Why Flash Websites Stink

People ask me sometimes: Do you do Flash websites?

I don’t. And I have better reasons then being too lazy to learn Flash.

For those who don’t know, Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. (Thanks Wikepedia.)

If you want to see some websites that run on Flash, here’s some examples:



http://www.theoleg.com/hes/ (Which is actually Herbal Essences, you couldn’t tell from the URL there)

If you look up ‘flash websites’ in any search engine, you’ll see there are plenty of beautiful looking Flash websites out there. So why am I a hater when it comes to this technology?

It’s expensive (and usually overkill) for the average website.
Most people I work with are small businesses who can’t afford to pay a lot for a website. When a Flash website loads, it’s basically like running a mini movie in which every frame has to be thoughtfully put together. You need special software, and expertise. Flash websites cost double (or more) than your typical CMS website.

If you have an interactive game or a vodka empire to fund your website design, go for it. But if you are a small business owner who just wants your website to be findable by the average person, Flash is likely too flashy for you.

It’s not search engine friendly.
When a search engine like Google looks at your website, it’s not looking at your pretty fonts or your bold color choices. It sees how your site is organized as well as page tags, titles, descriptions, and written content. Search engines have a hard time reading Flash websites (you have to go out of your way to make them search engine friendly). And since search engines are what drives a majority of website traffic for many businesses, few people want to decrease their likelihood of being found.

It’s not customer friendly.
Flash websites can take 2-5 times as long to load as regular websites. And most people don’t like to be kept waiting. Here’s one company that switched away from Flash just for that reason.

Also some devices can’t even load Flash (like Android phones, though there are some workarounds), alienating a whole group of customers for you. Only recently has Flash become supported on iOS devices (re: Mac). HTML and CMS websites show up on any device that can access the internet.

Flashy can equal sketchy.
Flash websites to me kind of remind me of those people who get really excited about Powerpoint’s features. You know, every slide is a different background, they have a different transition for every slide, etc. As your potential web developer, I want to spend the time making your site clean-looking, useful, easy to navigate, and informative. In other words, the information on the actual slides are what’s important to me, not how clever you can be about it. I think part of me just thinks things that are overly filled with bells and whistles are trying to conceal something, like the flashing lights on some Vegas venue trying to cover up a decaying facade. My personal bias but certainly a reason.

Proprietary stuff is not something to build on.
There is lots of software on the internet that is open source: OpenOffice and Wordpress are great examples. The obvious benefit to open source is the whole free (or really cheap) aspect but something even better than that: there are hundreds of thousands of people all working on making it better.

Adobe owns Flash. If there is a bug with some Flash update, we have to all wait for Adobe to fix it. Bug in your favorite open source software? Gets fixed almost instantly (or post it on a forum and someone will tell you a workaround).

Experts in the web development field don’t like Flash.
When I don’t like something, sometimes I wonder “Is my judgement bad?” But when enough other innovative people don’t like something, I feel better.

Why Steve Jobs Didn’t Like Flash: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/
Why Google doesn’t like Flash: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-06-05/tech/30022631_1_seo-death-google-adobe-labs
Why designers hate Flash: http://www.arctickiwi.com/blog/10-reasons-why-we-hate-flash-on-the-web

You don’t need Flash to have a dynamic website.
You can have, say, a Javascript slideshow. You can have video on your site. You can have drop down menus. There are plenty of ways to have some ‘cool’ factors on your website without using this software.

So if you are considering a website or a redesign, please know that friends help friends say no to Flash.

More information on website types can be seen here: http://breakingeveninc.com/website-types/
More on website costs in this month’s Website Magazine: http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/pages/your-designer-makes-what.aspx

Marketing Monday: Goop

Editor’s Note: Thank you all for your kind condolences about the death of my dog. I appreciate your compassion, and am happy to report that I am feeling much better this week. Many thanks.
Know an individual or business doing something cool to promote themselves online? Let me know about it and they might be featured as part of Marketing Monday!

Goop's front page. Flash driven and a little vague (bad) but graphic and simple (good).
I’d first of all like to keep this blog a positive one. There are so many people doing so many good things online, to promote their business or otherwise.
Today, I wanted to review Gwyneth Paltrow’s website called Goop. It’s mission is to ‘nurture the inner aspect’ and is supposed to be about things in Gwenyth Paltrow’s life.
Recently, her post about a New Year’s cleanse recieved some media attention at both Nerve and Huffington Post and just this past weekend, the site came up in conversation over lunch with two of my friends in the media.
The only reason this website seems to work is because it belongs to Gwenyth Paltrow. I haven’t found anyone who ‘gets it’.
Goop does not embrace internet terms.
A web magazine written by one person about their life is called a blog.
Goop can call its posts ‘articles’ all it wants but in doing so alienates itself from the blogging community. I could see the use of another term if this website was launched five years ago when blogs weren’t nearly as prevalent . But nowadays, bloggers are used as experts on television news programs and followed by media types on social media for story tips.
Bloggers are far from obscure and distancing yourself from a group of people also trying to create online content seems like a silly thing to do. Let’s not mention the fact that bloggers spend a lot of their time talking about and linking to other websites. Not one of them? That certainly makes it hard to become part of the community.
It’s unclear whether the site is compensated for the products it endorses.
A whole section of Goop is called ‘Get’ and seems to endorse cool products. No where on the site could I find policies about these products. Does Gwyneth Paltrow receive financial or other compensation for putting these products on her site? Does she personally use them? It’s hard to say.
As a reader of the site, I’d like to know. A simple ‘About’ section of ‘FAQ’ would do wonders at answering some small questions about the site and its policies.
Goop doesn’t link to other sites.
Not linking to other sites makes you 1) less connected with other web developers and 2) doesn’t help your search engine ranking. This is why all bloggers have a blogroll or list of links we like: because it’s good for us and good for the people we link to.
Not having many (or perhaps any) links off the site seems like a missed opportunity, not only for increased traffic to Goop but also for Paltrow to use her star power to help out smaller sites. You can’t buy the kind of good buzz that would create.


div>In short, celebrities can get away with things the rest of us can’t.

Most regular people can’t get away with a ‘this is stuff i like’ blog, if only because most of us have a limited audience. There are probably 30 people in my life who would care about everything Nicole Ouellette likes in my case. I am not Oprah, and this is why my blog entries have an undercurrent of money and marketing. It is why most blogs have a topic or subject they are about: more universal appeal.
What is Goop about? Whatever Gwenyth Paltrow feels like needs to be covered that particular week.
As my Twitter friend Marc Pitman puts it, it looks like Goop is “trying to do WAY too much”. I agree.
Some people do like a website that covers a lot of ground though, but for those of us who like to know what to expect, it’d be great if there’d be a preview of what’s coming up. No doubt the staff that maintains this site plans ahead for content and letting readers in on the not-so-distant future offerings I think would lead to increased overall satisfaction with readers.
Also, it would be great if Goop engaged it’s readers in some way. Featuring helpful comments in the weekly newsletter or having reader guest bloggers would no doubt increase Goop’s appeal and further connect it to other cool things going on online.
While Goop has interesting written content and a clean design, the posts have no photos.
The posts on Goop are text heavy; it would be great to have some graphic elements to get the content more skimmable and make the website prettier. Perhaps this is a place where readers could contribute if they knew about the topic ahead of time. Just an idea…
In short, Goop is not the world’s most terrible website but it could further its mission with some thoughtful tweaks and increased reader engagement.
Want some other opinions besides mine?