Communication Tips: Using Flash Wisely
Back in the stone age of the Internet (all the way back in the 90's) websites were clunky, graphics were basic, and if you were lucky you might have found an online form that actually worked. Words like "multimedia" and "animation" were unheard of—unless, of course, it was in reference to a website. Not that it was bad; websites did what they were designed to do, but let's face it, they were dull.
Fast forward to today where the internet is everywhere and you'll notice a rich, vibrant and animated world that connects friends, co-workers, customers and family. Beautiful video and animation have added a new dimension of interactivity to what was once a two-dimensional world, and one of the technologies that has made this possible is Flash.
Flash allows websites to become more than just a flat, electronic page. With Flash a website can play music, include interactive animation, and show video (recorded and live). It's easy to see how Flash can add a level of richness to what would normally be a very bland site... but it's just as easy to have Flash ruin it!
Why use Flash?
As stated above, Flash offers a way to add rich interactive elements that can really make your site stand out:
- Video has come a long way on the web. Footage that once took hours (and hours) to download onto your computer can now be viewed almost instantaneously inside your web browser. An instructional video, a welcome message, or a virtual tour can all be displayed right inside your website. And because most browsers now have Flash Player already installed (and also available as a free download), you don't have to worry that your message will not get across to your audience.
- Audio can also add a new dimension to your website. Whether you want to play an audio testimonial or play a song in the background, Flash can present your audio in rich stereo sound.
- Animation can really grab the attention of your audience! Flash not only renders animation for your website, but it can also be programmed to allow visitors of your website to interact with your animations. For example: simple navigational items can twirl, bounce and play music with a simple click of the mouse.
Why avoid Flash?
With the examples above it seems that there would be no reason to avoid using Flash. However, there are some things to keep in mind if deciding to go with Flash for your website:
- Search engines don't interpret the information within Flash very well. If you build your website mostly in Flash, or have an introduction page that's all in Flash, there's a very good chance that search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo won't find your site.
- Some smart phones (iPhone for example) cannot display Flash content. Not good, especially if your website is made entirely in Flash.
- Some people disable extra features in their browsers to reduce unwanted images and to increase security, including Flash.
- Some people might consider extra animations, music or other "flashy" elements distracting or annoying and will leave your website.
- If the focus of your website is all on the "bells and whistles" of Flash, less thought may go into usability. If the site is too hard to navigate or read, users will not view the most important thing on your site: the content.
- Adding Flash to your website will increase the download time of the site. If it's done correctly, the extra download time is fairly minimal. But it is easy to let the Flash become large and slow down the download speed of the site.
Things to consider if using Flash
- Ask yourself, "Why am I using Flash? What is it adding to my website?
- Will Flash help get your message across or hinder it?
- If you decide to have an intro (splash) page playing animation, include a "skip intro" button so viewers can go straight to your content.
- Content is the most important thing in your site. Is the content being diminished or enhanced by using Flash.
Good Examples of Flash
• Adobe is the company that makes Flash. Notice that only the top banner area is using Flash.
• MJ Senior Housing has a slideshow to music montage at the top area of their home page. The option to turn the music on or off is a great feature for those who don't want to listen to the music play every time they go to the site.
• Check out IlluminAge's snow globe holiday card for an example of interactive animation. After the animation plays, you can click on the "Shake the Globe" button to replay it. Since it's not important to have this page show up in search, it's okay to have it mostly in Flash. A loading bar is also helpful, letting the viewer know that the animation is currently loading and that the page is not blank.
Flash is an excellent tool to transform your website into a fully interactive multimedia experience. Vibrant video and dazzling animation can add a level of quality to your site to make it stand out among the rest. But remember, Flash can also take away your message if used in excess or incorrectly. Long download times, excessive animation and distracting sounds can cause your audience to leave your site without learning your message. Don't forget to ask yourself if Flash will help you get your message across or prevent it.
Contact Christian, IlluminAge Web Designer, if you are interested in adding Flash to your website.