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Where's the Flash?

Published on June 15, 2006
Tags: Web Design London

By the time you reach this web site it is likely that you have already visited a significant number of other web design sites. On many of them, you have probably been met with a beautiful and enticing Flash presentation that enriches the site, but Ampheon don't have one - why? It is because we can't do Flash perhaps, or do we have a valid reason for omitting it? Read on to find out...

Think of this real world analogy - you want to go shopping, you know exactly what you want to buy, and now simply want to go to various stores to get the best deal and the best service. In some stores you walk right in and find the product you want, sometimes a friendly shop assistant helps you too. In others, when you walk in you are told to watch a 30-second television advertisement about what the store can offer you - only then will you be allowed to locate and purchase your product. In this scenario, which store are you more likely to buy from?

This analogy paints a very real picture as to how many web designers feel Flash should be used. It also gives a real indication as to how the majority of Internet surfers feel. It has been demonstrated that the average Internet surfer will wait no more than 15-20 seconds for a site to load - if their Internet connection is costing them money, the last thing they want to do is spend unnecessary time locating the information or products they need. So, by adding a 30-second Flash presentation to the front of a web site, you are likely to lose many potential customers before the Flash clip has even finished - would you really want to do that? Would you want to stop customers as they walk into your store and say "hang on, before you can buy, you must watch this video". How many people will walk right out again?

Flash is currently being used very much like television advertising - to promote a brand, a product, or the company. But where do you watch television advertising - on TV of course, and at the cinema. You don't watch it as you walk into you local store prior to buying something because by that time you already know what you want! Unfortunately, the medium of television advertising and the medium of the Internet advertising have become a little confused in this respect.

This is not to say that Flash does not have its place on the web - it does. It is just not the best medium to promote a web site if you are aiming to sell something on your site. Flash is great if you have a strong brand (such as Vodafone or Coca Cola), where you are able to use Flash to promote that brand. It is also good where you already hold a large market share and want to highlight your product (such as motor manufacturers). On education, gaming, and some business-to-business sites, it can be used to great effect to enhance the visitor experience. But, if you are in a competitive market where time is truly paramount, don't build a brick wall in front of your potential customers that they must first navigate, because more than likely they will leave and go to the next web site - your competitor!

In a real-life example, one of our clients asked for a 20 second Flash presentation to be integrated into the main front page of the site. It was to load alongside the menu bar and the page graphics. We informed them that this would slow down the site load time, but they asked to proceed. A few months later they came back and asked us to remove it - why? Because their potential customers had e-mailed the client complaining that the Flash was slowing down the site and they couldn't be bothered to wait (moreover, the visitors were so irritated, they actually wrote to tell the client!). We removed the Flash - instantly the amount of time each visitor spent on the web site increased dramatically - the visitor experience actually became better when we removed the very thing that the client thought would improve it!

The final concern is the search engines. If you build a beautiful site in Flash, with all your site links in Flash, remember that none of the search engines can read Flash files. As such, they will be unable to navigate through your site, and therefore your site will not be indexed. What does this mean? It means that the chances of you being able to obtain a top-listed site on the search engines, and that is able to attract large amounts of visitors are significantly reduced.

So, when choosing your web design company to prepare your web site, think carefully if they recommend using Flash on the site. Are they offering you just a beautiful site that will live on the Internet, but that nobody will actually want to visit, or are they offering you a site that people will also be able to find and will want to buy from.

By Chelsey Evans

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