The Future of Flash in Web Design


I have always questioned the practicality of Flash within web design. Initially Flash was avoided because load times were too much to bear for dial-up users. But as high speed internet became the norm Flash websites still had trouble finding a permanent home in web design, and the truth of the matter is that Flash doesn’t belong in web design.

The unfortunate thing is that people who want new websites seem to be in love with the idea of Flash. And while I have seen the application put to good use within websites, I think it usually does more harm than good. There are several arguments against using Flash to design components of (or God forbid entire) web sites but this day in age they are stronger than ever. One of the most significant arguments is on the side of Search Engine Optimization. A long time ago Google announced that they had established the ability to crawl flash files for textual content but here we are several years later and the results are far from astonishing. While sooner or later search engines may develop the ability to crawl through flash files and pull significant data for search results, right now it remains sloppy.

Replacing that fancy flash banner or landing page with some simple CSS and HTML will allow search engines or users to find your site and having a bunch of visitors viewing your static content is much better than no one seeing your cool animation. But maybe you still want the animation, transitions, and motion all incorporated with your site. Well that’s no problem these days either, we can still avoid the use of Flash with powerful Javascript engines such as Joomla that give the developer the ability to create animation and interaction on a site without all of the Flash.

And it doesn’t stop with Javascript either because that can be a little clunky and sloppy for both users and search engines as well. The clean cut future of simple animation and transitions on web sites can be found in CSS3. While we still need to wait for CSS3 to be accepted universally by modern browsers, it promises new capabilities that give the designer the power to remove Flash from their web sites and replace it with motion and animation that is held together with clean code that can be easily manipulated and understood by current search engine technology.

These are two of the most powerful arguments against Flash but certainly not the only ones. Flash design can be through the roof expensive, especially for small companies or projects. Flash sites throw a big wrench in mobile browsing where both application support and download times once again become a factor. Finally, Flash files can be a real pain to update, although incorporation with XML helps this considerably.

Flash is a powerful tool that will always have its place on the web. The interactive capabilities provided with the software will be hard to ever match with means such as CSS or Javascript but only in certain environments, such as flash games and video driven sites. So Flash needs to stick to its guns and continue making fun games we can kill some time with, but let web sites go the way of the front-end code.

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