design company who convinced their client to pay for it.

Some Flash designers seem to take the opportunity to abuse their capabilities by including music and videos on every page.
How presumptuous to think I want to sit through your marketing video or assume I’m not already listening to music and don’t want to be interrupted by some elevator music you’ve chosen.

In fact I have an immediate knee-jerk reaction to close any website which plays noise I didn’t ask for, no matter how much I want to view it.

7. Flash steals focus and ignores the mouse

Sites with standard HTML components respond as expected to the mouse and keyboard.
Clicking Control-T to open a new tab works, and twirling the scroll wheel will cause the page to scroll.
Flash animations take the keyboard and mouse focus on the page, meaning they will probably ignore these inputs and frustrate the user.

8. Flash doesn’t work in most mobile devices

Anyone using an iPhone, iPad or Google phone cannot access a website reliant on Flash. And as these devices become more pervasive their potential audience goes down.

9. Some people don’t have Flash installed

Think big corporates and IT departments which don’t allow software to be installed by the individual. These represent a huge percentage of Internet users and many of them do not have the Flash plugin installed.

10. Flash is just not necessary

Taking all the above factors into consideration it is important to realise that the majority of what Flash designers are trying to achieve can be done with simple Javascript.
The awesome power of JQuery makes cross-browser animations easy and effective in all but the most advanced (think interactive games) cases.

So our advice on building a site with Flash is: just don’t do it!

Have we forgotten anything? Or do you have a reason to like Flash and are brave enough to voice it? Leave a comment below.

Comments //

*nix

*nix Sep 11

thank you, thank you. flash = bullspit, enter the html5

The Flash

The Flash Oct 19

Why you bitching about flash it makes websites unique and most of your points are shit. I'm a web designer and have been since I left University and there is no reason to not use flash on a website full stop. Bunch of puffs.

Pete

Pete Oct 19

@the flash: you didn't tell us what KIND of puffs tho? sugar puffs? powder puffs? cream puffs? we must be told!

Steve

Steve Apr 19

Very true - good post !

btw

(the Flash works for Adobe)

Mobile Advertising

Mobile Advertising Aug 25

Me personally i dont not really like flash websites, i see why they are used as they much more creative that normal html but i really hate the increase load times.

Air Everywhere

Air Everywhere Jan 09

Shit Article. We're starting to see the same bad programming practices in flash apps as we are in the new javascript-based heavy online sites.

Don't blame the platform, blame the developers who don't know what they're doing.

MAREK

MAREK Mar 25

Flash is the BIGGEST SHIT IN THE UNIVERSE !!!!!!!!!

UNIQUE

UNIQUE Sep 12

All so true, yet sooo under-stated!

If you can't do it with HTML or javascript, then it shouldn't be done.

I would link a list of known vulnerabilities here, but I can't be botherred. Look it up yourselves. Installing flash (and java as well for that matter) is like installing a rootkit for every hacker on the planet to use.

permissive-license-fan

permissive-license-fan Jan 21

By the way, you didn't mention that Flash is a commercial proprietary technology, while Java is more like open source. It's very annoying that some big corporations like Adobe and Google can dictate what web surfers must do or what kind of software they use.

Simon

Simon May 15

It seems what you actually mean is you hate full Flash websites or unnecessary Flash within websites, which is fair comment and I agree with.

But you're forgetting that Flash is so much more than that. For complex web based applications and web based games it has no equal. There's a reason why the vast majority of games on Facebook for instance are still Flash based.

Assuming that you're arguing that HTML5 (+CSS + Javascript) should be used instead, a lot of what you say isn't Flash specific and only applies to full Flash websites or overuse (which is down to poor design choices), or is inaccurate.

