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Why you want to avoid Flash at all cost

Jun 4, 2015 / by creative / In Uncategorized / Comments Off

I remember when I first saw Flash websites two decades ago. My mind was blown away seeing all these animations and effects in webpages. I thought back then that this was the future of the web. And it was… for a while…

At the beginning of the Web era, Flash was the only good option for animation and website “enhancement”. Your choice was to either have a “boring HTML website” or use Flash, so it rapidly became wildly popular. But today Flash is going out, and here is why.

Why is Flash becoming obsolete:

  • Device Incompatibility
  • Poor Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Not an Open Web Standard
  • Better Alternatives Exist
  • Poor Maintainability
  • Poor Stability / Performance / Security
  • Poor Usability
  • Apple Rejects Flash

 Device Incompatibility

Browsing the Internet is no longer limited to desktops and laptops. Today people access the web from mobile phones (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry among others), gaming consoles (X-BOX 360, PS3, Wii), and SmartTVs. With most of these devices, Flash support is either nonexistent, or severely lacking.

Poor Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Flash is not fully readable by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. It’s true that you can embed some meta information, but nothing comparable to real HTML content. Search engines cannot interpret the meaning, structure and relevance of a website built entirely using Flash.

Not an Open Web Standard

The Adobe Flash format is closed and proprietary. It is not an open standard like HTML 5, CSS or JavaScript. Adobe solely controls the future of the Flash format, its feature set and the Flash Player plug-in. Adobe claims that 95% of website visitors have Flash Player, but third party studies show that it may be closer to 50% when factoring in all Internet-capable devices. This doesn’t allow improvement by contributions of real-life users, only by programmers who sometimes lack the time and issue experience that a bunch of people can have. Remember that many heads think better than one.

Better Alternatives Exist

Browsers have come a long way since Flash was introduced. So have HTML, CSS and JavaScript languages. Today, web developers take advantage of new languages to build amazing and user friendly oriented websites that comply with the new standards of Google Indexing for Web 2.0 user experience.

And when it comes to video, Flash is not the only option. Now HTML 5 supports embedding videos in a web browser without Flash and  the new format has already been adopted by many websites, most notably YouTube, providing much better quality video than Flash at a smaller file size so you can watch high definition videos with minimal CPU / battery power.

Poor Maintainability

After a Flash website is released, it’s also a hassle to maintain. Changing a Flash animation can be complicated work. You will need to spend a considerable amount of money for a small change or worst, make no changes at all and keep an outdated site for years.

Poor Stability / Performance / Security

Flash is known to have issues in the areas of stability, performance and security. It has been the cause of many browser crashes. It requires a lot of CPU power, and can bring low-powered computers/devices to their knees. Mobile phones, netbooks and gaming consoles completely freeze simply because a user tried to watch a Flash video. Whatever is used to build websites, it must be capable to be displayed on all kinds of devices, whether desktop or mobile.

Poor Usability

Flash websites introduce several usability problems:

  • Normal browser navigation doesn’t work. If you click on something inside the Flash animation, you can’t click the back button to return to the previous section. This leaves users confused or frustrated.
  • Bookmarks don’t work. You can’t bookmark a specific section of a Flash website.
  • Touch devices aren’t fully supported. Many Flash applications rely on a mouse rollover for interaction. This rules out most mobile phones, tablet devices and touch-screen PC’s.
  • The “Find in page” feature doesn’t work. You can’t use the browser’s in-page search.
  • Multilingual / localization support is complicated to implement. Any multilingual support must be built from scratch. Automated translation tools (Google Translate, Yahoo BabelFish) do not work on Flash content.
  • The user interface is often awkward. It’s common for Flash developers to add long intro animations (boring!) and special effects that look pretty but waste the user’s time. Instead of a normal menu, a Flash developer may try to get fancy and create a spinning orb for navigation. Simplicity = usability, and Flash was created to be “fancy” not “simple.”

Apple Rejects Flash

The most definitive article I’ve read about the future of Adobe Flash came from Steve Jobs (founder of Apple). His article Thoughts on Flash” sums up the reasons why the iPhone, iPod and iPad do not (and never will) support Adobe Flash. So think twice before having a website that leaves 90 million iPhones out in the cold.

Steve Jobs is not the first to reject Flash. Industry experts have expressed concerns for many years. Usability expert Jacob Nielson published an article in October 2000 titled “Flash: 99% Bad” stating that “99% of the time, the presence of Flash on a website constitutes a usability disease… it encourages design abuse, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction principles, and it distracts attention from the site’s core value.”

Most of the issues I’ve mentioned are also described in detail at Wikipedia’s Adobe Flash article. Someone posted a statement on Wikipedia saying, “On Mar 8, 2011, it was announced that Flash support would be coming to the iPad, iPad 2 and iPhone.” This is completely untrue. The citation references an article about Wallaby, a tool for converting basic Flash animations to HTML 5. In other words, this is actually an example of HTML 5 being used to replace Flash.

Bottomline

Flash was a cool technology, but it wasn’t the future of web development. It’s time for web developers to move on and for clients to consider updating their current websites to user/Google/mobile friendly technologies.

Of course HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript/JQuery are not a substitute for all of the animation power of Flash. But one most care about a website that works on any device and is simple to use, to deliver the message effectively.

When Flash is used instead of HTML/CSS/JavaScript on a public-facing website, you are guaranteeing that some users will not be able to use it. And device incompatibility is the most important reason to avoid Flash. As a website owner you should aim to produce a site that everyone can browse from any device.

What’s Next?

Creative 618 develops responsive websites that are loved by Google.

Our framework supports all devices, and if you are looking to refresh your brand or to update your eCommerce website to make it responsive, Creative 618’s website experts will design and build a site that will look stunning, rank highly and work seamlessly on any platform.

This means your customers will enjoy a fantastic browsing experience, which is ultimately what Google wants their users to have.

Contact Us to see how Creative 618 can help you comply with the new Google rules for mobile friendly websites.

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