The Serious Drawbacks to Using FLASH for Web Design: Usability, SEO, Editability

Visiting the many golf-related Web sites while doing research for NoBogies is a continual reminder of a major Web design issue commonly seen on business Web sites: using Flash everywhere and especially ONLY using Flash. The only thing I have never figured out is WHY Web designers are doing this in the first place! Perhaps they teach them to do so in college?

I wonder how many companies realize the serious drawbacks and what an extremely poor Web experience Flash sites provide for a very large segment of the Internet-using population? Even among golfers there are bound to be many who simply can not benefit from these types of sites.

Here’s how one exceptional Web Designer and SEO I know replied to my question about whether Flash is still a bad idea:

MikeTek: @GrowMap:  Beyond the usability (which is generally awful) the SEO implications of a full-Flash site can be horrendous.

[NOTE: Mike is the author of an exceptional Web Design SEO blog called UnstuckDigital and offers Web Design and SEO Services. We highly recommend him.]

Instead of reinventing the wheel I will share here what many others have to say about what Flash is good for and why many uses are seriously impacting the effectiveness, usability and find-ability of sites using it incorrectly:

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Here is a short list of the issues covered more extensively in the excellent posts I shared above:

  • Flash requires a proprietary plug-in that DOES NOT work at all on all systems and must be manually loaded on others.
  • No User Accessibility on phones, many PCs, 64 bit operating systems, slower Internet connections, and those with limited bandwidth or who block Flash because they must pay for extra bandwidth.
  • Administrative accessibility: can YOU edit your flash files yourself? What will you do if the person who created the Flash is not available to make changes?
  • Flash is bad for SEO: Most Search Engines do NOT index flash so your site will have poor search engine placement.

If your site is primarily Flash you simply can not reach much of your intended audience. The solution for those who have already invested in a Flash site is to offer an html version of your site and ALWAYS offer a way to bypass the Flash and get to an html page.

Want to see what visitors to your site see? Turn off Flash or use FlashBlockPro. This is what I see when I visit a Web page featuring Flash:

Imagine someone seeing your site as one large image like that or a page with several smaller identical images. How long do you suppose most visitors who only see these images will stay on your site? The only thing worse than a site full of Flash is one that automatically plays music!

NEW: If you already have a Flash site, are a Flash developer or really want to use it you owe it to yourself to read The Truth about Flash Websites and SEO. Mike specifically explains:

“if your website is driven by Flash a non-Flash version should be displayed for browsers without Flash support”

I would add that you should also provide a way to exit any Flash intro and select the html version manually even if your browser DOES support Flash!

NEW: Many Web site owners THINK they really, really want a Flash site. The solution to this issue and some others is to buy them a copy of the book Don’t Make Me Think. Giving one to the decision makers is a good way to get your points across without being confrontational. I’ve heard of consultants giving copies to CEOs, CIOs, or whomever is pushing for a Flash site. Here is more information on it:

*** Don’t Make Me Think by Steven Krug *** Every person involved in the design, creation, ownership or any other aspect of any Web site should own this book. It is simple, concise, to the point, and easy enough for anyone to understand – even people with no Internet or technical background.

You can read a Sample Chapter from the book. Buying a copy of this book for every member of your Team will be the best thing any Web site owner ever did. You’ll never make obvious mistakes again if you keep this book handy! Have a CEO or Owner asking you to make one? Give them this book! [NOTE: Look for the second edition.]

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More Resources on Web Design and Flash:



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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.

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