Friday, 12 August 2011

Adobe Flash: why am I against it?


I started to use Flash as a development tool a long ago. I can't remember exactly when. It was probably in 2001 or so. But I remember that I nearly immediately understood that it was no good for web development. I therefore used it for presentations and marketing media, but not for web sites. Why? Well, I don't know if you're interested in my personal reasons, but maybe they could shed a light around the use/abuse of Flash animations. So, if you're planning to develop something with it, you should take the following facts into account.

A little bit of history
In the past there were loads of web sites with intro videos. Those videos were made with Flash. If you're old enough, you would remember how we waited for those damned intros to load, staring at irritating pre-loaders with inventive countdowns. The bandwidth was low and if no skip-intro button was included, we had to wait and wait and wait... just to see something that would make us say "wow!", at the best.

Today, bandwidth is not a problem anymore, but fortunately, flash intros are almost gone. There are still entire web sites made with Flash, but most of them offer a plain HTML version as alternative option.

Flash development tools have evolved. They are easier to use, and produce better results with less efforts. And everybody is still tempted to insert Flash movies in banners somewhere on web sites. But we should not.

Why we shouldn't use Flash?
First of all...
Not all browsers have or can install Flash player.
You know that. For example, at the moment, iPhones can't see Flash media. A plug-in is needed in any case and users can install it or not. The decision to download the plug-in depends on many variable: users might not know about it, they don't care, they don't want it etc. For those users, a Flash video will be just a blank, white rectangle somewhere on the page - possibly a waste of space.
Flash media take time to be loaded.
In a ever faster world, people come to your site for fast information. They don't want to wait for a useless animation to appear. That means, visitors will run away from your site.
Search engines may not read Flash content.
Maybe you already know it. Maybe not. Information stored in a Flash animation might not be understood by crawlers. They like plain text. They like fast and responsive web sites.
Navigation may be interrupted.
Following the previous point, search engine spiders like to completely crawl your web site. If the menu is made with Flash, they won't probably see the links and thus they won't be able to visit all the other pages.
Web site statistics may be incomplete.
Again, for the same above reasons, web site statistics can't be as effective as we may need/want.
Flash media usually make noise.
This is probably my problem. I don't like sounds coming out of my monitor, randomly while I surf the web. Usually Flash videos incorporate sound effects or music. And normally it takes a while to understand where that loud disco music is coming from.
We can't right-click a Flash object.
Again, that might be personal distaste. I like to right-click, download, see properties and everything else I have in my context menu. I can't do it with Flash.
Flash is almost always unnecessary.
Last but not least, Flash is overused, almost always not necessary, and almost always replaceable by good HTML/CSS/JavaScript programming.

Why am I writing that?
You may wonder why I wrote all the above. Well, you probably don't care, but if only I could take back all the time spent to understand and learn Flash and actionscript, I would really invest it in better learning other things. It might not help you knowing all the above. You might still think Flash is a great development tool. However, let me tell you, keep in mind that you might regret it - in the end.

Have a splendid summer day and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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