Why 100 Percent Flash Websites are Lousy for Usability and SEO
With the high percentage of internet users on broadband internet connections, we're seeing an increasing trend toward more motion-oriented, flash-based websites. While utilizing flash and motion in websites is not in itself a bad thing, 100% flash sites are just irresponsible. Neither Google, nor any other search engine can read or index their content (really a big deal for a website). While there are a very small number of really well done, usable, bookmarkable, navigable flash websites out there, the vast majority of 100% flash websites on the web suffer from the deficiencies I'll be outlining below.
With a 100% flash website, there is virtually zero content that the search engines can crawl and index. Even if you have lots of text and valuable content rendered through flash, that is worthless for the robots that crawl your website. Sure, you can add a title, description, and keywords to the meta tags of your website, but without page content, those alone are not very valuable. Any way you slice it, having plain, HTML text on your website for the content portions is the best way to guarantee that search robots can crawl, index, and understand your site's content.
As my professional focus is on usability and user interaction, I'm especially annoyed by the way 100% flash sites essentially 'break' the way users expect a website to work. You can't go back with your browser's back button, you can't bookmark various pages and you can't email a unique URL to a specific page. Flash websites also violate my personal right to load a website without being yelled at, sung to, or spoken to. If I open a web page, it should be silent, until i give it permission to speak (yes, this applies to non-flash websites as well, but is more prevalent on flash websites).
I'm impatient, and pages often take too long to display for the sake of loading transitions, animations and other flashy wiz-bang effects. When I visit a website, i go to find information. I expect to find this information quickly, easily, and in silence. Yes, i still appreciate a nice-looking website, but not at the expense of a long wait, hurt ears, and a frustrated web-browsing experience.
A flash site is great from a purely design standpoint, but it might as well not even be a website, as it forfeits many of the reasons websites even exist.
The majority of these sites can't:
The next time you consider building a flashy website, make sure to remember these SEO and usability considerations. By integrating flash for your motion components and HTML text for your valuable page content, you can provide the dynamic experience you want while preserving SEO and usability excellence.
Danny Pfeiffer manages a web development and usability shop in Denver Colorado. Visit his technology blog [http://topicblender.com/blog/technology] at [http://topicblender.com/blog/technology] to learn more about web development, hosting, and usability suggestions.
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