From the May 2010 issue of Entrepreneur

There's no doubt about it: Websites designed in Flash are cool. They're animated, interactive, multimedia eye candy. You see it, and you want it. Unfortunately, coolness has a price, and if a web designer sells you on Flash, you will be paying that price from Day One and for every second your site is live.

Here's a breakdown of the costs of incorporating Flash in your website design and user interface:

Development cost. Flash development is highly specialized and costs significantly more than standard website development. (As a rule of thumb, Flash will end up costing you 50 percent to 100 percent more than HTML or JavaScript programming on an hourly basis.) In addition, any content updates require a call to the Flash developer, who may not be readily available at the time.

Speed. Flash sites are s-l-o-w. Just visit one to see for yourself. Typically, a Flash site takes about two to 10 times longer to load than a comparable standard website. Even worse, users must wait for the intro to fully load. Waiting runs counter to the on-demand expectations of web users.

Flash in Moderation

Using Flash to build a website that showcases or distributes Flash games, animations or movies makes sense. Otherwise, I recommend using Flash in moderation--for specific components of your site that require it, such as:

. Animations
. Games
. Interactive demonstrations
. Decorative accents

Also, consider minimizing your site's Flash usage by using other web programming tools to produce the same effects. For example, you can add subtle animation to your site by including a JavaScript rotation that transitions from one photo to the next in any order or frequency you prefer. ­--M.E.B.
Accessibility. Many web users have no access to the Flash plugin. Build a site entirely in Flash, and you instantly block access to smartphones, web TV users and some corporate users accessing the web from behind a firewall.

Usability. Users who do not have the Flash plugin or disable Flash in their browsers cannot navigate the site.

Perception of relevance. Flash sites are often perceived to be long on style and short on substance. On the web, where content is king, visitors often encounter a Flash site and assume it's just an ad, that it's probably not worth waiting for or that the site will be lacking in content.

The boredom factor. A Flash animation may be awesome the first time you see it, but after the fifth or sixth showing, it gets pretty dull, which can discourage return visits.

Search engine optimization. Typical websites have plenty of text to facilitate natural search engine optimization and indexing. Sites built in Flash prevent access to web spiders, compromising their ability to be crawled and indexed.



Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. When he is not working or ghosting blog entries for clients, Belicove can be found musing about the world on Belicove.com and can be reached at Mikal@Belicove.com.