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Authoring in Flash only?
by Mike Slocombe

Q: I run a small web design company. Now that almost all browsers support Flash, surely we shouldn't bother with HTML anymore because our clients love the look of Flash sites!
S Davison

A: While there's no denying that Flash can produce some breathtaking, fast loading websites packed with awe-inspiring animations and interactive games, it's also responsible for some of the most irritating drek ever seen on the web.

Flash can create some superb interactive games Just because something spins all over your screen making an amusing noise, that doesn't mean everyone's going to love it - in fact, it's not unusual for badly designed Flash sites to drive people away forever.

The key to good web design is about delivering content in a manner that is appropriate to the site's aims and functionality - and the linear-based approach of Flash isn't always the most appropriate solution (although a good Flash game can drive traffic through the roof!)

Flash is generally unsuitable for task-based sites (e.g. shopping, information and search-based), where anything that utilises animation to 'enhance' the delivery of content will increase the time it takes the user to complete a task.


Flash's linear approach can make it difficult to bookmark pages within a site and although the technology is improving, search engines still have problems correctly indexing the content of a Flash-only site. This could be a major issue for clients keen to raise their profile on the web.

One of the worst drawbacks of Flash is that it can create serious accessibility and usability issues.

To ensure that your pages can be see by as any people as possible, be sure to include a plain text version of the content and avoid the use of browser-detect on your homepage.

Just because someone has a Flash plug in installed that doesn't mean they want to see the page - offer a choice to go to a non-Flash page first.

Accessible web design
RNIB web access centre
W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Flash and accessibility
Web Accessibility
Macromedia Flash and accessibility

"Flash '99%' Bad" by Jakob Nielsen

Aug 2003

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