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”
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:
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.
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
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.