1. HTML5 runs slower and hogs the processor more than Flash, when comparing like for like.
2. Flash doesn't slow down page loads, large files embedded in the page slow down page loads. Whether they are images, Flash, or other heavy multimedia content.
3. Only an issue with full Flash sites, or where Flash is otherwise misused (e.g. for site-wide navigation).
4. See 3.
5. And HTML relies on what? A bunch of different companies all pulling in opposite directions and never agreeing on anything, hence massive cross browser incompatibilities for a decade or more that still haven't been resolved. Plus Flash is updated far more regularly than new browser versions are released.
I don’t entirely agree on the point about innovation either. If the companies involved worked together, then yes, but the last decade or more have proved they don’t. Currently HTML5 is currently at least 10 years behind Flash in terms of functionality. And the bureaucracy involved in moving the standards forward is mind-boggling.
6. See 2.
7. See 3.
8. Correct, but HTML5 doesn't work on a large percentage of desktop computers, due to installed browser versions. So you're not reducing your audience, you're alienating desktop in favour of mobile. This may be the right choice for certain applications (dependent on target audience), but not all. It’s also worth mentioning that mobile internet use is currently still very much in the minority compared with desktop.
9. I think you'll find more corporates have Flash installed than have an HTML5 enabled modern browser installed. Plus the lack of installation privileges applies to installing a modern browser for HTML5 as well as the Flash plugin.
10. As you say "the majority". Again, referring to the applications Flash shouldn't be used for in the first place, full Flash sites, etc. Web based games for the desktop browser for instance, are much better in Flash. And in many cases not suitable for mobile anyway because of the limited touch screen controls.

This is all without taking into account that HTML5 applications take MUCH longer to develop and therefore cost more. Then there's the browser inconsistencies to deal with. Your HTML5 content can break in future (when a browser updates and moves the goal posts, as they often do), without you doing anything.

There are huge problems with mobile functionality. For instance all but the very latest iOS devices have at best 1 channel audio support in the browser. So if you're making a game and you have background music, you need to stop the music to play a sound effect, then restart the music again. Plus, on most mobile devices sounds can only fire on touch events, so things like explosions, or other collision type events have to be silent.

HTML5 also exposes all your code and assets and makes them browser readable. This isn’t always an issue, but it’s much easier for people to steal you artwork, code and sound files (some of which may have licensing restrictions that prevent you from making them freely distributable, which you have no choice but to do).

I could go on and on, but I won't. My basic point is misuse of Flash, yes is bad. But to label Flash as bad is wrong (especially when some of the points you raise aren't Flash specific, or are just plain incorrect). It's great when used correctly and for the right job.

chris

chris May 16

If Adobe Flash were a man I would kick him in the balls.

Robert K

Robert K Jun 20

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned that flash, ESPECIALLY on the homepage where a viewer first lands, is DISTRACTING.

I do NOT want my eyes made a slave to the movement of a flash presentation. I want a quiet visual setting, where my eyes move to find information at my own tempo. Do NOT force my eyes to view a slide show with text over top of it. Information is hard enough to digest as it is. Why add yet another layer of difficulty to digesting it?

Flash is for flashiness, and flashiness is for pleasing designers primarily, rather than for enabling readers to find information (CONTENT).

Robert K

Robert K Jun 20

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned that flash, ESPECIALLY on the homepage where a viewer first lands, is DISTRACTING.

I do NOT want my eyes made a slave to the movement of a flash presentation. I want a quiet visual setting, where my eyes move to find information at my own tempo. Do NOT force my eyes to view a slide show with text over top of it. Information is hard enough to digest as it is. Why add yet another layer of difficulty to digesting it?

Flash is for flashiness, and flashiness is for pleasing designers primarily, rather than for enabling readers to find information (CONTENT).

ihateflash

ihateflash Sep 30

I hate flash because it decides to crash every time I load Google News. Yes there are a few fixes out there, I haven't gotten any to work at the moment.

I agree 100%. I think the biggest group advocating flash are advertisers and marketers. I, as an internet user, could give a crap about flash. I could go the rest of my life without seeing some stupid ad for air freshener, or some other product I see advertised. Even better then the videos auto play and are not muted.

I still sometimes write websites with this auto play crap that I will never go back. And forget it if you want me to view a 30 second ad (that I can't skip) before reading the one article on your site I am interested in. You just lost a lifetime worth of clicks. Congrats!

I might guess there are times when Flash is useful and not annoying, not being a programmer, I wouldn't be able to list them.

I think we all knew what type of company Adobe was when they offered their reader everywhere for free and then want to charge you hundreds of dollars for Acrobat.

Adobe, you're lucky Google just didn't copy/steal your PDF format, it is about the only thing, besides flash, making you relevant. Photoshop and Premier aren't that awesome.

I will no doubt continue to experience Flash related issues as long as I browse the entire web.

At least I don't have to listen to the modem dialing anymore...

jedics

jedics Jan 22

Im sick of having to updated every other week to watch content that I have blocked most of the time anyway.

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