When Flash came along…
Millions and millions of years ago, man created an invisible entity, a power to which the world would kneel down and worship and would change the lives of everyone forever. Some called it the ‘World Wide Web’, but by some it was known only as ‘The Internet’.
In it’s early days of life, the Internet was slow and ugly and rarely reared it’s head in public. But over time it began to grow and flourish. It adopted HTML to promote it’s power and ideas, picked up CSS to fashion it’s wardrobe and used directories and Search Engines for PR. Soon, the Internet had a whole team behind it – a list of acronyms only a madman could contemplate.
But something was missing. There was no movie producer, no director to push the Internet to the big screen. Until Flash came along. Hailed as the saviour, the messiah – the chosen one!
Right I’m going to cut the insane metaphor here. Flash was not a saviour – it simply opened doors, many of which shouldn’t have been opened. It made bad websites worse, and generally made good websites… different.
It’s not always Flash sites but the people who build them
I have a book on my desk, a catalogue of some of the finest Flash websites on the net. I will tell you that at least 90% of the sites are fantastic. Stuff I could only dream of pulling off. That’s because the sites in question were designed and created by professionals. Any Flash site created by anyone who’s not the dog’s proverbials at it more often than not sucks.
This article is inappropriately named. I should have called it ‘Why I hate amateurs who try to build Flash sites’, but what I’ve chosen seems catchier.
Unless a Flash site is done beautifully, in which case you just want to stay on the site forever – watching the buttons light up or slide around like a futuristic control panel, chances are it’s ugly as hell. Everyone’s been there – shocking banners flying across the screen, swirling ‘Email Here’ buttons, menu links that churn out all colours of the rainbow before they take you anywhere, snow falling down your screen – who the hell thought that one up?! Chances are you’ll leave the site – probably because it’s impossible to navigate and you give up. I live just out of principle, usually with a lot of cursing.
It’s bad enough people who think their web designers. I’m sick of seeing sites built by people offering web design services when they clearly don’t have the first clue what they’re doing. When you bring Flash into the equation these people are now claiming that they’re animators as well. I don’t use Flash often because I’m not very good at it. I don’t call myself an animator because I’m not. If more people were honest about what they can and can’t do – there’d be less awful websites on the internet and more work for the real web designers.
The reason I dislike Flash sites is due to more than just what you see on the screen. If a site is entirely built in flash, the HTML source code will display absolutely no content apart from whatever’s in the <head> information. This is bad for SEO – according to the old motto ‘Content is King’. This is also bad from a accessibility perspective. Web users who use specialist screen readers or non-visual browsers will attain absolutely no benefit from Flash sites at all, because there’s no content to read. Search Engine robots can’t read Flash files – which will lead to a lack of coverage in the results.
There are only 2 benefits of the use of Flash in websites that I can see. The first if it’s only used in moderation to fill in gaps with some pretty dynamic animation or in the form of a video/media player. The other is only if it’s done very well, and may cut out certain users and injure it’s SEO, but it’s a damn fine site to use if you can.
Is Flash dead?
Regardless of everything above, I’ve noticed a steady decline in Flash sites on the Internet. I might be wrong, it may just have been the sites I’ve been hanging around with – the CSS toffs of the neighbourhood! But it looks like there’s a new kid on the blog, and I hope he’s here to stay. Meet the new acronym – AJAX. Well he’s not that new, he transferred here some years ago and was a bit shy at first, but quickly coming into his own.
Ajax is popping up everywhere. And I love it! It’s clean, it’s accessible and every day I’m seeing new ways it’s being exploited. Everything behind it is in the source code of the website – which is great! Plus it sounds really cool – like a secret agent, AJAX.
It’s not dynamic in the same way that Flash is. Really I’ve only see it give the ability to slide, fade, wobble about pop-up – just transitional effects. But that’s the majority of reasons why Flash has been implemented in sites over the years. Ajax just does it better.
XHTML, CSS + AJAX with a light sprinkling of PHP = the perfect recipe for a darn nice Web 2.0 site.
Flash is dead.