Flash or not to Flash? That is the question.

Services for Real Estate Pros with VSA Creative

No this is not a post about social misconduct.  The question is "should a website use Adobe Flash technologies or should they be avoided?"  Just a few years ago Flash technologies could be seen on virtually every website.  It was viewable by more than 98% of all computers.  It looked really cool (well, most of it did).  While this question has been around since the introduction of Flash, it has become an increasingly import question in the last couple of years.  Why?  In my opinion it is because of the iOS operating system.

Prior to iOS the main reason, discussion, and debate was the impact Flash would have on SEO.  That is not a discussion I am going to get into.  Personally I believe Flash in moderation significantly enhances user experience with minimal impact on SEO.  I do not recommend it for menus.  While you can make very sexy navigation it comes at a huge price.  Search engines like and want text links.  The capabilities of Flash are great for banners, image galleries and video. 

Now, just like everything else around me, my beliefs are starting to change.  And we have Steve Jobs to thank for that.

With the launch of the iPhone, then the iPad, and now Apple TV, all running iOS one must seriously consider the impact of using Flash on their website.  iOS does not support Flash.  I am sure you already know that unless you are living in a dark, tiny closet, with the door locked for the last two years.  And while we all hoped Flash would be supported it is clear now that it never will be.

Why should you care? 

Do you think Apple is one of those weird companies with very little market share?  Come out of the closet and think again.  As of September 7, 2010, Apple has sold 120,000,000 iOS devices to date, according to Apple.  This number was released at their big music event.  Yes, that's right, I said 120 million devices that cannot view Flash.  There are 307 million people in the US.  While many own two iOS devices that is still a large percentage of people that are not capable of viewing Flash on their device.

The geniuses on Wall street estimate that by 2012 Apple will sell 120 million iPads, which are rapidly becoming the primary web surfing device of choice for many users.

What's the impact? 

If you use Flash on your website there is a 1 in 4 chance that the website visitor will not be able to see the element, leaving a big blank space in their viewing experience.  If that element is a menu they are dead on arrival, not able to navigate your site and will move on.

The Good News

iOS devices support other technologies that will let you provide a great user experience.  Primarily HTML5 and jQuery/Javascript technologies.  HTML5 is the up and coming evolution of HTML, combined with CSS3, it will allow designers and developers to create truly fantastic and visually appealing websites.  One problem, HTML 5 is not supported by the current version of Internet Explorer, IE8.  Internet Explorer 9 is currently in beta and available for download.  It is catching up to Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.  Unfortunately there are still a lot of people that will not upgrade or will not be able to upgrade to IE9 (like those still running Windows XP).  Why does Microsoft have to make it so hard on those that still support their organization?  Did I just hear another person cry uncle?

I do support using some items new features of HTML5 and CSS3.  When investing in the development of the site I believe you need to embrace the newer technologies.  You don't want to outdate your investment before you even launch.  Just be careful and examine the tradeoffs. 

jQuery, a Developer's Friend

jQuery is one of the more popular Javascript libraries that allow developers to create many of the effects, transitions, control and manipulate objects on a website.  While it is limited in animation compared to the capabilities of Flash it has its place in the developer's tool bag.  jQuery does not require any special plugins.  The jQuery library will produce comparable results across all major browsers.  jQuery is capable of performing a lot of simple animation.  It is viewable by a wide range of devices, including iOS devices and cell phones.  jQuery is very appropriate for navigation, expandable content areas, widgets and other interface tools.  And most importantly, jQuery will have less of an impact on SEO compared to Flash.

An small example of jQuery in action can be seen on my Home page.  The main banner uses the jQuery allows me to automatically cycle images and text, including box navigation and pause on hover features.  My website main banner looks the same on iPhone, iPad, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome.  If I would have done this in Flash you would get a big blank spot.

In summary, before using Flash on your website consider the impact to your website visitors and most importantly, your business.  If you don't care about 120 million and growing devices being able to see the elements on your site then Flash away!

If you market to your clients, sell items online, client experience is important, and want every possible customer you can get then I would recommend keeping the Flash to yourself.

Do you have Flash elements on your website now?  Want to see what it looks like on an iPad?  Want to replace Flash elements with other technology?  Is your site built completely with Flash and want to migrate to a non-Flash platform?  Contact VSA Creative today or call 904.469.8722.


Comments (5)

Wendy Betts
South Delta & S. Surrey Realtor

Thanks for the advice!  I use flash headers on my website - never considered it might not work on every computer!  If you have a chance, check out my website www.wendybetts.com and let me know what you think!  Cheers, Wendy Betts - Vancouver BC

Nov 04, 2010 04:41 AM
Kevin Morris
VSA Creative - International, IT

Hi Wendy.  Took a look at your site and your header dispalys as a still image, which is not too bad.  Using the particular system you do you would not be able to utilize a jQuery solution.  I see that you can tie in Google Analytics to the website so if you are using it you can identify how many visitors are using iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod) operating system.  As it stands now I see minimum impact to those visitors.  Feel free to visit my site and learn more about what I do.  If you ever need assistance don't hesitate to ping me.



Nov 04, 2010 04:59 AM
Bill Pohl
Tetra Homes, Inc. - Loveland, OH

Kevin- Thanks for the info. I am getting ready to deploy flash throughout our websites and will use your information.

Nov 04, 2010 05:07 AM
Wendy Betts
South Delta & S. Surrey Realtor

Thanks, Kevin!  Yes, I use Google Analytics, and find it very helpful.  I'll be taking a closer look at vsacreative.com, as well.  If I have any questions, I'll get back to you - I've bookmarked you.  Cheers, Wendy

Nov 04, 2010 07:59 AM
Vick The Broker Olympus Executive Realty
Olympus Executive Realty INC. - Orlando, FL
Home Of The Top Producers

Kevin, Welcome! Welcome!! Welcome!!! to ActiveRain! Lots of opportunity here to generate and grow your business, have a good look around and jump in!  You can really get your name out in to the world more efficiently then any other way on the Internet! Best of luck!

Nov 07, 2010 07:21 PM