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Flash-based Websites

Flash splash screen
Question: I just purchased a small hosting account for my art studio, and I am considering having a Flash designer make the site. Is this a good idea?

Answer: Flash-based sites have many benefits: virtually unlimited possibilities for animations, video streaming, and dynamic applications. All of that, however, comes with a pretty steep price. The web is built on standards, and while a little Flash on a site might fit within those standards, a site completely made of Flash can cause a number of problems.

1. Compatibility: Flash is a separate plugin that must be installed in a web browser. While most people may have it installed, some do not and might even choose not to install it.

2. Hardware requirements: Flash is client-side, which means the user’s computer is responsible for rendering and playing. People with slower computers, even many netbooks, will have trouble viewing Flash. Some mobile devices, such as smartphones either do not have Flash at all or do not run it very well.

3. Accessibility: Visually impaired users rely on screen-readers to read websites. That requires the site to have text and alternate tags for images. Many Flash-based sites lack this.

4. Search Engine Optimization: Generally speaking, search engines read text, and the more of it on a site, the higher you can rank. That includes having multiple pages. If all of your “pages” are contained within a single Flash animation (or even a series of them), you lose out on search engine rankings.

It will be up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the costs. If you do not believe any of these issues will be relevant or important enough to reconsider, then proceed. Otherwise, there are other options, such as DHTML and AJAX.

Photo Source: Flickr

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