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:
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:
. Interactive demonstrations
. Decorative accents
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.